Individual employment contracts for Visiting Medical Officers

Mar 17, 2014

In recent weeks, we have received a number of enquiries from Visiting Medical Officers (VMOs) about what the move to individual contracts means for them.

In this information sheet, we explain how the VMO employment arrangements currently work and outline the terms and conditions of the proposed employment arrangements.   

What are the current terms and conditions of employment for VMOs?
What terms and conditions of employment will be offered to VMOs under the proposed individual contracts?
What will happen if a VMO does not sign an individual contract?
What are the key differences between the current employment arrangements and the proposed employment arrangements for VMOs?
What are the key differences between VMOs and SMOs under the new individual contracts?
What will the indemnity arrangements be for VMOs under the proposed VMO contract?
Should I sign the proposed contract?
Can I seek further advice or assistance from Avant?

What are the current terms and conditions of employment for VMOs?

Currently, most VMOs are employed by Queensland Health in accordance with the Terms and Conditions of Employment, Queensland Government Visiting Medical Officers 2011 (the 2011 VMO Agreement).

The 2011 VMO Agreement is an agreement between the Queensland Government and the AMAQ. It regulates the employment of all VMOs employed by Queensland Health.  It is not an award made or agreement certified by the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.  No external body has had any oversight of the 2011 VMO Agreement.

There are also other documents that set out terms and conditions of employment for VMOs such as:

Some VMOs are engaged as contractors in accordance with an individual VMO contract. We do not deal with contracted VMOs in this information sheet.

The employment arrangements for SMOs are different from those of VMOs.  The current arrangements for SMOs are based on

What terms and conditions of employment will be offered to VMOs under the proposed individual contracts?

The Director General of Health has approved a Health Employment Directive which sets out the terms and conditions of employment that will apply to VMOs who sign a contract from 7 July 2014.

The proposed terms and conditions of employment for VMOs can be found here under the heading “Visiting medical officer contract and supporting information”.

What will happen if a VMO does not sign an individual contract?

The 2011 VMO Agreement was due to end on 31 December 2013 but its operation has been extended until 6 July 2014.  After 6 July 2014, the terms and conditions of employment in the 2011 VMO Agreement will no longer apply to any VMO.

We understand that Queensland Health will honour any contractual commitment that it has to a VMO if a VMO does not sign a contract. 


We understand that other organisations are considering and / or advising about political and industrial avenues to seek changes to the VMO contract.  Avant’s role is simply to provide information about the legal and contractual issues. 

What are the key differences between the current employment arrangements and the proposed employment arrangements for VMOs?

The table below sets out a summary of the key terms and conditions of employment under both the current and proposed employment arrangements. 

This table considers only the key terms.  It is not a comprehensive summary of all terms and conditions of employment.  We recommend all VMOs should carefully review the current and proposed arrangements in light of their own personal circumstances.

In the time available to prepare this information sheet, it has not been possible for us to review and consider every document setting out terms and conditions of employment. 

 

 

Current arrangements1

Proposed arrangements2

Salary and wages

Salary

VMOs are currently paid a base hourly rate in accordance with Schedule 1 to the 2011 VMO Agreement [http://www.health.qld.gov.au/vmo/docs/vmo_agreement.pdf].

 

The base hourly rate paid depends on the VMO’s classification (Visiting Specialist, Visiting Senior Specialist or Visiting General Practitioner) and the VMO’s years of eligibility as a specialist

VMOs will be paid a base hourly rate in accordance with Appendix 1 of the Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contracts [http://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ]

 

The classification structure is the same as the 2011 VMO Agreement.  The base hourly rates commencing from 7/7/2014 include a 2.2% increase from the 2013 base hourly rate of pay.

 

The VMO contract will express a VMO’s base salary as an annual amount, rather than an hourly rate.  The annual payment amount will be calculated based on the hours that it is proposed the VMO will work in the following year (excluding overtime, recall and on call hours).

