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Specialists in Public Hospitals

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I have received a contract from my hospital. What should be in it or what should I look out for?

Contracts for senior medical staff vary significantly across the public hospital system. Some hospitals have concise “letters of offer” that may only deal with issues not contained in the Specialists’ Agreement. Others have very detailed and comprehensive contracts.

A contract is a contract. You should always read the document in its entirety before you agree to it.

If you have any concerns about the wording of a contract you have been given, you should send your contract to AMA Victoria Workplace and Advocacy unit for review.

The following provides a simple indicative checklist of the items that should be included in a public hospital contract.

What should be in a contract?

The contract should include details such as:

  • date of commencement
  • length of contract (although fixed term contracts are becoming less prevalent).
  • rights of private practice.
  • hours of work
  • location of work.
  • position description
  • references to hospital policies that are relevant ie confidentiality, bullying and harassment, workplace health and safety.
  • reporting lines

Other issues which could be covered

The following would be good to have included:

  • superannuation paid on total salary rather than capped at the statutory Superannuation Guarantee Act minimum level
  • recognition of service with previous hospitals in Victoria or other states for the purposes of accruing long service leave entitlements
  • requirements for out-of-hours work, such as no more than a one in six on-call roster
  • detail of payments for out of hours work:
  • on-call payment
  • re-call payments
  • overtime payments for work in excess of rostered hours
  • split of work time between clinical and non-clinical duties of 80/20
  • notice period of at least six months if a term contract is not to be renewed
  • reimbursement for subscriptions such as College, private medical indemnity, Specialty Society and AMA fees
  • commitments to provision of secretarial and office support and infrastructure.

Whilst the last dot point is not frequently written into contracts, it is often an area of dispute.

What you should be wary of:

  • The inclusion of out of hours payments such as on-call / re-call payments as a rolled-up part of your normal fortnightly salary, without also agreeing to a fixed roster for on-call and re-call. Otherwise you may be required to provide more onerous out of hours coverage if staffing levels fluctuate.
  • Superannuation capped at the statutory Superannuation Guarantee Act minimum level.
  • Contracts of less than three years unless for a clear purpose such as a probationary period, replacing a specialist who is on maternity leave, and so on.

Victorian Medical Directory