Medical Practitioners Award 2020: An In-Depth Review for Employers

medical practitioner with old patient

With over 104,000 registered medical practitioners in Australia as of 2020, the Medical Practitioners Award [MA000031] is a fundamental cornerstone of employment laws for those in the medical sector. This award establishes the baseline standards, including wages, work hours, overtime, and other key employment conditions.

In this guide, we delve into the details of the Medical Practitioners Award, discussing aspects such as employment types, pay scales, allowances, and other significant terms and conditions that employers should consider.

Our aim is to help you, as an employer, grasp your responsibilities under the Medical Practitioners Award, ensuring your practice or institution remains compliant.

Let’s dive into what you need to know.

Coverage under the Medical Practitioners Award

The Medical Practitioners Award is an occupational award that covers employers of medical practitioners throughout Australia in the classifications listed under the Award to the exclusion of any other modern award, provided they are employed as a medical practitioner in: 

  • Hospitals
  • Hospices
  • Benevolent homes
  • Day procedure centres
  • Aboriginal health services
  • Community health centres
  • Red Cross Blood Service
  • South Australian Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science
  • Victorian Cytology Service
  • Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine

The Medical Practitioners Award covers medical practitioners who are classified as:

  • Interns
  • Resident medical practitioners
  • Registrars
  • Senior registrars
  • Career medical practitioners
  • Senior career medical practitioners
  • Community medical practitioners
  • Specialists
  • Senior specialists
  • Principal specialists
  • Senior principal specialists
  • Deputy directors of medical services
  • Directors of medical services
  • General practitioners working at a day procedure centre

The award also applies to labour-hire companies that employ medical practitioners.

Coverage Limitations of the Medical Practitioners Award

Certain categories of employees fall outside the coverage of the Medical Practitioners Award. These include the following:

  • General practitioners operating in private practices
  • Clerical and administrative personnel, such as medical receptionists
  • Other health professionals in the health industry, like occupational therapists and physiotherapists
  • Nurses

Employment Types

There are three different types of employment covered under the Medical Practitioners Award: 

Employment TypeKey FeaturesConditions and Terms
Full-Time EmployeesEmployed to work 38 hours per week on averageEntitled to various leave types, including annual leave, personal leave, and long service leave
Part-Time EmployeesEmployed to work an average of less than 38 hours per week, with agreed upon set hoursEntitled to pro-rata leave benefits according to the number of hours employed to work
Casual EmployeesNo guaranteed hours, engaged on an as needed basisReceives a casual loading of 25% on top of their base rate of pay, but not entitled to some types of leave
dcotor with child patient

Hours of Work

Depending on whether your employee is a day worker or a shiftworker, you will have to apply different conditions for their hours of work.

Full-time employees are employed to work an average of 38 hours per week. The arrangement of these hours can be mutually agreed upon between the employer and the employee. The hours can be structured in one of the following ways:

  • over 5 days per week or 19 days in a 4-week cycle
  • 40 hours in any period of 7 consecutive days or 80 hours in any period of 14 consecutive days
  • 38 hours or 10 sessions per week over 5 days, or, if both parties agree, averaged over 4 days per week or a longer roster period.

For full-time Medical Practitioners, the span of ordinary working hours is between 6 am and 6 pm, Monday to Friday. For Senior Doctors, the span of ordinary working hours is between 7 am and 6 pm, Monday to Friday. 

Where a Senior Doctor’s normal duties are spread across a roster period which is longer than a week, normal working hours may involve working on any day from Monday through Sunday.

The following rules in relation to to rostered time off apply only to Senior Career Medical Practitioners, Career Medical Practitioners, and Doctors in training:

  • They are entitled to at least 2 days free from ordinary hours of duty each week, or if that is not practical, 4 days in each fortnight. Whenever possible, these off days should be consecutive.
  • They are granted an additional rostered day off (RDO) each month, which they may accumulate up to a maximum of 12 days. RDOs can be taken in periods ranging from a single day to 2 weeks.
  • Upon termination of employment, any untaken RDOs will be paid at the medical practitioner’s minimum hourly rate.


A shift worker is an employee who is regularly scheduled to work their standard hours outside of the regular hours of a day worker, as outlined in the previous section.

