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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 “letters of offer” that are concise. The same hospital probably has comprehensive collective agreements covering medical staff. The letters of offer may only deal with issues not contained in the collective agreements.

At the other end of the scale some hospitals may not have collective agreements or may have agreements only applying to part of the specialist workforce. In those circumstances more comprehensive contracts are indicated

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

If you a member are not covered by a collective agreement, or 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 contract where the hospital has a collective agreement covering the position.

What should be in a contract?

For those subject to comprehensive collective agreements 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

What other issues 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
  • payments for out of hours work such as:
  • on-call
  • 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
  • support for sabbatical leave and attendance at conferences
  • reimbursement for subscriptions such as College, private indemnity, Society and AMA fees
  • salary increases annually to be at least AMA, Department of Health/hospitals negotiated outcomes
  • 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.

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