Student’s questions answered

Thank you to NZMSA for giving us some real questions from students.

I heard STONZ supports mainly surgical trainee registrars?

STONZ is a union representing and advocating for all junior doctors. We started out initially advocating for the changes which impacted mostly surgical trainees; however we have grown quickly to become so much more. We represent all junior doctors, no matter what their specialty.

The STONZ team are dedicated to the balancing RMO training with RMO wellbeing, while ensuring patient care doesn’t suffer. We believe our collective agreement reflects this and future negotiations will continue to build on this as well as representing our broader membership. STONZ also aims to take a collaborative approach to working with Te Whatu Ora which we believe will help achieve the best outcomes for all.

What are my leave entitlements and what happens if it gets declined?

You are entitled to 30 days of annual leave per year. Districts will have different systems for applying for leave but this should be done in writing. We encourage you to plan your year as much as possible and apply for your leave early on especially if you have specific dates you require off. If your leave is declined, we encourage you to go and have a chat with your RMO Unit (or roster coordinator) and have a discussion to work out some mutually agreeable alternate leave days.

How many annual leave days can I take in a row?

There is no limit under the Collective agreement that you can take in a row, however as a PGY1 there is a MCNZ requirement for you to complete at least 10 weeks of each run. As such we’d advise planning to take a maximum of 2 weeks in a quarter, this also gives you a week 'safety net' should you have to take some unplanned leave. 

If you have a big event in your first year (such as your own wedding or similar) and need more than two weeks off in a row occasionally you can plan leave across two runs. This does mean you miss the orientation to the new run so we would only advise this if absolutely necessary. We encourage you to discuss with your RMO Unit and Supervisors early to make a plan.

What is cross-cover, and will I get paid the same to do extra duties?

Cross cover and additional duties are two different entitlements.

Cross cover – This is when a colleague is absent without cover (between 0700-1730 Monday to Friday) and you and the service agree that you will complete the absent RMOs duties as well as your own in return for a cross cover payment. You do not have to agree to cross cover if you feel doing so will place you in an unsafe position. 

Additional (or Extra) Duties – Additional duties are paid when an RMO agrees to work additional duties outside those outlined in their run description. Generally, this will occur to cover an absent colleague. 

For example, if RMO1 was scheduled to be on a long day (0800-2300) on Monday but calls in sick the RMO Unit may offer additional duties for another RMO to complete RMO1’s shift from 1600-2300.

Payment rates for these are outlined in our CEA.

What types of things can I get reimbursed?

You will be able to be reimbursed for your employment related expenses, this includes the costs for:

  • MCNZ Annual Practicing Certificate

  • Membership of the Medical Protection Society or an agreed alternative

  • Membership of Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa – Maori Medical Practitioners Association (TeORA) to eligible employees to a maximum of $300 per annum.

Training Related expenses are also reimbursed. This is generally in agreement with the appropriate clinical lead and includes things such as Application Fees for Colleges, Annual College Membership fees, College Exam Fees, etc. Most PGY1s won’t have any training related expenses in their first year. We recommend familiarising yourself with your entitlements and also the reimbursement lists which are detailed in the STONZ National Manual.

Can I use all of my medical education leave?

House Officers in their second and subsequent years (and non-training Registrars) will receive a minimum of 5 days medical education leave per year. During this time there is also a one-off lump of an additional 3 weeks that can also be used. 

You can use all of this every year, with a maximum of 4 weeks in any one year. 

What if it gets declined? If your Medical Education leave is declined we suggest first chatting with your RMO Unit (or roster coordinator) some courses are run multiple times during the year so it maybe that they can’t approve the time you applied but might be able to approve the next time it is run.

Extra Training Support for House Officers (Clause 10.9)

House Officers can now access an additional $500 to support career progression. Eligibility is that an RMO must have completed 12-months of service. This grant is to assist with acceptance into a New Zealand or Australiasian Training Programme.

Accessing this fund should be discussed with the relevant educational supervisor or senior medical officer with an understanding of the entry requirements of the particular vocational programme, and should be part of a House Officer’s documented career plan. This grant can be claimed for two years ($1000) and can be transferred between Districts. It cannot be used to reimburse the purchase of IT equipment or medical/surgical equipment.

