Details of the Offer for a new Medical Officers Enterprise Agreement
Outlined below are the terms of a ‘without prejudice’ offer for a new enterprise agreement to replace the existing Medical Officers Northern Territory Public Sector 2018-2021 Enterprise Agreement (‘the current Agreement’). This offer takes into account the Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Federation NT (‘ASMOF’) bargaining issues and claims, and reflects the progress made during the negotiation meetings to date.
Early this week, Government revised and improved the NTPS Wages Policy 2021-2024. The offer is consistent with this policy and the NTPS Bargaining Policy 2021-2024, and the terms comprise a complete package of improvements and changes to terms and conditions of employment.
The content of the proposal offer reflects the discussions and collaborative approach that has occurred since the commencement of the negotiations. This means there has been:
- genuine consideration and time to discuss the ASMOF claims, and agency-specific proposals including NTPS sector-wide common conditions;
- sharing of information such as costing of claims and proposals; and
- consideration of operational information including the application and interpretation of current agreement provisions.
The proposals set out below include consideration of the logs of claims received, which have been discussed during negotiation meetings to be incorporated into a new agreement or addressed through other mechanisms.
- Term of Agreement
It is proposed the new agreement (the Agreement) will have a four-year term that will provide employees with job certainty and secured terms and conditions over this period including employment security provisions whereby no involuntary redundancies arise as a result of implementing the new Agreement.
- Lump sum payment
There would be a $4,000 lump sum payment as the first payment due after the Agreement has been approved by the Fair Work Commission. For the years 2023, 2024 and 2025 the annual payment of $2,000 would be made on the first pay day on or after 1 January.
The lump sum payment would be available to:
- employees who are on leave without pay for a period of less than 4 weeks at the date that payment is made under the Agreement and for employees on unpaid parental or personal leave.
- casual employees if they have performed work up to the date payment is due under the Agreement and are expected to continue to perform work after that date.
Overall, employees would receive $10,000 over 4 years.
Employer superannuation guarantee is applicable to the lump sum payment. However, due to the rules of the defined benefit schemes, employer superannuation guarantee is not applicable to the lump sum paid to NTGPASS and CSS members.
Further, the Agreement would also contain clear provisions that employees on multiple employment contracts (consistent with section 38A of the Public Sector Employment and Management Act 1993) would only be eligible for a single lump sum payment on each occasion in relation to the performance of work under the Agreement or other NTPS enterprise agreements. This would avoid double dipping of the lump sum payments.
Improved NTPS Common Conditions
- Continue to increase allowances by the Darwin consumer price index (CPI)
The Agreement would continue CPI indexation of existing allowances in Determination 1 of 2021 that are adjusted by the September to September Darwin CPI. These allowances will not reduce if the Darwin CPI is negative.
- Changes to the Northern Territory Government Wages Policy during the term of the Agreement
Any change to the Northern Territory Government Wages Policy that provide additional benefits above those contained in this offer (such as an increase to salaries above the value of the lump sum payment at item 2 above) would be passed on through a determination under the Public Sector Employment and Management Act 1993 (‘the PSEM Act’).
- No involuntary redundancies for the term of the Agreement
There will be no involuntary redundancies (notice of redundancy) for the term of the Agreement. This would not apply to an employee who has been declared potentially surplus to requirements under section 41 of the PSEM Act, and who have been listed on the Office of the Commissioner for Public Employment redeployment database for longer than 2 years.
- Incorporate PSEM by-law leave entitlements in the Agreement
The following By-law leave entitlements will be incorporated into the Agreement
- Defence service leave (By-law 14)
- Leave without pay (By-law 16)
- Leave to attend arbitration business (By-law 17)
- Miscellaneous leave (By-law 18)
- Release for jury service (By-law 20)
- Release to attend as a witness (By-law 21)
Please note the current Agreement signposts release for jury service and release to attend as a witness. The Agreement will incorporate the text of those by-laws.
Further, the miscellaneous leave (By-law 18) entitlements will be set out in separate clauses, namely: blood donation leave, and leave to engage in voluntary emergency management activities.
The miscellaneous leave to engage in voluntary emergency management activities will be updated to reflect current legislation. It will be improved to include paid leave for reasonable rest time immediately following the employee’s participation in the emergency management activity.
