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Navigating Strikes as an International Medical Graduate on a Health and Care Visa in the UK

Working as an international medical graduate (IMG) in the United Kingdom under a Health and Care Visa is a rewarding yet complex journey. While healthcare professionals from around the world contribute significantly to the UK's healthcare system, they must also consider the implications of participating in strikes, unpaid leave, and unauthorised absences on their visa sponsorship and leave to remain. In this blog, we will explore how IMGs can navigate these challenges while upholding their rights and responsibilities.

Unpaid Leave and Industrial Action

One of the primary concerns for IMGs considering participation in strikes is the impact of unpaid leave on their visa sponsorship. Fortunately, under current immigration guidance, unpaid leave taken to participate in legally organized industrial action is exempt from the rule that can lead to sponsorship termination if you are absent from work unpaid for 28 days or longer in a calendar year. This means that IMGs can engage in strikes without jeopardizing their visa status.

Unauthorised Absences: What You Need to Know

Another important aspect to consider is unauthorised absences, specifically when you are absent from work for 10 consecutive working days or more without permission. In such cases, your employer may be required to notify the Home Office of this absence, and the Home Office will assess whether further action is needed.

It's crucial to clarify that the count towards 10 consecutive missed working days in a row continues even if there are authorised non-working days that occur in between them. For example, if you miss 10 days in a row on which you were scheduled to work or had a shift, the count continues, even if there were non-working days in between. However, if you work a scheduled day within this period, the count resets to zero.

The Role of the BMA

The British Medical Association (BMA) plays a significant role in advocating for the rights of medical professionals, including IMGs, in the UK. They interpret the guidelines to support IMGs and will fight for members if an employer takes action against them based on a different interpretation.

Conclusion: Balancing Advocacy and Immigration Status

In summary, IMGs working in the UK on a Health and Care Visa should be aware of the rules surrounding unpaid leave, unauthorised absences, and participation in strikes. Fortunately, participating in legally organized industrial action does not jeopardize your visa status. Additionally, understanding the nuances of unauthorised absences and the support of organizations like the BMA can help IMGs navigate these challenges while advocating for their rights as healthcare professionals.

The information provided in the preceding sections is sourced from the official British Medical Association (BMA) website.

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