For those PGY1s working towards surgical specialties, is there a benefit in having RDOs to study for part ones?

For this question we asked our team to see what they think…

Emma: I think it’s a personal decision, but I think as a PGY1 there is a benefit to working as a part of a team, i.e., working the RDOs, rather than studying, as you get far more out of it for a surgical career and have plenty of opportunities to study in evenings/weekends and as a PGY2.

Jordan: I’m not studying for part 1’s, but I am studying for my diploma and the RANZCOG PVP, whilst doing 2x research manuscripts and participating on the STONZ Executive. I think you manage with what you have, and I am managing to get through my workload adequately. There are many factors which play into this question like, how busy your job is, and overall, where you would like to go in your training long term. 

Christina: I found taking a chunk of study leave much more beneficial than using my RDOs to study. Often, you’ll do your part 1s in PGY2 or 3. I wouldn’t suggest doing them any earlier! A good time is to tee it up with an ED rotation while you’re on shift work. I found that worked best for most of my colleagues. 

Magnus: Use the time you have, & nothing substitutes a good study plan. I started to study 3 months out from the exam, and took 2-weeks off immediately prior, I made sure my study plan fit exactly into the time that I had. If I had RDOs it might have altered my study plan, but they wouldn't have changed the number of books to read/study that was required. But every person is different. Some people did the 6-week Dunedin exam course and swear by it, I did not think it was necessary but that was me. Some people might think RDOs are essential. I personally did not notice their absence.

Responses gathered December 2021.

Q&A’s about your employment

Employment Law is pretty confusing! Let’s break it down for you…

I’m a TI, how can I join STONZ?

As a TI it’s easy (and free), just sign up on our website ‘join now’ and you’re a member! If you are a member of another union, you do need to resign though. This can be done in the form of an email. We can then help you with any questions you have throughout your final med-school year and help navigate your transition into a House Officer position. 

I’m still making my mind up about joining a union – what should I do?

Our advice is that joining a union is a good thing. It means you gain a collective voice and we are there to offer help and support for you when you need it. Unions are also key in pushing for continued improvements to things like remuneration, training and working conditions. 

However,  you don’t have to join a union straight away, you can be on an IEA (individual employment agreement) for a period when you first start your job with Te Whatu Ora, so you can use the first few weeks to make a decision. Once you join a union you are unable to change the collective agreement you are covered by until the first union’s collective agreement is about to expire (60 days before) so take your time to make an informed decision.

Can I change unions as a TI?

There is a difference between changing Union membership and being able to change your terms and conditions. However, as a Trainee Intern you are not bound by the terms and conditions of the collective agreement and you are not considered an RMO yet so you can swap and change as much as you like. Note: As soon as you become an RMO the rules change.

I’ve received a contract for a House Officer position – I’m not sure where to start, where can I get advice?

Employment law is confusing. You are welcome to contact the team at STONZ at any time and we can assist you with any questions you have. Our RMO advisors have previously worked in RMO units and in HR teams within the districts so have a thorough understanding of RMO contracts. We also recommend talking to your friends, family and of course your colleagues. There are also services such as Citizen’s Advice Bureau who can offer employment related advice and if you have access to a barrister or lawyer who is experienced in New Zealand employment law, they may also be able to assist.

Some of the key things to consider when signing your contract are; start date, location of employment, Kiwisaver, Indemnity Provider and of course Union membership.

I’ve received a contract for a House Officer position – what’s the 30-day rule?

The 30-day rule requires new employees (who are not already a union member) to be employed on the same terms and conditions as the collective agreement for the first 30 days of employment. 

Essentially what this means for you, is that if you are not a member of a union when you start your new job, you will still be covered by the terms and conditions of the collective agreement with majority membership for the first 30 days. After this time you can choose to negotiate an IEA, or sign up to a union if you haven’t done so already.

What happens if I am a union member when I start my employment as a House Officer?

If you decide to join a union as a Trainee Intern, it’s really important to decide which union is best for you as a House Officer and beyond before signing up.

