• Recruitment and selection

    We all know having the best staff will make our lives easier and help our practice run smoothly. However, achieving this can sometimes be harder than we anticipate. Finding staff who are suited to your specific medical practice and management style, who will get on well with each other, and who have the skills to do the job, will take some thought and preparation on your part.

    Before you recruit anyone, consider carefully the culture you want your practice to have, and the tasks that need to be divided between various job roles. Consider whether you expect particular roles to be autonomous or supervised. Decide what kind of decisions can be made without consultation and what kind requires your involvement.

    Avant's Getting Started in Practice - Recruitment and selection process  

    Figure: Recruitment and selection process

    Many professionals setting up their own practice for the first time will have had limited experience in the area of human resources. It is important to:

    • Understand the difference between engaging a staff member as an employee or contractor
    • Understand relevant Industrial Relations legislation and the legal basis for employee entitlements
    • Ensure that each staff member has a written contract setting out the terms and conditions of their engagement. You should seek the advice of a lawyer or human resources practitioner for assistance with contracts.

    When employing family members, be sure to comply with government rules and regulations as if they were not a relative. Being related to staff members does not negate your legal obligations with regard to taxation, superannuation, workers' compensation etc.

    All employers are responsible for paying superannuation on behalf of their employees. Employees are generally able to nominate the superannuation fund to which they wish to contribute. More information about your superannuation obligations can be obtained from the Australian Taxation Office.


    Tools and Resources

    Download the Recruitment and Selection checklist

    Improving your practice

    General staff management

    Develop a set of policies and procedures that relate to organisation chart, job descriptions, training and education of staff, performance review of business and staff, service details, employment conditions, office procedures, patient relations and confidentiality. Engaging a practice manager will greatly assist your ability to develop in this area.

    Ensure the policies and procedures reflect relevant legislation including discrimination, harassment, bullying and workplace health and safety. The policies and procedures should also reflect relevant award and legislative employment entitlements. Review policies and procedures at least every two years. They may not change, but they should be checked for currency on a regular basis.

    Policies and procedures should be signed and dated by each new staff member to confirm they have read and understood them. This addresses vicarious liability and duty of care issues (see Policy and procedure manuals section).

    Based on the needs of your business, design clear descriptions for every position, including those of professionals/partners. These can be used for recruitment and performance management, and can help to protect your practice against legal claims such as unfair dismissal.

    Ensure that each person knows what his/her responsibilities are. Set clear objectives for each position. These can be stated in the person's job specifications. They are sometimes called performance standards or objectives. As with objectives for the practice, individual objectives must:

    • State specifically what needs to be achieved
    • Have a start and end date
    • Be measurable
    • Be realistic (e.g. "Greet patients in a warm and friendly manner on every occasion; tidy reception area and refill water filter every day on closing; maintain policies and procedures manual on a continuous basis, and ensure all new information is conveyed to and understood by all staff.")
    • Illustrate how the role impacts on business objectives.

    Ensure that each person knows the responsibilities of every other staff member. Ensure staff know who to ask for assistance when required.

    Put mechanisms in place to ensure staff have the opportunity to communicate within the team. Regular team meetings are the best opportunity for this to happen.


    The checklist in this section covers better practice considerations for recruitment.

    Australia has equal employment opportunity (EEO) and discrimination legislation, which has been designed to ensure all applicants are treated fairly. Common sense will usually prevail, but take care with comments and questions, which could be interpreted as discriminatory. This legislation applies to the private sector as well as the public sector. See links for current legislation.

    Non-discriminatory practices

    Ensure no discriminatory behaviour occurs during the interview process or in the workplace. In particular, you must ensure that there is no discrimination based on grounds including race, colour, religion, creed, national origin, gender, marital status, age, disability, name, birthplace, physical appearance, citizenship, language, education, criminal convictions, relatives or sexual preference. See links to further industrial relations issues information.

    See also Infection control issues relating to infectious diseases.

    Ensure all staff:

    • Are remunerated in a way which meets or exceeds requirements for their particular role (federal industrial awards cover most positions within the private sector health industry)
    • Receive a comprehensive induction
    • Are fully informed of practice policy and procedures and updates to these
    • Know and practise emergency procedures for your building and practice
    • Receive a regular, objective performance review
    • Are given opportunities to develop professionally.

    It is particularly important to ensure all employees are employed according to awards or agreements that at least meet the minimum requirements of all relevant legislation. Check to ensure that remuneration is appropriate for each employee's employment status (i.e. permanent or casual), as different conditions may apply. It is illegal to contract with an employee to pay below the employee's award entitlement.


    Reminder from avant-learning-centre

    Factsheet: Engagement in private practice

    How do you determine what pay rates apply to prospective staff?

    Industrial awards provide detail regarding competencies and skill levels. Ask around. Further information can be obtained from the Fair Work Ombudsman on telephone 13 13 94.

    Talk to colleagues and other practice managers. Contact professional associations such as:

    • AMA Industrial Relations (members)
    • Australian Business Ltd (members)
    • State peak employer body

    IMPORTANT NOTE: When determining pay rates, it is important to understand employment is a contract. If you pay less, you will likely be receiving less in terms of skill and expertise.


    Tools and Resources

    Download the Position Description template

    Download the Interview template

    Download the Verbal Reference #1 template

    Download the Verbal Reference #2 template