SHAFAQNA – The Equality and Human Rights Commission has written to the UN expressing concerns that the doctors contract amounts to unfair discrimination against women.
The UK’s equality watchdog has written to the UN to express concerns that the proposed junior doctors’ contract is “potentially discriminatory”.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) raised the issue in its April submission to the UN on equality in the UK, which has been seen by The Independent.
The submission states: “The EHRC is concerned that the UK Government’s analysis suggests an adverse impact of the contract on groups that disproportionately include women, such as those who take time away from work for maternity leave and caring responsibilities.
“This would indicate that women junior doctors will have inferior conditions of work under the new contract, which would be inconsistent with Article 7 ICESCR, unless it can be justified.”
A spokesperson for the EHRC told The Independent: “To clarify what we are saying is that the contract is ‘potentially discriminatory’ and the Department of Health need to do more work to prove how it isn’t.”
In a statement, the Department of Health rejected the suggestion, saying: “Under this contract, for the first time all doctors will get equal pay for equal work, rather than being paid for time served, to create a genuinely level playing field for men and women.
“What’s more, we have fully considered the Equality Act under the Secretary of State’s duties and the BMA’s own lawyers have advised that there is nothing unlawful in the new contract, which was 90 per cent agreed with them anyway.”
This week junior doctors conducted an unprecedented strike lasting 48 hours to protest growing frustrations after talks broke down regarding pay and conditions in the proposed new contract.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt described the strike as a “very, very bleak day for the NHS” but insists that the conditions outlined in the new contract are fair and reasonable.