Ask Shaye: March 2023
When it comes to your rights and entitlements at work, NSWNMA General Secretary Shaye Candish has the answers.
A chance to make a difference
The daily struggle members face with inadequate staffing levels or poor skill mix unfortunately remains endemic. As a profession we continue in various ways to stand up for our patients and residents, as well as for our own wellbeing and safety. We continue to mobilise as union members to have our voice heard in every available forum. Some progress is being made federally in aged care. But at a state level, the concerns of public health members remain ignored. In the coming state election, members must seize the opportunity to make sure political parties across the spectrum accept that change is necessary. Make sure your vote counts on 25 March by making it a referendum on who will best deliver safe patient care in a safe workplace. But first, let’s answer some questions about your existing workplace entitlements; some old, some new. Enforcing your current rights is the bedrock to build your future rights on.
Important new research:
Check out the breakthrough research completed by Dr Anne Summers AO using never before released ABS data entitled The Choice violence or poverty: A report into domestic violence and its consequences in Australia today.
The research provides a damning but conclusive link between domestic violence and poverty at levels unimagined.
The link to the full report is here: https://www.violenceorpoverty.com/
Replacing like for like – public health
I work in a public hospital and often work in a ward where rostered staff are missing. How are these vacancies supposed to be dealt with?
This is an all-too-familiar problem. Under Clause 53, Section I of the Public Health System Nurses’ and Midwives’ (State) Award, it has been a longstanding requirement that when nurses are absent at short notice, they should be replaced by another nurse of the same classification where possible.
Who is responsible for replacing the staff member?
As soon as an unplanned absence occurs, the NUM should immediately review the roster and decide whether to replace the absence, based upon the clinical requirements of the ward and the effect that not replacing the absence would have on workloads. (Note: Any NHPPD requirements would also need to be considered).
Should they be replaced with another nurse?
When an absence is replaced it should, by default, be replaced by a nurse of the same classification. A registered nurse should be replaced with a registered nurse, an enrolled nurse with an enrolled nurse, and an assistant in nursing with an assistant in nursing. This is what we call “like-for-like” replacement.
What happens if a like-for-like nurse can’t be found?
Only when all avenues to backfill the absence with a like-for-like nurse are exhausted should the NUM consider filling the absence with a nurse of a lower classification. This should only be done if it is clinically safe to do so. If a NUM replaces an unplanned absence with a nurse of a lower classification, then they must keep a record of this decision, together with the reasons.
Family and domestic violence leave
I work in a medical practice and believe that paid family and domestic violence leave has been extended to the private sector. Is that correct?
Last year, the Commonwealth Government moved to replace the existing employee entitlement under federal legislation to five days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave with an entitlement to 10 days of paid leave in a 12-month period for full-time, part-time and casual employees. The changes come into effect via two dates: employers with 15 or more employees on 1 February 2023; and employers with fewer than 15 employees on 1 August 2023. These now form part of the National Employment Standards under the Fair Work Act.
Pre-term parental leave
I work in a public hospital. One of my colleagues said something about extra leave if I give birth early. Can you fill me in?
Additional leave is now available in such a situation for government sector workers. Where an employee gives birth to a pre-term child, the parent with caring responsibility is entitled to paid special pre-term parental leave from the date of birth up to the end of 36 weeks. At the commencement of 37 weeks, paid parental leave then kicks in. Check out Section 5.15.2 of PD2023_006 (Leave Matters for the NSW Health Service) for the specifics.
Aged care changes
I work in a nursing home and am wondering when the changes to RNs begin?
From 1 July 2023, aged care providers must have at least one RN on site and on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for each facility.
What about care minutes; when do they start?
The initial care minutes target of a sector-wide average of 200 minutes of care per resident per day (including 40 minutes by an RN) will kick in on 1 October 2023. This then increases to 215 minutes (including 44 minutes by an RN) from 1 October 2024.
But it should be noted that each RACF will have its own care-minute targets based on the mix of residents in that service. For example, services with residents who mainly have low-care needs will have lower average care minutes targets, while those with high-care needs will have higher average care minutes targets.
Some big changes ahead!
Rural incentive scheme
I work in a public hospital with chronic vacancies, but we are told the site cannot use the new incentives being rolled out. Isn’t there anything we can do?
Under the Rural Health Workforce Incentive Scheme [PD2022_025] rolled out last year, in general it is only those locations in NSW outside the metropolitan and regional cities and their immediate surrounds that are eligible for the incentive payments.
The Ministry of Health may deem other locations “rural and remote” after taking into account unique location attributes that present challenges to attraction and retention of the health workforce.
A number of other criteria are also used to determine the provision and quantum of any incentive, including vacancies being identified as hard to fill or being critical to service delivery.