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Ask Judith: when it comes to your rights and entitlements at work, NSWNA assistant general secretary Judith Kiejda has the answers.

Do I have to pay back my severance pay?

I am an RN who accepted a voluntary redundancy earlier this year and I have now successfully applied for a position in another area health service. However, I have been advised that I am required to repay a proportion of my severance pay to the former area health service. Is this correct?

Yes it is correct. If you accept a redundancy and have been paid a severance payment and accept a position within the NSW public service you are required to repay the proportion of severance pay that you have not exhausted.

For example: if you were paid 39 weeks' severance pay (not including payment in lieu of notice) and then recommence employment within the public sector 10 weeks after the redundancy you would be required to repay 29 weeks' pay.

However, if you recommenced employment 39 weeks after the redundancy you would not be required to repay any amount at all. This is covered in Department of Health policy 2007_085, Managing Displaced Staff of the NSW Health Service.

CNS and CEA back-pay query

I am a CNS working in a public hospital and have a relevant post-graduate certificate. However, my employer will only back-date my Continuing Education Allowance (CEA) to March 2007 even though the qualification was gained prior to that date. Can you advise?

The CEA was introduced from 1 December 2004 but CNSs were only eligible for the allowance from the first pay period on or after 1 March 2007.

Therefore, even where a recognised qualification was obtained prior to 1 March 2007, a CNS can only be paid the CEA from the first pay period on or after 1 March 2007.

Lost wages and court subpoena

I work in a private hospital and have been served with a subpoena to appear as a witness in court. Do I have to attend and what happens with lost wages and the cost of getting to and from court?

A subpoena, while requested by the legal representatives of one of the parties in court action, is issued by a court and is a binding directive. Failure to comply without lawful excuse is a contempt of court and may result in your arrest.

Court rules provide that conduct money to cover reasonable expenses of attending is tendered to you at a reasonable time before the date on which your attendance is required.

Information about conduct money should accompany the subpoena and you should speak to the issuing party about expenses and loss of wages in the first instance.

Problem with workers' compensation doctor

I am an EN working in a small private hospital and am currently on worker's compensation and a return to work plan. I feel that my nominated treating doctor is not providing medical certificates that take into account my pain levels. I have tried to address this with him but he is standing by what he has written. Am I able to change my nominating treating doctor?

It is possible to change your nominating treating doctor. However, doing so may lead the insurance company who pay for your worker's compensation to deny liability on this basis. For this reason, it would be advisable to further attempt to reason with your doctor before considering a change. If the insurance company denies liability for any reason it is important to contact the Association for a referral to our solicitors.

What do I do about hazardous chemical fumes?

I arrived at work to find an X-ray technician had accidentally tipped hazardous chemicals down the drain and now there are fumes in the unit. What is the correct procedure in this instance?

You should immediately report the matter to the NUM/DON, and all staff and patients should be moved from the area until it has been cleaned by an appropriately-qualified person. The matter should also be reported to the OHS representative or Committee for them to review work practices, and Work-Cover can also be called on 13 10 50.
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Title Annotation:Q&A; New South Wales Nurses' Association
Author:Kiejda, Judith
Publication:The Lamp
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jul 1, 2010
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