Information for employers

UPDATED 6 April 2021 — Information for employers of health practitioners on the pandemic response sub-register

In April 2020, National Boards and Ahpra established a temporary pandemic response sub-register for 12 months to help fast track the return to the workforce of experienced and qualified health practitioners in response to COVID-19.

Responding to COVID-19 remains an important focus for Australian Governments and the community. Registered health practitioners are playing a vital role in supporting the vaccination rollout, this has meant that for some professions, the need for the temporary sub-register has changed.

  • For medical practitioners, nurses, midwives and pharmacists the sub-register will be extended for up to 12 months (to 5 April 2022) to be able to help with the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. This is also the case for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners.
  • For psychology, physiotherapy and diagnostic radiography the sub-register will close from 19 April 2021.

It is important for employers to understand that for practitioners who are extended on the sub-register (with a registration expiry date of up to 5 April 2022) their scope is limited, and they can only practise to support the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. This will appear on their registration on the Register of practitioners as a notation. The notation will say:

‘Registered on pandemic response sub-register. Limited to practice for the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.’

For those professions where the sub-register is closing, after the sub-register closes, practitioners who are practising will need to have applied for registration and be on the Register of practitioners to be able to keep working as a registered health practitioner.

Practitioners on the sub-register can apply for ongoing registration using a transition pathway if they wish to keep practising after the sub-register is closed (for more information, see the Practitioner FAQs).

Employers should check the registration status of anyone employed from the sub-register on the end date in April 2021, both for those professions which are subject to the extension and those for which the sub-register will close.

If the practitioner has applied for registration and their application is being assessed by Ahpra, then their registration on the sub-register will remain in effect after the end date until the application is decided.

As health services prepared for the expected surge in demand resulting from COVID-19, Health Ministers asked Ahpra and National Boards to enable experienced and qualified health practitioners to quickly return to practice. A pandemic response sub-register enabled those eligible practitioners to be registered if they wish, without having to fill in forms or pay fees.

The pandemic response sub-register came into effect for doctors, nurses, midwives and pharmacists on Monday 6 April 2020. Eligible diagnostic radiographers, physiotherapists and psychologists were added to the pandemic response sub-register on Monday 20 April 2020. Eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners were added on 1 July 2020.

Beginning in April 2020, eligible practitioners were added to the pandemic response sub-register for a 12-month registration period. On the public Register of practitioners, there is a green flag and a notation on the practitioner’s entry, indicating they are on the pandemic response sub-register.

We will be closing the pandemic sub-register from 19 April 2021 for psychologists, physiotherapists and diagnostic radiographers.

The sub-register is being extended for medical practitioners, nurses, midwives and pharmacists for up to 12 months (to 5 April 2022) to be able to help with the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. This is also the case for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners.

We recognise health service needs may evolve as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and we will keep working with state and territory and Commonwealth governments to support the COVID-19 emergency response.

However, at present we are no longer adding practitioners to the pandemic response sub-register and are closing the existing sub-register from April 2021 for psychologists, physiotherapists and diagnostic radiographers.

The Register of practitioners is available on the Ahpra website and you can search for registered practitioners by surname or registration number. 

Practitioners on the pandemic response sub-register have a green flag and a notation on their entry in the Register of practitioners, indicating that they have been added to the pandemic response sub-register. 

The practitioner’s entry on the Register of practitioners also includes the usual registration information including the practitioner’s qualifications and type of registration.

In order to fast track the return of experienced and qualified health practitioners to the workforce, most registration and return to practice requirements have been waived.

Practitioners have been asked to opt-out if they:

  • are unavailable to support the COVID-19 vaccination rollout,
  • have a health issue which prevents them from practising safely
  • have had a change to your criminal history
  • cannot get professional indemnity insurance arrangements in place as required to practise, or
  • are unavailable or not suitable or safe to practise.

Employers must conduct appropriate pre-employment checks before employing practitioners from the sub-register.

Prior to employing a practitioner on the sub-register, employers need to consider:

  • whether the role the practitioner is being considered for supports the COVID-19 vaccination rollout
  • conducting criminal history checks. Practitioners have not had to make criminal history declarations or had criminal history checks to join the sub-register. Employers should therefore consider checks prior to employment
  • whether adequate professional indemnity insurance arrangements are in place. Practitioners cannot work without appropriate insurance arrangements that meet their Board’s standard, and
  • the health of the practitioner. Practitioners have not had to make any declarations about their health to be on the sub-register.

Employers need to be aware that practitioners extended on the sub-register (medical practitioners, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners) will have a notation on their registration which limits their practice. This mean they may practise in roles related only to supporting the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

Employers who wish to employ or engage practitioners on the sub-register have a responsibility to support them to make a safe return to practice and to ensure patient safety. 

Employers should consider:

  • the limited scope under which they will be able to practice – to support the COVID-19 vaccination rollout only
  • the practitioner’s qualifications, experience, capacity and competence to safely practise autonomously or with direct/indirect supervision 
  • health service capacity to support any required supervision of the practitioner including available skill mix, model of care and staffing levels
  • the practitioner’s understanding of health service policies, procedures and clinical practice guidelines, including any necessary orientation and health service induction and 
  • the practitioner’s understanding of their scope of practice, accountability and reporting responsibilities. 

Employers should also have regard to the health and safety of practitioners on the sub-register, particularly if they in a high-risk group for COVID-19 for more severe infection.

The sub-register closes on 19 April 2021 for diagnostic radiographers, physiotherapists and psychologists.

As an employer you have an obligation to make sure that the registered health practitioners you have employed are registered. You can look up all registered health practitioners on the Register of practitioners. Practitioners on the sub-register appear with a green flag until the sub-register is closed for their profession.

After the sub-register closes, practitioners who are practising will need to have applied for registration and be on the Register of practitioners to be able to keep working as a registered health practitioner.

Practitioners on the sub-register can apply for ongoing registration using a transition pathway if they wish to keep practising after the sub-register is closed (for more information, see the Practitioner FAQ).

Employers should check the registration status of anyone employed from the sub-register on the end date of the relevant profession’s sub-register. If the practitioner has applied for registration and their application is being assessed by Ahpra, then their registration on the sub-register will remain in effect after the end date until the application is decided.

 
 
 
Page reviewed 6/04/2021