This policy is currently under review. Until we publish the new policy, this version remains valid and applicable.
1. Practice Experience Program – Standard Stream Leave and Extensions 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 2020
1.5 Unit responsible: Education Services
2. Policy declaration
The RACGP Practice Experience Program – Standard Stream (PEP Standard) has been developed to provide non-vocationally recognised doctors with a route to Fellowship grounded in individualised learning and workplace based assessment.
Participants may apply for leave from the PEP Standard. Participants may also apply for extension to complete program requirements.
3. Objective and scope
This policy aims to explain the circumstances under which leave and extension from the PEP Standard will be granted or required.
This policy applies to all participants in the PEP Standard.
For the purposes of this policy:
For more information regarding leave for extenuating and unforeseen circumstances leave, please see the Extenuating and Unforeseen Circumstances Guidelines.
- Active term means any term in which PEP activities are undertaken (for example, modules or the WBA) and/or the provider number issued under PEP is used.
- Approved leave means a period of leave in excess of five weeks per 12-month period, or two PEP 6 month terms, whichever point in a year the participant commences, approved by the RACGP under this policy.
- Clinical break means a period of up to three months during which the participant may continue educational program components while not working clinically.
- Enforced leave will be applied to a maximum of six months in the event that a participant is unable to participate in the program due to cessation of medical registration or for up to three months in the event of failure to find suitable employment following a clinical break.
- Extension term means a three month period which can, on application, be added to the end of a participant’s program for the purposes of completion of program requirements.
- 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:
- ill-health (other than minor illnesses) with valid certificates;
- carer’s leave with valid certificates;
- acute adverse life circumstances;
- Australian Defence Force deployment leave;
- Loss of employment, medical registration or provider number; or
- Other circumstances involving significant changes to a participant’s circumstances.
- Full time general practice experience comprises a 38-hour minimum working week, over a minimum of four days per week, of which a minimum of 27 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 one month in any one practice, will not be considered. Hours worked beyond this definition of full time will not be considered.
- Legislative leave includes both:
- 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.
- Leave taken which meets the definition above where the participant is a contractor or otherwise not covered by the NES.
- Maximum program timeframe means the timeframe for program completion outlined in the participant’s program agreement (i.e. 6, 12 or 18 months).
- MBA means Medical Board of Australia.
- Part time general practice experience is calculated pro-rata against the definition of full time general practice experience. Part time general practice must comprise a 14.5-hour minimum working week, over a minimum of two days per week, of which 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 one month in any one practice, will not be considered.
- Participant means a medical practitioner enrolled in the PEP Standard.
- Personal leave means any leave requested for purposes other than those described in Clauses 4.f and 4.h above.
5. General principles
5.1 Participants in the PEP Standard are entitled to apply for:
- Leave for legislative purposes, or in the event of extenuating and unforeseen circumstances;
- Leave for personal purposes;
- A clinical break for continuation of educational program components without clinical work;
- Extension to the PEP program for completion of program requirements.
5.2 Applications for leave or clinical breaks may be made at any time during participation in PEP Standard, and must be made prior to the leave or break via the Change in Circumstances form.
5.3 Applications for extension may only be made within three months of a participant’s projected education program completion date.
5.4 Approval of any leave, clinical break or extension is at the RACGP’s discretion.
5.5 Refunds on PEP participation fees are not available for leave which commences during an active term.
5.6 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 approved or enforced leave, clinical break or extension, must inform the RACGP within four weeks of the projected leave end date.
6.1 Leave principles
- Participants must not undertake paid work using their PEP provider number while on leave. Failure to abide by this clause will be handled as per the Academic Misconduct Policy, the Department of Human Services (Medicare) and/or the Medical Board of Australia (MBA).
- Program components undertaken during periods of approved leave will not count towards program requirements unless specific approval is given.
- If the length of leave may affect a participant’s ability to reach the standards of competency required to complete the PEP, within prescribed timeframes, the participant may be required to undertake a return to work assessment.