Advancement / progression

Progression in accordance with clauses 3.5 to 3.7 of the 2011 VMO Agreement [http://www.health.qld.gov.au/vmo/docs/vmo_agreement.pdf].

Progression in accordance with  Appendix 1 of the  “Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contractshttp://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf

 

There is no automatic progression.  Advancement for all VMOs may be considered as part of the annual performance review.

Annual salary increase

Annual salary increase are pre-determined over the life of the 2011 VMO Agreement and set out in the schedules to the 2011 VMO Agreement [http://www.health.qld.gov.au/vmo/docs/vmo_agreement.pdf].

There is no guaranteed salary increase (clause 14).

 

However, we understand that a VMO’s remuneration will increase in line with Queensland Government wages policy for contract employees.

Salary sacrifice

Salary sacrifice arrangements are allowed in accordance with clause 3.8 of the 2011 VMO Agreement [http://www.health.qld.gov.au/vmo/docs/vmo_agreement.pdf].and relevant policy http://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/salary-sacrifice.asp

We understand that salary sacrifice arrangements are unchanged but we have not independently confirmed this.

 

Further information can be found at:

 

·         Clause 12 of the proposed VMO Contract

·         Appendix 2 of the  “Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contracts [http://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ]

Payment method

Fortnightly by EFT

No change

Superannuation

Entitlement to superannuation contributions in accordance with QH policy

We understand that there is no change but we have not independently confirmed this.

 

Further information can be found at:

·         Clause 11 of the proposed VMO Contract

·         Section 5 “Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contracts [http://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ]

·         Superannuation fact sheet [http://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/superannuation.pdf]

Allowances

Transport allowance

Allowance paid when VMO recalled to work (clause 3.9.1)

No change. 

 

 

Further information can be found at:

 

·         Section 9, Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contractshttp://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf

Fuel allowance

The amount of the allowance depends on the hours a VMO works per fortnight (clause 3.9.2).

 

 

No change to the amount of the allowance.

 

The allowance will be included, together with other allowances, in Tier 1.

 

Further information can be found at:

 

·         Section 9, Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contracts [http://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ]

·         Page 2, Total remuneration framework conditions for Visiting Medical Officershttp://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch3-remuneration.pdf

Professional Development Assistance Allowance (the payment)

The amount of the allowance depends on the hours worked by a VMO and their location (clause 3.9.3)

 

No change to the amount of the allowance.

 

The allowance will be included, together with other allowances, in Tier 1.

 

Further information can be found at:

 

·         Section 9, Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contracts [http://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ]

 

·         Page 2, Total remuneration framework conditions for Visiting Medical Officershttp://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch3-remuneration.pdf

 

Hours of work

Ordinary hours

8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday
9 hours in any day
No more than 32 hours per week (may be averaged)

Core hours will be set out in the VMO contract (clause 15(2)). 

 

Core hours are between 7am and 6pm unless otherwise agreed (section 6,“Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contracts [http://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ])

VMOs may be required to work additional hours as directed by the HHS (clause 15(2)).

 

The HHS can change a VMO’s roster after consultation (but not necessarily agreement) by providing 3 months’ notice (clause 15(4))

 

See also page 2, Total remuneration framework conditions for Visiting Medical Officers http://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch3-remuneration.pdf

Cancellation of sessions by QH

Full payment will be made for the session (clause 3.2.2)

The VMO will not be financially disadvantaged (clause 15(3))

Overtime

Paid in respect of clinical duties only

Rates set out in clause 4.6.2 as follows:

·         Continuation of duty up to 10 hours – in accordance with the appropriate loaded rate in Schedule 2

·         Continuation of duty between 10 and 14 hours – 1.5 times the appropriate loaded rate in Schedule 2

·         Continuation of duty in excess of 14 hours – 2 times the appropriate loaded rate in Schedule 2

Included in Tier 2

Can be paid as worked (with an Attendance Variation and Allowance Claim Form  (AVAC Form)) or on an annualised basis by agreement .