Shift length for Doctors in Training

For Doctors in Training, the following rules apply to their shift lengths:

  • No shift should be shorter than 8 hours on a weekday or less than 4 hours on a Saturday, Sunday, or public holiday. If an employee works hours immediately before or after a part-day public holiday as part of one continuous shift, these hours are counted as part of the minimum engagement period.
  • Broken or split shifts are not permitted.
  • Any time worked beyond 10 hours in a single shift will be paid as overtime.

Specific rostering practises apply to Doctors in Training and Senior Doctors:

Rostering for Doctors in Training

Employers must provide Doctors in Training with at least two weeks’ notice of their work rosters. The roster should encompass their ordinary working hours and, if feasible, any additional rostered overtime hours. However,  rosters can be altered without notice during any emergency situation.

Rostering for Senior Doctors

The process of developing rosters for Senior Doctors involves several essential steps.

First, employers must consult with their Senior Doctors, taking into account any personal or professional responsibilities. Alternative arrangements should be made whenever possible to prevent any adverse effects (eg. change of childcare or outside practice arrangements). 

Rosters must also clearly identify the type of work to be performed during each shift—whether it’s clinical or direct patient care, administrative work, teaching, research, or quality improvement—and the facility where the shift will occur. 

When practicable, the usual pattern of normal duties should remain consistent from roster period to roster period.

Rostering – Notifying Employees of Changes

Wherever possible, for ongoing roster changes, employers should provide 3-months’ notice, and for short-term changes, such as covering a planned absence or a one-off event, one month’s notice is required. However, rosters can be varied at short notice during emergencies or to cover unplanned absences. Finally, shifts should be distributed equally among the senior doctors, unless otherwise agreed.


Community medical practitioners must be given an 8-hour break between successive periods of duty. 

Medical Practitioner Pay Rates

Employers must pay their employees under the Medical Practitioner Award at least the pay rates and entitlements contained in the award, either weekly or fortnightly, depending on their pay period cycle. 

The Fair Work website has various tools and resources to help you calculate your minimum wages. 

Alternatively, you can access the pay guide summaries, which contain information about pay rates, penalties, and allowances. 

It is important to note that these pay rates are adjusted annually as per changes made by when the Fair Work Commission undertakes an annual review of Award rates. Therefore, you need to use the applicable pay guide summary when determining the applicable pay rates and check the updated increased rates prior to 1 July each year. 

Pay point progression

Rules apply in relation to pay point progression which mandate that employers must have regard to the acquisition and use of skills, noting that for full time employees progression to the next pay point within a classification for which there is more than one pay point, will be by annual movement. For part time and casual employees, progression will be after 1824 hours of similar experience.

Higher Duties

When an employee is required to temporarily perform a position in a higher classification for more than 3 days, the employee must be paid at least the minimum rate that applies to the higher classification, including any applicable managerial allowance.

doctors in hospital


Employers must pay their employees the following allowances:

Allowance NameBrief Description
All-purpose AllowancesImportantly, allowances that are paid for all purposes are included in an employee’s rate of pay when calculating penalties, loadings, or annual leave payments. Notably, the on-call allowance is paid for all purposes under this award.
Managerial Allowance (Senior Doctors Only)A substantial annual allowance for senior doctors with additional management responsibilities which include direct line responsibility for a unit, department or service and involve a number of, but not necessarily all of the following: cost centre management, participation in planning and policy development, responsibility for the coordination of research or teaching programmes, or membership and participation in senior executive management teams. Levels range from 1 to 3, with respective annual allowance payments— each level reflecting increased responsibility and duties.
Meal AllowanceAn allowance or meal provided to employees who work over 10 continuous hours, with an additional meal or allowance provided for work exceeding 15 continuous hours.
Telephone AllowanceIf an employee is required to install and/or maintain a telephone for the purpose of being  on call, the employer will cover the installation costs and subsequent rental charges.
Travelling, Transport, and Fares AllowanceEmployees who are required and authorised to use their own vehicle for work purposes will receive a specified per kilometre allowance. All reasonably incurred expenses related to travel while on duty, including fares, meals, and accommodation, will be covered by the employer on production of receipts or other adequate evidence acceptable to the employer.
Deduction for Board and LodgingIf the employer provides board and lodging, the minimum salaries prescribed in the award will be reduced per week by an amount that is specified in the award.


As an employer covered by the Medical Practitioners Award, it is mandatory for you to pay a superannuation guarantee for your employees. In the 2023–24 financial year, the superannuation guarantee contribution rate is set at 11% of an employee’s ordinary earnings. 

