Review of Continuing Education Allowance

NSWNA pushes to expand the payment to more classifications and for more qualifications

The NSWNA is currently pursuing a claim in the Industrial Relations Commission to increase the Continuing Education Allowances already paid to ENs and RNs with tertiary clinical qualifications, and to extend the payment to all nursing classifications for additional qualifications that are relevant to their work, not just clinical qualifications. In November 2004, RNs and ENs in public hospitals won allowances of up to $30/week as a mark of recognition for their clinical specialty qualifications that are relevant to their work. It was not paid to the CNS, CNE and CNC classifications or to Nurse Managers Grade 3 and above. Hospital specialty certificates were also excluded from payment.

In awarding the allowances, the Industrial Relations Commission made provision for a review of the payments after 12 months. The NSWNA has lodged a review claim with the Commission to increase the allowances and expand the payment to more classifications and for more qualifications.

The NSWNA is seeking to have payment of the allowance extended to all registered nurse classifications and for all relevant post-graduate qualifications and post-registration hospital certificates, including the hospital midwifery certificate. The Association is also seeking substantial increases to the allowances.

NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes said all nurses who have improved their qualifications deserve a financial reward for their effort. ‘We have put a strong case to the Commission that all relevant qualifications must be recognised.’

Graduate Diploma in Midwifery now recognised
In the face of total resistance from NSW Health, the NSWNA has achieved recognition that the Graduate Diploma in Midwifery is an eligible course for payment of the allowance.

Without discussion with the NSWNA, NSW Health directed Area Health Services last December that registered nurses who were also registered midwives by holding a Graduate Diploma in Midwifery were not eligible for payment of the allowances. It argued the midwifery qualification was their registration qualification as a midwife and therefore was excluded from payment.

‘The NSWNA immediately challenged the exclusion. When informed we would be taking the dispute to the Industrial Relations Commission if their about-turn on the eligibility of midwives was not reversed, the Department backed down,’ said Brett.

All members with a Graduate Diploma in Midwifery qualification and working in a relevant area are eligible for back payment of the allowance for all periods since December 2004.

Unacceptable delays in payment
Members across all Area Health Services except Justice Health have suffered delays of several months in having their allowances paid. The NSWNA filed disputes in the Industrial Commission in January, resulting in some action by Health Services, but there are still many nurses reporting delays in payment.

Check your eligibility
If you hold a qualification you believe is relevant to the area you are working in that is not covered by the ‘matrix’ of common qualifications payable in the department’s policy directive, you may still be eligible for the allowance and should pursue assessment of your case with your Area Health Service HR. There is an agreement between the NSWNA and NSW Health that these applications will be determined centrally and there is no authority for these applications to be refused at the local level.

‘Exclusion is a diabolical inequity’

Jennifer Geraghty is a midwife from Bellinger River Hospital with more than 35 years’ experience as a nurse and midwife. With hospital-based midwifery qualifications, she is currently not eligible to receive the continuing education allowance awarded last year, yet she supervises midwives with recognised post-graduate qualifications who do receive the allowance.

‘I think it’s diabolical that nurses with the hospital midwifery certificate were overlooked when the allowance was first awarded. We’re working as midwives with all the pressure and responsibility alongside people who have graduated in the past five or six years. We’re doing the same work and yet they get paid for their qualifications and we don’t,’ she said.

‘The government is happy to recognise that we’re qualified to do the job but it doesn’t want to pay us. There’s no sense in its decision to exclude some nurses and qualifications, other than to save money. It’s a terrible inequity,’ said Jennifer.