 

We understand that overtime will be paid once more than 9 hours are worked in one session.

 

We understand that all ll overtime will be paid at 160% of the base rate.

 

A VMO’s core hours can be increased if the VMO regularly works more than their regular core hours.  This can be done by agreement with the HHS.  We understand that where any additional hours are worked and paid at the single loaded rate, the hours worked will be included as core hours for the purpose of all leave entitlements.

 

Further information is at:

 

·         Clause 10(2)(c)

·         Schedule 2

·         Section 6, Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contracts [http://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ]

·         Page 3, Total remuneration framework conditions for Visiting Medical Officershttp://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch3-remuneration.pdf

On call

The 2011 VMO Agreement sets out the conditions for VMOs to work on call.

For most VMOs, $11.09 per hour for rostered on call.

Included in Tier 2 as an annualised payment.

 

On call will be paid at the rate of 6.5% of the base rate

 

Further information is at:

 

·         Page 3, Total remuneration framework conditions for Visiting Medical Officershttp://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch3-remuneration.pdf

Call back / recall

The 2011 VMO Agreement sets out the conditions for VMOs to be called back to work.

 

For most VMOs, the rate of pay is specified in clauses 4.3.4 and 4.3.5.

 

For VMOs at some hospitals, VMOs paid at “rate per procedure” – see clause 4.4.

Will be paid in Tier 2 on an “as worked” or “exception” basis

 

All call back will be paid at the rate of 160% of the base rate.

 

Rules are set out for call back arrangements.

 

Further information is at:

 

·         Section 6, Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contracts [http://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ]

 

Page 3, Total remuneration framework conditions for Visiting Medical Officershttp://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch3-remuneration.pdf

 

For translation of the “rate per procedure; payment, see section 9 “Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contracts [http://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ]

Leave

Continuity of service for leave entitlements

-

Prior service will count and continuity of service will be recognised. 

 

This means that:

 

·         all leave entitlements will transfer to the HHS

·         a VMOs prior employment will be recognised.

 

Further information is at:

 

·         Section 9 “Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contractshttp://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ]

Recreation leave

4 weeks per year
For those working public holidays, 5 weeks per year
Leave loading applies

No change to entitlement

 

Further information is at:

 

·         QH HR Policy C51http://www.health.qld.gov.au/qhpolicy/docs/pol/qh-pol-100.pdf

·         Section 9 “Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contractshttp://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ]

Sick leave

No more than 2 weeks per year

We understand that there is no change but we have not independently confirmed this.

 

Further information is at:

 

·         Directive 04/13http://www.psc.qld.gov.au/publications/directives/assets/2013-4-sick-leave-directive.pdf ]

·         Section 9, Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contractshttp://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ]

Long service leave

Entitlement to long service leave in accordance with Directive 1/11 (now superseded)http://www.psc.qld.gov.au/publications/directives/assets/2011-1-LSL-Directive_superseded.pdf

Entitlements to long service leave in accordance with Directive 10/13.

 

We understand that there is no change but we have not independently confirmed this.

 

Further information is at:

 

·         Directive 10/13http://www.psc.qld.gov.au/publications/directives/assets/2011-1-LSL-Directive.pdf ]

·         Section 9, Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contractshttp://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ]

Professional Development Leave

(We deal with the allowance above)

Entitlement in accordance with clause 5.5:

 

·         4 weeks per year

·         May accumulate for up to 10 years

·         Not paid out on termination

Entitlement in accordance with clause 27

 

No change, except that:

 

·         we understand that PDL can accumulate up to 40 weeks

·         PDL can be used outside core hours 

 

Further information is at:

·         Section 9, Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contractshttp://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ])

Examiners leave

VMOs are entitled to examiners leave (clause 5.6)

No change

 

Further information is at:

·         Section 9, Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contractshttp://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ])

 

Council leave

VMOs are entitled to council leave (clause 5.7)

No change

 

Further information is at:

·         Section 9, Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contractshttp://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ])

 

Bereavement leave

VMOs are entitled to bereavement leave (clause 5.8)

We understand that there is no change but we have not independently confirmed this.

