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The National Terms and Conditions for the Employment of Registrars (NTCER) was created to establish fair wages for registrars. It’s revised every two years, and the latest agreement came into effect on September 21, 2016. Make sure you understand your obligations and rights under the current NTCER.

GP and GPTQ Supervisor, Dr Bruce Willett highlights 7 things both GP supervisors and registrars should know about the NTCER.

1. The NTCER is an agreement between our practices and our registrars

The NTCER is an agreement reached through negotiations between GPSA (General Practice Supervisors Australia) and GPRA (General Practice Registrars Association) every two years. It’s a statement of goodwill and not a registered award, however it is enforceable. Like all RTOs, GPTQ has a signed agreement with the Australian Government that states our supervising practices will employ registrars in accordance with the NTCER. In turn, all practices have signed an agreement with GPTQ confirming that they will abide with the terms of the NTCER. Our practices are bound by the terms and conditions of the NTCER. 

2. Registrars must be employees, not contractors

The most common issue with practices breaching the terms of the NTCER is to do with engaging registrars as independent contractors. The NTCER stipulates that all registrars at all stages of training are employees. This remains the case until a registrar completely exits the training program. This provision came about as a result of advice from the AMA (Australian Medical Association) and GPRA (General Practice Registrars Association).

3. Registrars must receive in-practice teaching time

Supervisors are paid to provide in-practice teaching during the registrars’ normal working hours. The NTCER states that the purpose of payment of the time the registrars spends teaching is the same as the time of the registrar is consulting. The so-called ‘practice payment’ is to assist practices pay registrars for the non-income deriving learning time. This is an essential part of the registrar’s training, and both supervisors and registrars sign-off that it has occurred.

4. Percentage payments should be paid fortnightly, monthly or quarterly

Practices can offer contracts with percentage payments at set time intervals. The practice can choose the time period, up to a 13-week interval. GPSA suggests paying percentages monthly or quarterly. Many practices like the convenience of quarterly payments because it minimises administration over the year.

5. Practices should pay the percentage as negotiated in the NTCER

The percentages as negotiated by the NTCER have been agreed by GPRA and GPSA as being fair payments. There are circumstances where practices seek to increase percentages to registrars for additional work or trade-offs and conditions. Occasionally practices are not mindful of the differences in percentage calculations for employees versus independent contractor doctors. Practices have agreed to pay employee doctors at 60% or more resulting in an effective rate equivalent of 80% or more compared to independent contractor doctors. There have been cases of smaller practices getting into significant financial difficulties with these arrangements.

If high percentages are to be paid, it is often clearer for all concerned that those payments are made as an additional bonus payment, inclusive of super. For example, the fortnightly base rate is paid, the percentage payment is calculated (fortnightly, monthly or three-monthly at the standard rate) and an additional calculation can then be made at a higher percentage (say 60% inclusive of super) on a three-monthly basis, with the difference paid as a bonus. This is often easier for practices and registrars to understand.

6. Registrars must sign a contract of employment

Registrars should read, agree and sign an employment contract well in advance of starting work. GPSA provides a free template employment contract on their website, available to to all supervisors and practice managers. (Supervisors and practice managers are entitled to free membership of GPSA.)

7. GPSA provides excellent resources on the NTCER

GPSA provides several additional services, including FAQs on the NTCER. It covers an exhaustive list of potential issues with application of the NTCER, and is a must-read for all practice managers and practice owners. GPSA also provide telephone assistance with the NTCER and a free brief consultation with a employment solicitor. These services can be accessed through the GPSA website.

Negotiations for the next update of the NTCER are due to begin early next year, if you feel you might like to have a role in the negotiations for the next integration of the NTCER, contact GPSA on (03) 5440 9077 or admin@GPsupervisorsAustralia.org.au