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CAMHS won't see you now

Honest applicant presents us with pregnancy poser

We have been advertising and interviewing for a new salaried partner. Out of only four (female) applicants one candidate was head and shoulders above the others. During the interview she offered the unprompted information that she is planning to start a family in the next 12 months. In the last three years, two partners and our GP registrar have all had six months' maternity leave. We had dreadful problems getting locums and the burden inevitably fell on the remaining partners. So we now face a dilemma, more so because her CV states that her husband is a barrister and presumably knows all about discrimination.

GP's advice

Can you really better this best candidate?

This is a catch 22 situation. Employing this candidate will bring the near certainty of more maternity leave and disruption. Rejecting her leaves you open to a discrimination case.

You may not ask a female candidate what her plans are for procreation. This would be clearly discriminatory and irrelevant to her ability to perform the job. I doubt your GPR gave you such advance warning of her pregnancy plans and you have no guarantee that the other applicants won't get pregnant too.

It is clear she has access to the best legal advice. If you reject her then a discrimination case is possible. They would have to prove she was the best person for the post. You may be able to argue that one or none of the candidates were suitable based not on qualifications but on how they would fit in to the existing team ­ but do you want this hassle? You could advertise again, but beware if you eventually take on a male candidate ­ this could make your position worse. What will you do if all the candidates next time are also female?

Look at this another way. You have an excellent candidate and her imminent pregnancy will not be as much of a surprise as the last three GPs' presumably were. Her abilities and openness should provide more positive factors over the years than losing six months' maternity leave.

Do you really think you can do better?

GP's advice

Don't let this star partner get away!

It's not exactly surprising that a young married woman looking for a salaried GP post might be contemplating pregnancy; the other candidates may well be similarly minded, and any male applicants are likely to request paternity or parental leave at some stage. So discrimination is not only illegal but impractical.

The key point here is that she seems to be the star candidate and is likely to be an asset to patients, partners and the practice, even if she does take time off for pregnancies.

Maternity leave in itself is not too big a problem, and will soon pass; the practice may be able to recoup some of the costs. With careful planning and flexibility from all the partners, including those who have already benefitted from maternity leave, it may be possible to defray much of her workload, at least temporarily.

For example, the weekly timetable may need to change, and some projects, partner sabbaticals or study leave may have to be postponed.

Longer-term she may want to reduce her hours, but the practice's needs (and funding for her post) may also change with time, so this may turn out to be an opportunity rather than a threat.

Raising the subject of pregnancy should be seen as honest and considerate behaviour rather than a veiled threat, and it might never happen anyway. She is likely to remain local if her husband's career is established, so this could be the start of a strong and successful partnership. Don't let her get away.

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