July is Overtime Awareness Month

Overtime - what are your rights and why aren't you being paid?

Let's imagine for a minute that you are currently working in a department that is chronically understaffed, has poor rostering practices and the number of patients presenting with complex cases is increasing. Do you think you’ll be leaving on time?

So what are your rights?

The MOCA 4 Agreement

As many of you would know, overtime rates apply to:

4.4.1 Resident Medical Officers

A RMO performing additional hours of dutyin excess of the ordinary hours specified in Clause 4.1, of this agreement shall be, subject to approval by the authorised manager, paid for such excess duty hours as follows:
(a) Monday to Saturday – time and one-half of the ordinary rate for the first 3 hours and double time thereafter;
(b) Sunday – double time of the ordinary rate;
(c) Public holidays – double time and one-half of the ordinary rate.

(emphasis added)

Despite what the Agreement says, we regularly hear from junior doctors not being paid overtime. So what are some of the reasons why they aren’t be paid and are these reasons valid?

Reasons why you aren't being paid

There are of course reasons why some junior doctors aren’t being paid for overtime. Professional culture (cue the: “We didn’t get paid for overtime when we were junior doctors”) and professional standing (“Applying for overtime will reflect poorly on you”) continue to act as a constraint. In the 2017 AMA Queensland Resident Hospital Health Check Survey, 50 per cent of junior doctors reported being advised not to claim overtime and 31 per cent of those who claimed did not get paid for it.

Neither of these reasons are easily overcome, and indeed if there is to be any change it must be led by senior doctors and organisations like AMA Queensland and the colleges.

Moreover, accurately recording the working hours of medical practitioners will likely make it easier to identify those who are working unsafe hours and ensure we have an accurate understanding of the workload. This in turn should lead to rostering practices that ensure there is an equitable balance between patient needs, training requirements and rest.

Our advice

Record and submit any overtime you’ve worked by filling out the AVAC form.  Click here to download a copy of the AVAC form. If your application for overtime is refused, make sure you ask why and record the reason provided. Having this recorded in an email is probably the best approach. The collecting evidence is important as this is what is often sought by management, HR and Shared Services when we talk to them about unpaid overtime.

In the event your claim is knocked back and you feel it shouldn’t have been, get in touch with AMA Queensland at claimit@amaq.com.au.

Queensland Health's position on claiming overtime

In May 2018, AMA Queensland wrote to Queensland Health asking the following questions and wanting written confirmation confirming that RMOs have a right to claim overtime when worked, and no request will be unreasonably refused or be discouraged in any way from claiming overtime when worked. The examples where we assert overtime should be paid:

  1. RMOs are directed, requested or expected to commence ward rounds prior to the commencement of their shift.
  2. The RMO is in surgery and continues to work beyond the finishing time of their shift.
  3. The RMO has an excessive workload and works beyond the finishing time of their shift.

The written response from Queensland Health was:
It is Queensland Health’s position that overtime is applicable and payable to RMOs when they are directed to work outside their rostered ordinary hours. 

This includes:

  • when RMOs are directed to start their shift before the specified start time;
  • when RMOs are directed to work beyond their specified finish time;
  • when RMOs are requested to work an additional overtime shift beyond their rostered ordinary hours.