Why? Employment law dictates that if you are a union member when you start employment with Te Whatu Ora you will be locked into those terms and conditions and the 30-day rule doesn’t apply. You will not be able to change the collective agreement you are covered by until 60 days prior to the expiry of the collective agreement you are currently a member of.

What happens if I want to change unions once I am an RMO?

The Employment Relations Act 2000 states that you can only be covered by one collective agreement for the life of that collective agreement. What this means is that if you are a member of ‘Union A’, even if you resign from ‘Union A’ you can’t be covered by ‘Union B’s’ collective agreement until such time as 60 days before ‘Unions A’s’ current agreement expires. 

You can however choose to negotiate an individual agreement with Te Whatu Ora.

It is easy to change Unions, but not as easy to change your terms and conditions.

What’s an IEA?

An IEA is an Individual Employment Agreement and it is an agreement between yourself as an RMO and the employer (Te Whatu Ora) directly. Usually the terms and conditions are based on one of the collective agreements, but there will be subtle differences. It is up to you to negotiate any terms and conditions that you feel you should be entitled to. If you are a union member and want out, you have the right to request and negotiate an IEA with Te Whatu Ora at any time.

I’m thinking of joining STONZ but it’s a schedule 10 Roster – what are my options?

Following the STONZ 2021 contract we have negotiated that PGY1’s will work 10/4 rosters (have two days off - sometimes during the weeks surrounding the weekend worked) on schedule 10 rosters for quarters 1 and 2 of their PGY1 year. 

Under our collective agreement you can be required to work up to a maximum 12 days in a row. However, some hospitals offer alternative options to STONZ members who are working schedule 10 Rosters and would like to observe RDO’s (Rostered days off) such as:

  • Recalculating your salary individually so you can observe them. 

  • Balloting all STONZ member on a run and seeing what the overall preference is and then rostering for the majority e.g., everyone observes the RDOs or everyone works 12 days. 

  • Offering Annual Leave in order to observe the RDOs or scheduling Annual Leave during/after busy times in the roster

If you are wanting to know the options at your particular hospital, please discuss this with your RMO Unit prior to starting.

I’m looking at the salary scales in both collective agreements and can’t work out what I’ll get paid?

It can be difficult to compare the salary categories alone after the first 6 months when STONZ members may work up to 12 days, while NZRDA members may be rostered days off (RDOs). This is because as a result of observing RDOs, often a salary category will drop. And therefore, those observing RDOs may be paid a lower category than those working the additional days.

The easiest way to tell what you will be earning is to request the run descriptions from your hospital; at the end of each run description, it should outline your expected average hours and salary category similar to the example below.

In this example, those observing RDOs are paid category C vs those working RDOs are getting a category B which under the current rates is a $14,000 difference.

Average Working Hours (RDO's are observed)
Ordinary Hours – 40
RDO Hours – 5.33
Rostered (incl. nights, weekends & long days) – 14.67
All other unrostered Hours – 5.83
Total Hours – 55.17
 *The Salary for this attachment will be detailed at a Category C run.

Average Working Hours (RDO's are worked)
Ordinary Hours – 40
Rostered (incl. nights, weekends & long days) – 14.67
All other unrostered Hours – 5.83
Total Hours – 60.50
*The Salary for this attachment will be detailed at a Category B run.

  • RDA Year 1 HO – Cat B = $103,585. Cat C = $93,593

  • STONZ Year 1 HO – Cat B = $108,400. Cat C = $97,800.

*Based on CEA expiring December 2023.

If your District does not publish all Run Descriptions, you can get a sense of what a Run Description should look and contain on the Auckland Doctors Website.

If you still have a question about STONZ please email us at

Office Hours

Our normal office hours are 9am - 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.

If we don't answer straight away please leave a message and we will return your call ASAP.

Contact us

Please get in touch with any questions you may have. We would love to hear from you.

P: 03 745 9258
PO Box 22656, Christchurch 8140

HOME    |    ABOUT STONZ    |    WHO WE ARE    |    SECA    |    TRAINEE INTERNS    |    RESOURCES    |   JOIN STONZ    |   Join us on Facebook


This product has been added to your cart