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Practice Experience Program – Specialist Stream Leave


1. Practice Experience Program – Specialist Stream Leave Policy

1.1 Policy number: CO-E-0049.0

1.2 Category: Education

1.3 Approval date: September 2019

1.4 Revision due date: September 2022

1.5 Unit responsible: Education Services

2. Policy declaration

Participants may apply for leave from the Practice Experience Program (PEP) Specialist Stream in extenuating and unforeseen circumstances, or if granted legislative leave by their employer.

If the stipulations of this policy conflict with relevant laws, the laws prevail.

3. Background, objectives and scope

3.1 Background

  1. The PEP Specialist Stream is the pathway to Fellowship of the RACGP available to specialist international medical graduates (SIMGs). Previous iterations of this pathway include:
    1. the Specialist Pathway Program (SPP), which ran from 2010 to 2018, and categorised SIMGs as Category 1, 2 or 3, or not comparable; and
    2. the Specialist Recognition Program (SRP), which superseded the SPP from 2018 to 2019.
  2. From 1 September 2019, the Specialist Pathway to Fellowship will fall under the PEP as a specialist stream. This adjustment supports the removal of Fellowship ad eudem gradum (FAEG) to ensure a robust and more uniform approach to the assessment of SIMGs. From this time, SIMGs will be required to work under supervision under limited or provisional registration from the Medical Board of Australia. The RACGP will issue PEP provider numbers to eligible SIMGs to permit access to A1 Medicare rebates.

3.1 Objectives

This policy aims to explain the circumstances in which leave from the PEP Specialist Stream will be granted, and the conditions of each.

3.2 Scope

  1. This policy applies to all SIMGs wishing to pursue Fellowship of the RACGP.
  2. This policy and associated policies will supersede the existing SRP as from 1 September 2019.
  3. Participants enrolled in the SPP or SRP before 31 August 2019 will continue their candidacy under policies in existence at the time of their enrolment in the SRP or SPP.

4. Definitions

For the purposes of this policy:

  1. Approved leave means a period of leave approved by the RACGP pursuant to this policy.
  2. Extenuating and unforeseen circumstances mean such circumstances are considered on a case-by-case basis, but must relate to circumstances which were unforeseen, outside the participant’s control and which can be shown to have a direct and significant impact on the participant’s ability to complete the PEP requirements, including:
    1. ill-health (other than minor illnesses) with valid certificates;
    2. carer’s leave with valid certificates;
    3. bereavement;
    4. acute adverse life circumstances;
    5. hospitalisation;
    6. Australian Defence Force deployment leave;
    7. Loss of employment, medical registration or provider number; or
    8. Other circumstances involving significant changes to a participant’s circumstances.

    For more information regarding leave for extenuating and unforeseen circumstances leave, please see the Extenuating and Unforeseen Circumstances Guidelines.

  3. Legislative leave includes both:
    1. parental, sick and carers leave granted pursuant to the participant’s workplace entitlements under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), and any other form of leave as permitted under the National Employment Standards (NES); and
    2. leave taken which meets the definition above where the participant is a contractor or otherwise not covered by the NES.
  4. Participant means a medical practitioner, assessed as either substantially or partially comparable under the Practice Experience Program – Specialist Stream Comparability Assessment Policy, who has been accepted into the PEP Specialist Stream.

5. General principles

5.1 Participants in the PEP Specialist Stream are entitled to apply for leave for legislative purposes, or in the event of extenuating and unforeseen circumstances.

5.2 Applications for leave may be made at any time during participation in PEP, and must be made prospectively via the Change in Circumstances form.

5.3 Approval of any leave is at the RACGP’s discretion.

5.4 Refunds on PEP participation fees are not available for leave taken during an active term.

5.5 Program components undertaken during periods of approved leave will not count towards program requirements unless specific approval is given in advance.

5.6 If a participant’s employment circumstances change during leave, they must provide the RACGP with updated employment information. This may impact their eligibility for a PEP provider number.

5.7 Approval of any leave will not involve an extension of the maximum time on the program, unless otherwise permitted by the Medical Board of Australia. If the length of leave may affect a participant’s ability to reach the standards of competency required to complete the PEP Specialist Stream, within prescribed timeframes, the participant may be required to undertake a return to work assessment.

5.8 Participants who are unable to resume participation in the PEP, or unable to satisfy the program’s clinical work requirements, at the end of their period of leave, must inform the RACGP within four weeks of the projected leave end date.

6. Legislative, or extenuating and unforeseen circumstances leave

6.1 Participants may apply for leave of equal duration to that permitted by their place of work, to a maximum of 24 months. If at the end of this 24 month period the participant is unable to return to the program, they may be withdrawn. For more information, see the Practice Experience Program Withdrawal Policy.

6.2 When submitting a request for extenuating and unforeseen circumstances, participants must adhere to the evidence requirements of the Extenuating and Unforeseen Circumstances Guidelines.

6.3 The status of a participant’s provider number during periods of leave will depend on the duration of the leave:

  1. Leave of less than six months: the participant’s provider number will remain active, but it is expected that participants will not undertake paid employment that is inconsistent with their reason for taking leave. Item billing using the participant’s PEP provider number will be audited whilst the participant is on leave; contravention is a violation of legislation and will be reported to the Department of Human Services (Medicare) and/or the Medical Board of Australia. Any contravention will also be handled as per the Academic Misconduct Policy.
  2. Leave of between six and 12 months: the participant’s provider number will be suspended. At least four weeks prior to a return to the program, participants must confirm ongoing employment in their pre-leave practice in order to remain eligible for the provider number. If a participant plans to return to a new practice after leave, they must resubmit employment circumstances for eligibility assessment, which may take up to 12 weeks.
  3. Leave of 12 months or more: the participant’s provider number will be withdrawn. The participant must reapply for a PEP provider number at least four months prior to returning to the program. This applies where the leave taken comprises multiple shorter periods of leave taken consecutively, or where one period of leave of more than 12 months is requested.

7. RACGP membership

Participants must hold financial membership of the RACGP from commencement of their program until they have either attained Fellowship or they have exhausted their Fellowship exam candidacy as per the Fellowship Exam Attempts Policy. Please refer to the GP in Training Membership Guidance Document for further information.

Participants may choose to suspend RACGP membership during periods of approved leave three months or greater in duration, on provision of appropriate supporting evidence. It should be noted however, that if membership is suspended, access to all RACGP member benefits will also be suspended.

8. Related policies, documents and legislation

All policies and guidance documents related to the PEP Specialist Stream are available on our policy page.

9. Administrative procedures

9.1 Access to published policy

This policy will be available via the RACGP website as detailed in clause 8.

9.2 Promulgation of published policy

Relevant staff members will be provided communications explaining the function and role of this policy.

9.3 Review of this policy

This policy will have a review cycle of three years.