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PEP SP - Consideration of Extenuating and Unforeseen Circumstances Guide


This guide provides information for participants on the Practice Experience Program Specialist (PEP SP) whose ability to participate in the program is affected by extenuating and unforeseen circumstances. This guide:

  • defines and gives examples of extenuating and unforeseen circumstances,

  • describes how participants can apply for consideration of extenuating and unforeseen circumstances, including the type of evidence required, and

  • ​outlines the support provided by the RACGP for participants experiencing extenuating and unforeseen circumstances.

Extenuating and unforeseen circumstances

The RACGP defines extenuating and unforeseen circumstances as circumstances that:
  • may be experienced by you or a significant family relation,

  • are outside your control,

  • can reasonably be considered to have been unforeseen, and

  • can be shown to have a direct and significant impact on you.

Extenuating and unforeseen circumstances may affect your ability to progress through your PEP SP journey, eg they may prevent you from:

  • ​participating in the training program, or

  • continuing to work in the location where you commenced the PEP SP.

 Important If you are enrolled in the PEP SP Partially Comparable Stream, please note that this guide does not apply to your period of candidacy.

If you wish to be considered for extenuating and unforeseen circumstances when withdrawing from a Fellowship exam or when applying for a suspension of candidacy, please go to the Assessments and Examinations Candidate Handbook and the PEP SP Fellowship Exams Policy for more information. 
The following tables provide examples of circumstances that are considered or not considered to be extenuating and unforeseen by the RACGP.
Category Circumstances
  • life-threatening illness
  • serious accident
  • hospitalisation
  • illness that could become life-threatening if not treated correctly
  • diagnosed mental health condition
  • unforeseen pregnancy complications
  • a chronic illness or a disabling condition which, if not treated correctly, will prevent the person from performing their normal occupation
  • inability to receive necessary medical care in an MM 2–7 location
  • significant illness of a significant family relation.
Acute adverse life circumstances
  • significant personal/family circumstances affecting you
  • circumstances arising from family and domestic violence
  • involvement in and/or attendance at legal proceedings.
  • loss of employment due to factors beyond your control (eg training site closure)


Category Circumstances
  • self-certified illness or medical circumstances
  • cases where the evidence of a medical condition either doesn’t relate to the time when the illness or condition occurred, or was documented more than six months before the application was submitted
  • a long-term health condition with no evidence of a sudden worsening
  • a minor illness that would not normally cause a reasonable and responsible employed person to take sick leave
  • an uncomplicated pregnancy or childbirth before the start date of your program.
Acute adverse life circumstances
  • getting married or attending a wedding, festival or other personal event
  • financial hardship
  • stress or emotional isolation not associated with a diagnosed mental health condition. Note: If you experience stress while on the training program, we recommend reducing your working hours (while maintaining the minimum part-time program requirements) so that you have time for other responsibilities and self-care.
  • geographic isolation in an MM 2–7 location
  • instance where, because of your age, religion, ethnicity or language skills, you prefer to be placed in a metropolitan area
  • instances where you wish to access specific services (eg childcare, education for children) in a metropolitan area
  • circumstances for which appropriate adjustments have already been made by the RACGP
  • circumstances that a reasonable person would view as foreseeable or preventable.
  • dispute with your employer about your working conditions
  • inability to complete your program requirements because you work more than 38 hours per week.


Application for consideration of extenuating and unforeseen circumstances

Depending on your individual circumstances and where you are at in your PEP SP journey, you may apply to the RACGP for the following:

Applications for extenuating and unforeseen circumstances will be considered by the RACGP on a case-by-case basis.

If your application is approved, the determination and degree of what is to be granted (eg duration of additional leave) will be based on:

  • the severity of the extenuating and unforeseen circumstances,

  • the supporting evidence provided, and

  • what stage you are at in the training program.

How to apply

To apply for consideration of extenuating and unforeseen circumstances, please follow the steps below:

  1. Gather the required supporting evidence.

  2. Send an email to ApprovedPlacement@racgp.org.au ensuring that you:

    1. explain the reason for your application and what you are applying for (eg additional leave),

    2. attach the supporting evidence, and

    3. include this text in the email subject line: Extenuating and unforeseen circumstances (PEP SP) – Dr [LAST NAME] – [RACGP ID number]

When to apply

If possible, you should apply within four calendar weeks of the extenuating and unforeseen circumstances arising.
Applications received more than six calendar months after the circumstances arose, or including evidence dated more than six calendar months before the application was made, won’t be accepted.

What if you can’t communicate with us

If you’re unable to personally communicate with us, another person may submit the application and communicate with us on your behalf. In this case, evidence must be provided as to why you can’t personally make the application. If possible, you should provide your consent for the other person to act on your behalf.

Outcome of application

Processing times may vary depending on the type of applications. The RACGP will give you an indication of the expected processing time when they receive your application. Please note that if the RACGP requires further information or evidence after receiving your application, the processing time may be extended.

The RACGP will inform you of the outcome as soon as your application has been processed.

Approved applications are valid for a designated period only. This means that you will need to re-apply once the validity period has expired if you wish to be considered for extenuating and unforeseen circumstances again. You will be advised of the validity period when you receive your application outcome. 

If we determine that your application doesn’t meet the criteria for extenuating and unforeseen circumstances, we may suggest alternative options, such as a reduction in working hours (subject to you continuing to meet the minimum part-time program requirements).