- Leave for disabilities caused by war service (War Service Leave)
The existing entitlements, referenced in current personal leave provisions but set out in Determination Number 6 of 2011, would be improved and included in the Agreement to support a comprehensive agreement. To assist veterans and agencies to apply the entitlements, the provisions would make it clear that ‘war service’ includes peace-keeping service and hazardous operational service. The improvement will enable eligible employees to access their accrued war service leave (i.e. leave granted and accrued in relation to their original disability) for a further condition recognised as caused by war sometime after the recognition of the original disability (e.g. PTSD). Leave is currently only available in relation to the original disability.
- NAIDOC March and approved activities
This is a new entitlement. Paid NAIDOC leave would be available (up to 3 hours) to attend NAIDOC march and NAIDOC week activities. Paid leave will be approved where time off in lieu arrangements are not otherwise available.
- Foster and Kinship Carer leave
Foster Carer and Kinship Carer Leave, set out in Determination Number 7 of 2020, would be included in the Agreement to support a comprehensive agreement and the entitlements improved to provide 2 days paid leave (currently unpaid) to attend Permanent Care Order interviews.
- Christmas Closedown Leave
- Medical Officers (excluding casuals), granted 3 days between Christmas and New Year’s
- Those who are required to work during this period will be able to bank 3 days for use within 12 months.
- Gender Transition Leave
This is a new entitlement. Gender transition leave would be available to support employees who are transitioning their gender. Employees (excluding casuals) with at least 12 months service and who have commenced transitioning their gender, would be entitled to up to 12 months leave, inclusive of 4 weeks paid and 48 weeks unpaid. Additional paid leave may be granted by the CEO on a case-by-case basis.
- Leave to engage in voluntary emergency management activities
This is a new clause that transfers Miscellaneous Leave (By-law 18) in relation to volunteering for emergency management activities into the Agreement. The existing By-law provision will be updated and improved to, reflect current legislation and include paid leave for reasonable rest time immediately following the employee’s participation in the emergency management activity.
- Improved Compassionate Leave
There would be a number of improvements to compassionate leave as follows:
- 3 days increased to 5 days on the death or serious threat to life of the employee’s immediate family or household member, which will now include stillbirths (refers to cl 51.4(a) of the current Agreement and replaces cl 51.4(d) where CEO has discretion to grant an extra period of unpaid leave.
- NEW – 3 days paid compassionate leave on the death of the employee’s (excluding casuals) extended family member. ‘Extended family member’ means:
- a spouse of the employee’s child (e.g. son-in- law)
- a spouse of the employee’s sibling (e.g. sister-in-law)
- an aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or first cousin of the employee.
- NEW – 3 days paid leave if the employee or their partner experiences a miscarriage. The employee must provide a medical certificate from a medical practitioner stating that the employee’s pregnancy or the partner’s pregnancy has ended. Leave is unpaid for casual employees.
- Cultural and ceremonial leave
The entitlement to 5 days unpaid cultural and ceremonial leave in the current Agreement will be improved to give the CEO the discretion to approve additional unpaid cultural and ceremonial leave, on request.
- Kinship obligation leave – 5 days paid leave for sorry business
The Australian First Nation’s definition of kinship will be included in the Agreement for the purpose of providing up to 5 days paid leave per annum to attend sorry business or related purposes. That definition is:
Australian First Nations kinship where there is a connection, relationship or obligation under the customs, traditions or cultures of the communities, groups or families to which the employee belongs.
The definition was developed by an extensive consultation process involving key Aboriginal NTPS representatives.
The 5 days will be in addition to compassionate leave. The leave may be taken in broken periods. It can also be taken at half pay. The 5 days do not accrue. They are not cumulative.
- Health Screening Leave
The agreement is to include the existing entitlement of 1 hour ‘health screening leave’ in addition to personal leave. Since the offer now includes improved lump sum payment provisions, the existing entitlement of 1 hour remains unchanged. This entitlement ‘health screening leave’ enables employees to access 1 hour of paid leave per year in addition to personal leave, for the purpose of undertaking a health screening test associated with a public health screening program. A ‘health screening test’ means a diagnostic procedure or medical appointment undertaken to screen for cancer or mental health conditions.