However, take note that the superannuation guarantee rate will undergo gradual increases each year by 0.5% until it reaches a stable rate of 12% in 2025.


Where your employees work beyond the span of their ordinary working hours, they are entitled to receive overtime pay. Overtime rates may vary depending on factors like an employee’s classification, hours worked beyond regular working hours, and whether it’s a weekday, Saturday, Sunday, or public holiday.

For example, an employee might receive different overtime rates for working on a Saturday, Sunday, or public holiday. 

Overtime Rates

Where an employee, except for a Senior Doctor, works overtime, the following overtime rates apply: 

Overtime PeriodFull-time and part-time overtime rateCasual overtime rate (inclusive of 25% casual loading)
% of ordinary hourly rate% of ordinary hourly rate
Monday to Saturday—first 2 hours150%175%
Monday to Saturday—after 2 hours200%225%
Sunday—all day200%225%
Public holidays—all day250%275%

Payment for On-Call Duties 

On-call duties are frequently a requirement within the medical profession, requiring healthcare professionals to be available for work outside their regular working hours. 

Medical Practitioners (excluding Senior Doctors)

If you require medical practitioners (excluding Senior Doctors) to be on call, you must provide them with an on-call allowance of 10% of their daily rate for each day they are required to be on call. 

Senior Doctors

In situations where patient needs require, Senior Doctors must remain on duty, even if it means working through their meal breaks, conferences, or exceeding their normal working hours. They must be paid an on-call allowance of 10% of their annual base salaries.

Note: The on-call allowance is an all purpose allowance which is considered part of an employee’s overall salary and must be regarded as salary for all purposes including leave entitlements and superannuation contributions.

Recall Protocol for Medical Practitioners (Excluding Senior Doctors)

When a medical practitioner (other than Senior Doctors) is recalled for duty, they must be paid an amount equivalent to one hour’s pay at the minimum hourly rate, as payment for their travel time.

Additionally, they must be paid for the time worked when recalled for duty as follows:

  • 150% of the minimum hourly rate for time worked on weekdays
  • 200% of the minimum hourly rate for time worked on weekends and public holidays

Regardless of the actual time worked when recalled for duty, they must be paid a minimum payment for 3 hours of work at the applicable rate.

Sleepover Arrangements for Doctors in Training

If an employer requires a doctor in training to sleepover at the workplace, the following provisions apply:

  • The doctor receives a sleepover allowance for each sleepover period. This payment compensates for the sleepover itself and also covers any work performed, as long as it doesn’t exceed one hour in duration.
  • If the doctor in training works for more than one hour during their sleepover, they earn additional overtime pay according to the relevant rates.
  • If the doctor in training is called to active duty more than five times during the sleepover, the doctor must receive active duty pay at the appropriate rate for the entire sleepover duration instead of the allowance. 

Opting for Time Off Instead of Overtime Pay

Employees and employers can mutually agree in writing to replace overtime pay with equivalent time off in accordance with the following requirements:

  • The duration of the time off must match the number of overtime hours worked eg. an employee who has worked 2 hours overtime is entitled to 2 hours’ time off.
  • The time off must be taken within 4 weeks of working the overtime.
  • If the employee requests, or if time off isn’t taken within 4 weeks, the employer must instead pay the overtime in the next pay cycle.
  • The employer must maintain records of such agreements.
  • On termination of employment, any unutilised time off for overtime is paid at the original overtime rate.
  • Employers cannot unduly pressure employees into these agreements.
Doctor and nurse at the hospital

Penalty Rates

Penalty rates refer to the additional pay rate that employees receive for working during certain designated periods or under specific circumstances, as outlined. These additional rates are higher than the standard base rate of pay and are intended to compensate employees for working outside of regular hours or in potentially less desirable conditions.

Different penalty rates apply depending on your employee’s classification, when they work ordinary hours as follows. Note: these penalty rates apply when an employee is working their ordinary hours, not where they are working overtime hours. 

