Intended for healthcare professionals


Family friendly workplaces for doctors in training

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 29 January 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g419
  1. Beryl De Souza, honorary secretary, Medical Women’s Federation,
  2. Paul Deemer, equality and diversity consultant, NHS Employers
  1. 1London, UK
  1. bds{at}


Creating family friendly workplaces for doctors in training brings benefits for both employers and employees. Beryl De Souza and Paul Deemer consider what trainees should look out for from employers in terms of supporting those with caring responsibilities

For doctors who are in training and have children, and for those who are planning to start a family or have other caring responsibilities, it is important to know whether a potential employer operates a family friendly workplace. For employers, creating a family friendly workplace means more jobs are open to those with caring responsibilities.

The obligations that NHS organisations should be fulfilling to support staff with caring responsibilities, and doctors in training in particular, were set out in 2009 in a report by the chief medical officer.1 The report recommended that postgraduate deaneries and lead employers should (when rotational programmes are known in advance) ensure doctors in training have the information and support to secure an appropriate childcare provision plan. All NHS employees should have access to a local childcare coordinator, who should coordinate this support; most hospital trusts have their own childcare coordinators.

Family friendly workplace policies should also allow for flexibility in work schedules. This may include flexibility with working hours or creation of compressed working weeks. Employers may allow employees to set their own hours according to need or to fluctuate between part time and full time roles as necessary. Many hospital trust and general practice employers also allow staff to use holiday and personal time in small increments to accommodate school functions, go to doctor appointments, and take care of emergency situations at home.

A family friendly work environment can also support working parents by allowing them to undertake some personal business while at work. This can include parents making personal phone calls to check on children and breastfeeding mothers expressing milk. The internet should be available to act as an information resource and message boards on local childcare options, including emergency cover.

Increasingly, other forms of support for working parents are becoming available, such as before and after school clubs, holiday play schemes, childminding networks, and childcare vouchers. Many trusts are also working with external childcare providers within the local health economy, wider community, and private sector to support working parents with school age children.

Ruth Deech, the crossbench peer who chaired the Department of Health’s 2009 review into the careers of women in medicine, Women Doctors: Making a Difference, believes more should be done to promote the welfare of doctors with children.

“In the review Women Doctors: Making a Difference it was made quite clear that the talents and training of all women, and in particular women doctors, are wasted if they are unable to find flexible and affordable childcare,” she says. “The government is gradually coming around to appreciating this, and is trying to make nurseries more economic and to give assistance to women with the costs.

“But this is too little so far, and vested interests are holding up progress. Women doctors are beginning to make headway in persuading hospitals to help them find childcare, to provide it and to enable women to network. Family friendly practice is vital if the future medical workforce is to be adequate.”

Tips for finding a family friendly workplace

  • Educate yourself—read up on your rights so you know what you can reasonably ask for and expect from a potential employer. Visit the working families fact sheet section of for an explanation of all employment rights.2

  • Do your research—find out details of the childcare coordinator and look at the family friendly policies in place. Talk to the human resources director or your employer about the family friendly services being provided by the company and your child care costs and needs.

  • Look for endorsements—the deaneries and trusts that work hard to ensure a family friendly workplace win awards and recognition and can be sought out.

What a family friendly workplace should offer

  • Parental and carers leave

  • Job sharing

  • Working part time or only during term time

  • Working at or from home during normal working hours

  • Workplace or other nursery provision

  • Help with costs of child care

  • Flexitime, or options to do some work at home

  • Paternity leave

  • Time off for emergencies

  • Lunchtime parenting seminars

  • Resource and referral services for parents needing child care

Medical Women’s Federation and NHS Employers award

The Medical Women’s Federation and NHS Employers are this year jointly promoting and supporting an award for the most family friendly deanery and trust. Deech says the award is, “A terrific idea. It is to be commended for the part it plays in promoting the welfare of medical parents and their children.”


  • Competing interests: We have read and understood the BMJ Group policy on declaration of interests and declare the following interests: BDS is honorary secretary of the Medical Women’s Federation and is a supporter of flexible training and PD is equality and diversity consultant at NHS Employers.


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