TRUE STORY Staff benefits don’t come cheaply

By Yasmine Healy, Managing Director of ClinLegal. Yasmine is an experienced lawyer and chartered secretary, who established ClinLegal after seeing too many unfair work claims against her clients. ClinLegal provides legal, compliance and human resources expertise to healthcare professionals in your industry. The private practice was doing well and an advertised, interstate conference in Sydney looked beneficial for several members of staff. It included CPD for doctors and nurses, plus organised seminars for support staff. The principal decided to send three hard working members of staff aged 19, 25 and 35 to the conference, inclusive of airfares, accommodation, registration fees, social events and opening and closing dinners.

Nightmare phone call

The morning after the opening night the doctor received a phone call from 25 year old staff member, Dimity. The 35 year old Angela was in hospital. She’d partied so hard, she had passed out from alcohol poisoning and needed her stomach pumped. She would not be released in time to attend the course.

As the doctor was about to hang up and rush to the shower, Dimity advised him that the 19 year old Belinda was in hospital too. She’d taken her high heels off to walk through the city, stepped on a pool of shattered glass and would require further treatment before being discharged.

The doctor missed the following day’s lectures too, attending to his injured employees in hospital.

When does it end?

Angela and Belinda spent nearly two days in hospital. On day three, Angela advised the doctor that she was flying home early and Belinda needed further treatment and was not discharged to her hotel room until three days later, at which point the doctor attended to her until she was able to fly home.

The only member of staff who actually attended the entire conference was Dimity, who failed to report the benefits of attending when she arrived home, perhaps because nobody was quite in the mood to listen?

The waste of it all…

The direct outgoings to send four people interstate for a five day conference were not inconsiderable, along with the increased overheads and diminished profits at the Practice whilst they were gone. On top of this, additional costs and the time associated with hospital care and rehabilitation were expected, and provided by the doctor, including cover for the injured nurses who took ‘sick leave’ when they returned home.

Finally legal costs were incurred when we were engaged by the doctor who owned the practice. Our role was to assess the situation and put recommendations and procedures into place to ensure this financial and professional disaster would never happen again.

Key recommendations:

• A code of conduct policy to regulate behaviour at CPD/external events.

• A specific policy regarding attendance at the CPD/external event, ideally requiring staff to take leave to attend non-compulsory events with some financial support provided. This will also save wages as attendance will not be regarded as “work”, and any injuries would be incurred in free time, not work time.

• Remind staff of acceptable standards of behaviour before attending events, including taking responsibility for their own safety.

• Financial support to be subject to each staff member’s attendance at, and reporting back to the practice on the benefits of courses and/or conferences.

For further information or advice, or to access the abovementioned policies contact us at [email protected] or visit

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