- Flexible Lifestyle Leave
The ‘Purchase of Additional Leave (Purchased Leave)’ in Schedule 2 clause 2.3 of the current Agreement would be re-named ‘Flexible Lifestyle Leave’ and enhanced to allow employees to request up to 8 weeks additional leave (currently maximum 6 weeks) per year and to take the leave in blocks of 2 days (currently 1 week minimum).
This is a scheme that enables employees to purchase more leave, through salary deductions, to be taken in the year it is purchased. Conditions will apply, including the requirement for employees to provide a written plan outlining how they intend to utilise the leave and the purchase must not result in an excess recreation leave balance.
- Parental Leave Improvements
- Employer superannuation contributions (SG) paid during parental leave
- NEW – Recognising the support parents need at the time of the birth/placement of their child, a new provision to pay SG during paid and unpaid partner leave during the first 12 months as if the employee had been at work. Employees will be eligible if their spouse is also an NTPS employee. (Note: employees taking primary caregiver leave already have this entitlement).
- NEW – Recognising that women’s superannuation earning capacity may reduce when on parental leave, to pay SG at double the legislated rate during a period of paid primary caregiver leave (includes special maternity leave (stillbirth). Should the employee elect to take any paid parental leave at half pay, the double superannuation contributions will only be paid for a period that is equivalent to utilising the paid parental leave at full pay.
- NEW - Expanded definition of ‘continuous service’
To support employment mobility between different agencies with the broader Northern Territory Government context, the definition of ‘continuous service’ in the parental leave provisions would be expanded to recognise prior service with an Agency for the purposes of the Financial Management Act 1995 (e.g. the Northern Territory Police Force, Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority). This change would enable more employees to access paid parental leave entitlements or provide increased paid parental leave (e.g. with prior service recognised an employee could achieve 5 or more years’ service and be eligible for 18 weeks paid leave). Similar changes would be made to the definition of an ‘NTPS employee couple’ to enable Northern Territory Government employees to combine their paid parental leave entitlements.
- NEW– Returning from parental leave
Full-time employees returning from parental leave currently have a right ‘to request’ to convert to part-time employment on a temporary or permanent basis. Where the employee wishes to do so, the Agreement would provide a right to return on a part-time basis for up to 6 months. The provision will provide that the employee can return to the same job/duties or alternative duties. If ‘alternative duties’ required to accommodate part-time work, the employee will be paid their full rate of pay (for position they held before parental leave) for the hours worked whilst on transfer to alternative duties. A longer period may be requested and approved by the CEO.
- NEW - Pre-natal Leave
This is a new entitlement. An employee, whose partner is pregnant, or a pregnant employee will be able to access up to 8 hours paid leave to attend pre-natal appointments. Currently employees use personal or other leave to accommodate these appointments.
- Pre-adoption Leave
The Agreement would improve the existing entitlement for employees to enable up to 2 days paid leave (currently unpaid) to attend interviews or examinations required in order to obtain approval for the employee’s adoption of a child. Casual employees will be eligible for up to 2 days unpaid leave as per the current provisions.
- Employer superannuation contributions (SG) paid during parental leave
- Defence Service Leave
An entitlement to paid leave for undertaking defence service (e.g. army reserve) would be included in the Agreement. Entitlements will be equivalent to By-law 14 Defence Leave.
- Principles for Casuals right to request conversion to ongoing employment
Principles will be included in the Agreement to allow casual employees to request the conversion of their employment to ongoing where the employee has been engaged for a period of at least 12 months where the employee has worked a regular pattern of hours.
- Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Provisions
The existing domestic and family violence provisions in clause 59 of the current Agreement would be expanded to include circumstances where employees have experienced sexual violence (i.e. sexual violence in non-domestic/family situations). The paid leave entitlements, currently provided in Miscellaneous Leave (By-law 18), will be included in the Agreement to support a comprehensive agreement. The CEO will retain the ability to approve uncapped paid leave for these purposes.
Agency Specific Conditions
- NT Rural Generalist Pathway
Improve the existing Rural Generalist Program Industrial Pathway in order to gain alignment to the National Rural Generalist Pathway. The proposal introduces a new classification of Pre-Vocational Rural Generalist and expand existing Vocational Rural Generalist Trainee classifications, as well as increases to the Rural Generalist classifications to optimise career progression post-fellowship.
