Leave entitlements are important for your wellbeing as a doctor

3 August 2022

Workplace leave entitlements are an important tool to assist you to maintain your wellbeing as a doctor. Accessing these entitlements and taking leave when you need to is essential to enable you to rest and relax, recover from illness, care for others, prepare for and sit exams and have a balance in your life. Leave entitlements are recognition that doctors are human and have a range of priorities in life outside of the workplace. Many healthcare professionals are experiencing burnout due to dealing with the ongoing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent workforce shortages. Using leave to rest and recover is more important than ever.

While some leave needs to be accessed at short notice, for example when you are unwell, planning for other leave such as for holidays is generally undertaken in advance. AMA Victoria often hears from members who are having trouble accessing annual leave at their preferred time. This becomes particularly problematic when leave is requested to coincide with a special event or for a specific purpose. While there are popular times of the year when limits on the number of staff on leave are necessary, timing of leave should be negotiable and your requests for specific times should be accommodated. It is in the interests of any employer that doctors are well rested and refreshed by taking regular annual leave. Good patient care is dependent on healthy and well doctors. AMA Victoria is aware that doctors resign when they have been refused requested leave. In the current climate of doctor shortages, it will be easier for an employer to work rosters around an annual leave request or bring in a locum to cover than to replace a doctor who has resigned.

Another issue that members raise with AMA Victoria is when hospitals require doctors to undertake additional night or weekend shifts to apparently “make-up” for those they will miss while on leave. This request is particularly stressful when a doctor is taking a longer period of leave such as parental leave. There are no formal requirements to undertake additional after hours shifts or on-call prior to a period of leave and this is entirely negotiable. If you are pregnant, you have a right to adjustment of duties to ensure a safe working environment and this does include adequate rest to ensure you remain healthy. Thus, as you prepare for parental leave, it is not appropriate to experience onerous rostering with extra shifts which are not safe or appropriate.

It is important to understand your leave entitlements and be able to negotiate leave to meet your needs. Staff in the Workplace Relations unit at AMA Victoria are available to all members to answer questions about leave and assist you if you are encountering difficulties accessing the leave you need. Do not rely on hearsay or social media when it comes to leave entitlements. Many myths are perpetuated when doctors do not seek expert advice.

A summary in layman’s terms of the type of leave available to doctors follows. These descriptions do not replace individual advice for your specific circumstances and are not legal definitions. They have been prepared to broaden your knowledge of the various types of leave available. For more information, check the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) or consult staff in the AMA Victoria Workplace Relations unit.

These leave entitlements do not apply if you are working in private practice or as a contractor. If you are self-employed, allowing yourself leave may impact on your income but is essential if you are to be successful as you need to be healthy and well. When you work in your own practice, treat yourself as if you were an employee by taking appropriate leave on a regular basis and when it is needed if you are unwell. If you become burnt out, your ability to practice will decline and may result in a major incident or complaints. If you are a specialist, you may experience a downturn in referrals if your reputation is tarnished because you are struggling with burnout. Remember to replenish yourself so that you can care for your patients.

General information about leave entitlements can be found on the website of the Fair Work Ombudsman.

You can access the Specialist EBA here.

You can access the Doctor in Training EBA here.

You can contact staff in the AMA Victoria Workplace Relations unit by telephone (03) 9280 8722 or email amavic@amavic.com.au. If you leave a message, let us know when the best time is to call back. An email response is also possible, but sometimes a discussion will raise other issues that need to be considered.

Grant Forsyth (Workplace Relations Director) and Kay Dunkley (Coordinator of Doctor Wellbeing)
AMA Victoria


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