Supporting evidence

Based on the nature of the extenuating and unforeseen circumstance, you must provide the RACGP with substantiating evidence as described below.

 Important Applications that do not include the required evidence will not be considered.

All medical evidence must be provided by medical practitioners (eg GPs or other relevant specialists) who:

  • are AHPRA registered health professionals,

  • are directly involved in your or your significant family relation’s diagnosis or treatment,

  • are independent, objective and have no potential conflict of interest in your application,

  • are not related to you, nor have personal connection or close relationship with you,

  • do NOT work in your current general practice workplace, and

  • are NOT a prospective employer.

 Important Evidence from medical practitioners must be provided on letterhead, signed and dated.

In the case of ill health (including mental ill health) affecting either you or a significant family relation, you must provide the following:

  • Details of diagnosis:

    • Where possible, this should be a recognisable diagnosis using objective criteria. If the issue relates to mental health, the diagnosis should reference a tool, such as the DSM-5.

    • Date of first diagnosis.

  • Impact of the condition on you or a significant family relation:

    • Length of time a relevant specialist has been providing treatment

    • Expected duration of illness/condition

    • Frequency of treatment (eg number of visits to a GP or other relevant specialist in the past month).

 Important If treatment is less frequent than once every two months, it will not be considered sufficiently impactful without the presence of other mitigating factors.

  • The reasons why the medical condition or required treatment prevents you from meeting the minimum part-time program requirements within your program stream’s required location, as per the General Practice Fellowship Program Placement guidelines.

    • If you or a significant family relation are unable to receive necessary medical care in an MM 2–7 location and are required to travel to another location, you must provide a letter of support (or similar) from a medical practitioner confirming that the treatment is:

      • either not available or not suitable in your current location,

      • required more than once every two months, and

      • generally recognised as appropriate for the medical condition.

    • How long you expect to be unable to meet the minimum part-time program requirements.

  • If you are providing care to a significant family relation, you must provide evidence of the level of care provided, eg:

    • Number of visits to medical services

    • Number of hours spent providing care

    • Forms of care and assistance provided

    • Care arrangements while you are working.

In the case of acute adverse life circumstances, you must provide evidence such as:

  • Statutory declaration detailing the circumstances and their impact on you

  • Court summons/subpoena for evidence

  • Court-mandated custody arrangements.

In the case of a change in employment circumstances, you must provide evidence such as:

  • Evidence of mandatory employment relocation (eg for ADF mandatory postings)

  • Statutory declaration detailing the circumstances and their impact on you

  • Letter from your employer indicating the circumstances

  • Evidence from the Australian Department of Home Affairs or international equivalent detailing the change in circumstances.


Support for your wellbeing

The RACGP recognises that doctors experiencing extenuating and unforeseen circumstances may feel distressed and overwhelmed.

We encourage you to use the GP Support Program, which is a free service available to all RACGP members. You will be able to access professional advice to support you through personal and work-related issues that may impact on your wellbeing, psychological health, workplace morale, work performance, or safety.


Term  Definition

Acute adverse life circumstances

Personal or work circumstances that cause a Participant to be unable to work the Minimum Part-Time Program Requirements of 14.5 hours over two days per week.

AHPRA Medical Registration

Registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), which allows the registrant to practise medicine.

Refer to  AHPRA’s website for more information.

Business day A day when the RACGP national office is operating.

Conflict of Interest

A situation in which it is reasonable to conclude that an individual’s or group of individuals’ personal interests directly conflict with the best interests of the Participant or where individuals’ actions may be influenced by their personal interests rather than education and training outcomes. A Conflict of Interest includes, but is not limited to, when:

  1. close personal friends or family members are involved,

  2. an individual or their close friends or family members may make financial gain or gain some other form of advantage, and

  3. an individual is bound by prior agreements or allegiances to other individuals or agencies that require them to act in the interests of that person or agency or to take a particular position on an issue.



Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition.

Extenuating and unforeseen circumstances

Circumstances that are outside the Participant’s control and can reasonably be considered to have been unforeseen, and can be shown to have a direct and significant impact on the Participant. The RACGP considers extenuating and unforeseen circumstances on a case-by-case basis

MM Modified Monash (MM) refers to one of the seven remoteness categories (MM1-7) of the Modified Monash Model (MMM).

Minimum part time

Calculated pro-rata against the definition of full-time general practice experience. Part-time general practice must comprise a minimum of 14.5-hour working week, over a minimum of two days per week. A minimum of 10.5 hours must be in face-to-face, rostered, patient consultation time undertaking general practice activities. Work periods of less than three consecutive hours, or of less than four calendar weeks in any one practice, will not be considered.

Modified Monash Model (MMM)

The Modified Monash Model (2019) is a classification system that categorises metropolitan, regional, rural and remote areas according to both geographical remoteness and town size. 

The MMM classification for any given area can be found by using the Health Workforce Locator.
Participant A specialist international medical graduate who has been accepted into the PEP SP.
Significant family relation Anyone with whom the participant has close familial relations. This may include, but is not limited to, a parent, sibling, spouse/partner/de facto/fiancé(e), child, grandparent and community member.

Related documents

Assessments and Examinations Candidate Handbook

PEP SP Fellowship Exams Policy

PEP SP Participant Handbook – Partially Comparable Stream

PEP SP Participant Handbook – Substantially Comparable Stream

General Practice Fellowship Program Placement Guidelines


Version Date of effect Amended by
1 1 March 2024 Education Policy and Guidance Lead
Amendment details  


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