The training pathway supports Doctors in Training with targeted training and development to become a Rural Generalist. It is a selective and flexible pathway that offers Medical Officers the opportunity to explore a wide variety of clinical training and develop the advanced skill set required to support the health needs of rural communities.
By growing the rural generalist workforce, in alignment with the national strategy, will assist in addressing a more even distribution of doctors in the Northern Territory as well as improving the health outcomes for Territorians in the NT remote community and alleviate pressure on the NT hospital system. See details at Attachment A as presented during bargaining.
- Restrictive duty
NT Health engaged Ernest and Young (EY) to undertake a review of the restrictive duty provision contained in the Agreement. In September 2021, ASMOF attended a presentation on the EY review of the restrictive duties provisions for Medical Officers. NT Health’s objectives for consideration of changes to existing models is to provide for transparent records of what payment is made for work performed and, for a replacement model to recognise those Medical Officers who work regular on-call and re-call to duty patterns of work. No model has been decided and NT Health propose the parties work towards introducing a new model or alternative options during the term of the Agreement. To enable this, the current restrictive duty provisions in the current Agreement will be moved into a Commissioner’s determination and it is agreed that any changes will not occur without the agreement from ASMOF.
- Specialist Private Practice Allowance
At the EY presentation in September 2021, the review of the Specialist Private Practice Allowance was also shared with ASMOF on the potential improvements to the current model and categories. NT Health reports that the current model is not fit for purpose. NT Health has yet to decide on a new model and propose, during the term of the Agreement, for the parties to work towards a new model or alternative options. To facilitate this proposal, the current provisions on Specialist Private Practice Allowance will be moved into a Commissioner’s determination. No changes to the current provisions will be made without the agreement from ASMOF.
Responses to ASMOF Claims
I have also agreed to a number of ASMOF’s claims that have been discussed during negotiation meetings and propose to incorporate into this offer as set out below.
- Living payments and retention allowance
In recognition of the social and professional isolation associated with regional and remote services, extend the living payment and retention allowance (as outlined in current clauses 28.3 and 28.4) to Specialists who live and residing in Katherine, Nhulunbuy or NT remote communities and perform the majority of their duties in regional and remote areas subject to CEO approval.
- B. NEW - Professional development leave
To support Interns early in their careers, provide 5 days per annum for attendance at approved professional development activities. Documentation and approval is required under a Work Partnership Plan.
- Pre-eminent status allowance
Extend the eligibility for Pre-eminent status allowance to Rural Medical Practitioners, Rural Generalists and Rural Medical Administrators.
Additionally, introduce a simplified process for the renewal of this allowance. The Work Partnership Plan (WWP) process to replace the requirement to lodge a full submission every 2 year to renew the allowance. The renewal is subject to the formal WPP review and approval by the Medical Officer’s supervisor to monitor the performance to meet continual eligibility on a yearly basis. This is required as evidence in lieu of the pre-eminent panel’s review of a full submission every two years.
- NEW - Travel time for professional development leave – NT remote communities
In recognition of the tyranny of distance, provide up to 5 days travel time per annum to attend professional development activities, where a Medical Officer resides in a NT remote community (level 3 remote locality).
- Sabbatical leave
Rural Medical Practitioners, Rural Generalists and Rural Medical Administrators to be recognised as Senior Medical Officers and be eligible for Sabbatical leave. Additionally, reduce the requirement of utilising Sabbatical leave in a 13 weeks duration, and to be available for shorter periods of time, including single days, at the discretion of the work unit.
- Attraction and retention allowance – Correctional Centres
Agree to improve current attraction and retention allowance for Medical Officers who work in a Correctional Centre. In recognition of the extensive and diverse health and social needs within a Correctional facility, the offer includes an increase of $15,000 per annum to the current attraction and retention allowance, see below.
Location Current annual rate Proposed annual rate Darwin Correctional Centre $44,126 $59,126 Alice Springs Correctional Centre $56,734 $71,734
- NEW - Parental leave
Parental leave provisions to be extended to a Medical Officer, who has worked in the department for 12 months and leaves to work with a recognised employer for up to an equivalent of 4 years and returns to the department, the Medical Officer will be entitled to 14 weeks paid parental leave on completing 12 months service with the department (taking into account period of employment performed before leaving NT Health).