Doctors in Training

Penalty Rate
Rostered ordinary duty starting or finishing between 9 pm and 6 am. 2.5% of minimum weekly rate per occasion (in addition to payment for hours worked)

Career Medical Practitioners and Senior Career Medical Practitioners

Hours WorkedPenalty RateCasual Penalty Rate (inclusive of 25% casual loading)
% of ordinary hourly rate
Monday to Friday: between 6 pm and midnight112.5%137.5%
Monday to Friday: between midnight and 8 am125%150%
Saturday – all hours150%175%
Sunday – all hours175%200%

Senior Doctors

Hours WorkedPenalty RateCasual Penalty Rate (inclusive of 25% casual loading)
% of ordinary hourly rate
Monday to Friday: between 6 pm and midnight112.5%137.5%
Saturday:  between 7 ama nd midnight150%175%
Sunday: between 7 am and midnight175%200%
Public holidays – all hours250%275%

Community Medical Practitioners

Hours WorkedPenalty RateCasual Penalty Rate (inclusive of 25% casual loading)
% of ordinary hourly rate
Shift starting between 5 am and 6.30 am102.5%127.5%
Shift finishing between 6pm  and midnight102.5%102.5%
Shift (or part of a shift) rostered between midnight and 5 am104%129%
Shift permanently worked (i.e. more than 4 consecutive weeks) between midnight and 5 am105%130%

Saturday and Sunday Work

Hours WorkedPenalty RateCasual Penalty Rate (inclusive of 25% casual loading)
% of ordinary hourly rate
Between midnight Friday and midnight Sunday150%175%

Public Holidays

The Medical Practitioners Award also outlines the penalty rates for working on public holidays:

  • Payment at 250% of their normal hourly rate;
  • Payment at 150% of their normal hourly rate, plus an extra day added to their annual leave; or
  • Payment at their normal hourly rate, with an additional 1.5 days added to their annual leave or taken at another time, agreed upon by both the employer and the employee.

If the public holiday is a part-day public holiday, the above compensation applies pro-rata based on the number of regular hours worked on the part-day public holiday.

Annual Leave

Annual leave for Medical Practitioners is provided in the National Employment Standards (NES) However, there are additional entitlements as follows:

  • Medical Practitioners who are required to work shifts that include weekends, are entitled to an extra week of annual leave.
  • When taking annual leave, Medical Practitioners receive a loading annual leave loading of 17.5% of their minimum weekly rate, based on a maximum of 4 weeks of annual leave.
  • In addition to their standard pay, a shift worker under the Award who takes annual leave, will receive the higher of the 17.5% annual leave loading or the weekend and shift penalties they would have received if they hadn’t been on leave.

What Alternative Annual Leave Arrangements Can an Employee Request?

  • Leave in advance: An employee can take paid annual annual leave in advance if agreed upon in writing with the employer. 
  • Cashing out annual leave: Employees may be able to cash out some of their accrued annual leave so long as certain conditions are met and at least four weeks of annual leave are retained.
  • Excessive leave accruals: If an employee has accrued more than eight weeks of paid annual leave (or ten weeks for shift workers), they and their employer may agree to reduce the amount by taking some leave.

Other Types of Leave

In addition to annual leave, medical practitioners may be entitled to various other types of leave. The table below briefly outlines some of the different types of leave:

Type of LeaveDescription
Personal/Carer’s LeaveProvides paid leave for when an employee needs to take care of their own personal illness or injury or to provide care or support to a family or household member who is unwell or in an emergency situation.
Parental LeaveLeave related to the birth or adoption of a child. This can include maternity, paternity, adoption, or partner leave.
Long Service LeaveGranted after a certain number of years of service with the same employer, allowing an employee to take an extended period of time off work.
Family & Domestic Violence LeaveOffers support to employees experiencing family or domestic violence, providing paid leave for necessary arrangements and recovery.
Compassionate and Bereavement LeaveAvailable when an employee needs to take time off due to the death or serious illness of a family or household member.

Key Takeaways

With this guide, we aimed to simplify the complexities of the Medical Practitioners Award, making it accessible for employers to understand their obligations.

However, comprehending the full details of the Award and understanding the interaction with the National Employment Standards and applicable state and federal legislation can still be challenging. So, if you’re feeling unsure about your responsibilities or need further clarification, don’t hesitate to seek legal advice.

At WilliamsonBarwick, our experienced team of lawyers specialises in employment law and is well-versed in the specifics of the award. We can guide you through your obligations and help you resolve any disputes effectively.

Don’t risk non-compliance. Reach out to us today to discuss your needs and learn how we can help you navigate this legal landscape confidently.

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