- If during any period of leave a participant’s employment circumstances change, new employment details must be submitted to the RACGP for assessment, as this may impact the participant’s eligibility for the program and their provider number.
- The status of a participant’s provider number during periods of leave will depend on the duration of the leave:
- Leave of less than six months: the participant’s provider number will remain active, but participants must not undertake paid work using their PEP provider number. Adherence to this clause will be audited; contravention is a violation of legislation and will be reported to the Department of Human Services (Medicare) and/or the Medical Board of Australia (MBA).
- 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. If new employment does not meet PEP eligibility and provider number requirements the participant may be withdrawn from the program.
- 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 is cumulatively shorter periods of leave taken consecutively, or where one period of leave of more than 12 months is requested.
6.2 Legislative or extenuating and unforeseen circumstances leave
- 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.
- Leave granted under this clause is not counted as part of the participant's maximum program timeframe.
- 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 Personal leave
- Participants are entitled to take personal leave from the program while they are taking personal leave from their clinical positions, to a maximum of three months over the course of the program, in addition to four weeks’ annual leave.
- Participants are not required to inform the RACGP where personal leave of less than five weeks is taken cumulatively over any 12-month period. Participants must apply to the RACGP if they are requesting leave durations of between five weeks and three months. Leave will not be granted where total personal leave exceeds three months.
- Leave under this clause is counted towards the participant’s maximum program timeframe.
6.4 Enforced leave
- Enforced leave of up to three months may be imposed in the event that a participant reaches the end of a three month clinical break due to job loss or interruption, or provider number issues and is unable to resume active participation in the PEP Standard.
- Enforced leave of up to six months may be imposed in the event that a participant loses their medical registration.
- Leave granted under this clause is not counted as part of the participant's maximum program timeframe.
- If at the end of the enforced leave the participant is unable to resume program participation, they will be withdrawn from the program.
7. Clinical break
7.1 Participants may apply for one clinical break of up to three months within their time in the education program, in the event that:
- They wish to return to the program from leave with educational components only, in which case their provider number remains suspended under the terms of their leave;
- Job loss or interruption prevents them from working clinically, in which case their provider number is suspended;
- Issues related to access to a PEP provider number prevent them from working clinically.
7.2 The clinical break is counted as part of the participant's maximum program timeframe.
7.3 Following a clinical break:
- A participant who has been on personal or legislative leave prior to the clinical break may apply for further leave under clause 6;
- A participant who has undertaken the clinical break due to job loss or interruption or provider number issues may be placed on enforced leave if the issues have not been resolved.
8.1 On application, participants may be granted extensions of up to three months to their program and provider number (if required) to complete program requirements.
8.2 Participants who have had an approved period of legislative or unforeseen and extenuating circumstances leave during their program may be approved for additional extension equivalent to the duration of the approved leave. Applications for extension may only be made within the three months prior to the participant’s allocated program completion date.
8.3 The decision to grant an extension is at the RACGP’s discretion.
8.4 Fees may apply for any approved period of extension.
9. RACGP membership
Participants may suspend RACGP membership during approved leave of three months or greater, on provision of appropriate supporting evidence. If a participant chooses to suspend their RACGP membership, access to all RACGP member benefits will also be suspended.
If a participant believes that a decision regarding their application for leave or extension has been made incorrectly, they may apply for reconsideration in line with the RACGP Reconsiderations and Appeals Policy.
An application for reconsideration must be submitted to the RACGP within ten national office business days of the date of the original decision.
11. Related policies, documents and legislation
All related policies are available here.
All related guidance documents are available here.
12. Administrative procedures
12.1 Access to published policy
This policy will be available via the RACGP website as detailed in clause 11.
12.2 Promulgation of published policy
Relevant staff members will be provided communications explaining the function and role of this policy.
12.3 Review of this policy
This policy will have a review cycle of one year.