- Higher duties allowance
Improve payment at a higher classification where a Medical Officer has been formally directed to perform duties at a higher classification for at least one entire shift, which is an improvement of the current requirement to perform higher duties for 6 days or more.
- Doctors in Training
The term ‘Junior Medical Officers’ to be replaced with ‘Doctors in Training’.
Doctors in Training includes all non-specialists classifications including Intern, Resident Medical Officer, Registrar, Senior Registrar, Rural Generalist Trainee, Rural Registrar and Senior Rural Registrar.
- Clinical support time
Clinical support time for Specialists, including Senior Medical Officers, supportive of time to be prescribed by the work unit and training to be undertaken in the hospital and meet the objectives of the work unit. This will create a positive clinical and learning environment that will contribute to improved patient care.
Medical operational units with allocation of clinical support time duties will be determined by the Unit Head and will aspire to allocate a minimum of 25% clinical support time allocation time for their work unit.
- Protected teaching time for Doctors in Training
The provision of learning opportunities to be seen as core business and incorporated into rosters, ensuring uninterrupted access. Medical operational units with allocation of protected teaching time will be determined by the Co-Director and allocate a minimum of 2 hours per week for Doctors in Training. To facilitate their attendance at the teaching sessions, Doctors in Training will need to be free from clinical responsibilities during this time and not be required to answer pagers or take calls.
- Improved rostering practices and fatigue management
Rostering is considered a crucial element to ensure an environment that provides high quality and safe patient care as well as ensuring Medical Officers health and wellbeing.
The principles of rostering and expected requirements to support good practice and fatigue management are to be incorporated for the first time into the Agreement to ensure compliance.
Rostering practices must be in accordance with fatigue management principles and, include protected teaching time.
- Improved overtime processes
The current clause on unrostered overtime has been contemporised and the examples of ‘professional commitment’, that did not align with good rostering practices, has been removed to clarify that start times for Specialists rounds for Doctors in Training are to be included in rostered hours.
Furthermore, an electronic variance form is being trialled in an operational area to expedite the approval of overtime.
- Interrupted employment for long service leave purposes – Doctors in Training
To encourage Doctors in Training to return to the department after undertaking a recognised vocational training program, on returning to the department within 2 months from ceasing their employment with a recognised employer, their service may be recognised as continuous service for the purposes of accrual of long service leave. The maximum period of absence with a recognised employer is 4 years (increased from 2 years).
I have also considered other matters raised in ASMOF’s log of claims provided on 7 July 2021 (updated on 28 July 2021). As discussed in negotiation meetings, there were some claims that could not be agreed to as they would not be in line with the NTPS Wages Policy (for example, the 3.5% annual increase to wages and allowances). Additionally, I was unable to agree for the transition of the Medical Officers classifications to a single salary spine. This proposal would result in an increase to salary levels, and is outside the NTPS Wages Policy. However, I offer an undertaking for the parties to review the classification definitions during the term of the new agreement.
The claim to remove reference of speciality and hospital eligibility for the payment of the extended hours benefit payment was not agreed. However, ASMOF was reminded that any group meeting the eligibility criteria could apply for this payment through a variation to working arrangements for groups of Medical Officers (Group Variations), and implemented via a Commissioner’s determination.
The claim for an automatic payment of a meal break is not agreed as this does not support good rostering and fatigue management practices. However, ASMOF was reminded that work units could apply for a paid meal break through a Group Variation.
The ASMOF (NT) claim is seeking for the employer contributions to be made at the prescribed rate, over and above the maximum superannuation contribution base as published each year, irrespective of any Commonwealth legislation. I was unable to agree to this part of ASMOF (NT) claim as it is outside the Wages Policy and confirm that the employer superannuation guarantee (SG) will be paid in accordance with federal legislation.
I consider the above offer to represent a good package that is within the NTPS Bargaining Policy and also reflects the extensive and constructive discussions about issues raised by all parties during bargaining.
Vicki Telfer PSM
Commissioner for Public Employment
26 November 2021
Last updated: 29 November 2021
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