 

Further information is at:

 

·         QH HR Policy C11 http://www.health.qld.gov.au/qhpolicy/docs/pol/qh-pol-107.pdf ]

·         Section 9 “Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contractshttp://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ]

Other leave

Parental leave, carers leave and jury duty leave under legislation

We understand that there is no change but we have not independently confirmed this.

 

Further information is at:

 

·         Section 9, Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contractshttp://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ]

Termination and resignation

Probationary period

6 months

Contract silent

Termination by QH

3 months’ notice or 3 months’ payment in lieu of notice, after QH policies and procedures are followed

 

Summary dismissal allowed

<1 year continuous service – 4 weeks’ notice or payment in lieu

 

>1 year but < 5 years’ continuous service – 3 months’ notice or payment in lieu

 

>5 years continuous service – 6 months’ notice or payment in lieu

 

By written agreement, the notice period may be reduced (clause 23(4)).

 

Summary dismissal allowed (clause 23(5)), subject to compliance with QH HR Policy E10 [link -http://www.health.qld.gov.au/qhpolicy/docs/pol/qh-pol-124.pdf ] (clause 23(8)).

Resignation by VMO

3 months’ notice or forfeiture of 3 months’ salary

<1 year continuous service – 4 weeks’ notice

 

>1 year but < 5 years continuous service – 3 months’ notice

 

>5 years continuous service – 6 months’ notice

 

By written agreement, the notice period may be reduced (clause 23(4)).

 

Forfeiture of salary if correct notice not given (clause 23(6).

Redundancy

VMO entitled to a severance payment in the event of redundancy (clause 2.6)

Contract silent. 

 

Redundancy entitlements are in accordance with:

·         Directive 11/12http://www.psc.qld.gov.au/publications/directives/assets/2012-11-Early-Retirement-Redundancy-and-Retrenchment.pdf ]

·         Section 9 “Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contractshttp://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ]

Unfair dismissal claim

In some cases, an unfair dismissal claim could be made to the QIRC

Unfair dismissal claims cannot be made to the QIRC

 

A VMO can appeal a termination decision to their HHS within 7 days (clause 23(3)) and, in some circumstances, may have recourse to legal remedies such as a discrimination or breach of contract claim.

Deduction from pay on termination

Allowed by legislation

Allowed by legislation and clause 24

Change in sessions

Variation of sessions by QH

Sessions can be varied after a consultation process is followed

 

QH must provide notice, payment in lieu of notice or, in some cases, redundancy if it wishes to reduce the number of sessions

Rosters can be varied in accordance with clause 15. 

 

The HHS must give 3 months’ notice to change rosters.

Variation of sessions by VMO

VMO can apply for a variation in the number of sessions by providing 3 months’ notice.  QH is not required to make the variation.

Rosters can be changed by agreement.

Disputes

Dispute procedure

A dispute can be referred to the QIRC after the grievance procedure is followed.

QH HR Policy E12 http://www.health.qld.gov.au/qhpolicy/docs/pol/qh-pol-140.pdf  applies (clause 9)


A dispute cannot be referred to the QIRC, but can be referred to a private mediator for conciliation by agreement between the HHs and the VMO.  The parties may (but are not obliged to) agree that they will be bound by the outcome of the process.

 

Further information is at:

 

·         Section 8, Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contracts -http://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf

Other matters

Indemnity

QH HR Policy I2

No change (clause 25), subject to any changes that may be made to the policy.

 

As currently drafted, QH HR policy I2 does not specifically refer to an indemnity from a Hospital and Health Service.  We understand that the policy will be amended to make it clear that indemnity will be provided by the HHS.

 

Performance appraisal

Performance appraisal process applies

VMOs are required to participate in performance reviews

 

Further information is at:

 

·         Clause 6(1)(d) and clause 19

·         Section 7  of the “Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contracts [http://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ])

 

There are no KPIs for VMOs in the proposed VMO contract and there is no link between the achievement of KPIs and remuneration.  We understand that VMOs may be subject to the KPIs set for the clinical area.

Contract term

Ongoing employment, subject to the right of either party to terminate

No change (clause 3)

Employer

The Department of Health

The HHS at which the VMO is working. (Clause 2 and Schedule 2, Item 4)

 

If a VMO works for more than one HHS, the VMO will have a contract with each HHS.

Health Employment Directive

Health service directives could not override an industrial instrument, but public service commission directives (which apply to all government departments including Health) could override an industrial instrument unless the QIRC determined otherwise.

The Director-General can make a Health Employment Directive which can override the terms and conditions in an individual VMO contract.

Work location

Mobility is allowed between sites.

 

Permanent changes require 3 months’ notice (clause 1.10 of the 2011 VMO Agreement). 

Work location specified (clause 5 and Schedule 2, Item 5)


VMO can be required to work at other locations within the HHS after consultation (but not agreement) (clause 5).  We understand that work performed outside of core hours in other locations is by agreement.

Meal breaks

2011 VMO Agreement is silent

Meal breaks to be managed by the VMO (clause 16)

Fatigue management

Agreement to develop a fatigue management strategy

Policies to be followed (clause 17 and section 6 “Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contracts [link -http://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ])

Privacy

2011 VMO Agreement is silent

Clause 21

Confidential information and intellectual property

2011 VMO Agreement is silent

Clause 22

Clinical support time

2011 VMO Agreement is silent

Clinical support time as determined by the VMOs manager

Private practice arrangements

No or limited opportunity to engage in private practice arrangements.

 

Some VMOs engaged in “intermediate lists” and some other had arrangements similar to “Option B” SMOs.

Some VMOs will have an opportunity to engage in private practice arrangements (Clause 28 and Schedule 3).

For indemnity arrangements, see section 9 “Visiting Medical Officers Terms and conditions of employment – contracts [link -http://www.health.qld.gov.au/medical/medical-contracts/docs/vmo-sch2-termsconditions.pdf ]

 

What are the key differences between VMOs and SMOs under the new individual contracts?

There have always been some differences between the employment terms for SMOs and VMOs.  This is the same under the proposed contracts.

In our view, it is not useful to analyse the individual differences between the VMO and SMO contracts.  The contracts must be read as a whole if any comparison is to be made.

What will the indemnity arrangements be for VMOs under the proposed VMO contract?

Under QH HR Policy I2, VMOs are currently indemnified for work in relation to public patients but have only limited coverage in respect of private patients. We understand that the policy will be amended so that if VMOs are requested by the HHS to treat private patients via a private practice agreement, indemnity arrangements will apply.

Should I sign the proposed contract?

It is entirely a matter for you as to whether you wish to sign a VMO contract.

Before you make a decision, we recommend that you consider:

  • the terms of the proposed VMO contract (and, importantly, whether you understand and agree with those terms);
  • information that is available to you about the proposed VMO contract; and
  • your individual professional, financial and personal circumstances.

If you have any questions about your proposed VMO contract, you should speak with your HHS representative, your union representative  or another adviser such as Avant.

Can I seek further advice or assistance from Avant?

This is a summary of the key aspects of the proposed VMO contract. It is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal advice.  You should seek legal or other professional advice before relying on this content.  Avant is not responsible to you for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information, and information is only current at the date initially published.

If you are a member of Avant and would like further advice or assistance about the proposed contract, please call Avant on 1800 128 268. 


[1] Clause references are to the 2011 VMO Agreement
[2] Clause references are to the proposed VMO Contract

This information is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal advice. You should seek legal or other professional advice before relying on this content. Avant is not responsible to you for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information, and information is only current at the date initially published. If you are a member of Avant and would like further advice or assistance, please contact us on 1800 128 268.

Share your view

We welcome your feedback on this article – email the Editor at: editor@avant.org.au