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2020-2024 mental health public sector EBA

Decades ago, prior to national registration in Australia, there used to be separate ‘divisions’ for mental health nurses on the Victorian nursing register. A registered nurse with a mental health specific qualification was called a Registered Psychiatric Nurse (RPN) and an enrolled nurse with mental health specific qualification was called a Psychiatric Enrolled Nurse (PEN). These distinctions no longer exist in the registration scheme.

RPN and PEN continue to exist as grades or classifications in the Mental Health EBA, but not in the Nurses and Midwives (Victorian Public Sector) (Single Interest Employers) Enterprise Agreement 2020–2024 or its predecessors. Despite their different terminology, the wages and conditions of the respective EBAs, as they apply to nurses, are almost identical except where there is a delay between the conclusion of enterprise bargaining for the Nurses and Midwives (Victorian Public Sector) (Single Interest Employers) Enterprise Agreement and conclusion of bargaining for the MH EBA, and this delay can be longer than a year.

The Mental Health EBA could be described as an ‘industry’ EBA, as it covers not only nurses but virtually any employee of a public mental health service, while the Nurses and Midwives (Victorian Public Sector) (Single Interest Employers) Enterprise Agreement 2020–2024 is more akin to an occupational EBA, covering nurses and midwives wherever they work in the public sector

Obviously, that makes determining which EBA applies to a particular nurse a little complex. It isn’t determined by what nursing specialty you consider yourself in, or that you work in a specialty mental health ward, but rather whether your ward or service is organisationally part of your employer’s mental health program.
For a nurse, including someone who identifies as a psychiatric or mental health nurse, the Nurses and Midwives (Victorian Public Sector) (Single Interest Employers) Enterprise Agreement 2020–2024 contains an example of how this works:

Example: a Registered or Enrolled Nurse who works in an ED Hub in an Emergency Department providing treatment for people that present with mental health and alcohol and other drug issues is covered by this Agreement given the work of the relevant department as a whole.

You will see it is the department that is the focus, and of course an emergency department is not part of an employer’s mental health program, notwithstanding that it provides mental health care.

A nurse employed by and in the employer’s mental health program, such as an ECAT nurse, is covered by the mental health EBA even if stationed in the ED, because they are embedded in and responsible to the employer’s mental health program.

Similarly, if you work in a specialist aged persons mental health ward, to determine which EBA applies you need to understand if that ward is part of your employer’s mental health program (in which case the MH EBA applies) or, as is commonly the case, part of the employer’s aged care program (in which case the Nurses and Midwives (Victorian Public Sector) (Single Interest Employers) Enterprise Agreement applies).

The Nurses and Midwives (Victorian Public Sector) (Single Interest Employers) Enterprise Agreement 2020–2024 contains the following clauses describing this; the new Mental Health EBA will have complimentary clauses:

4(nn) Registered Nurse means a person registered in Division 1 Registered Nurses of the Register of Nurses of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia established by the Health Practitioners Regulation National Law Act 2009 but excludes a person employed solely or predominantly in the provision of Public Mental Health Services.

In this Agreement, 'employed solely or predominantly in the provision of Public Mental Health Services', refers to the service, department, unit or program of the Employer rather than the duties of the individual employee

(4)(t) Enrolled Nurse means a person registered in Division 2 Enrolled Nurses of the Register of Nurses of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia established by the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 and includes a person:
registered in Division 2 Enrolled Nurses of the Register of Nurses of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia established by the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 with a standard condition "may practise only in the area of mothercraft nursing"; or

but excludes a person employed solely or predominantly in the provision of Public Mental Health Services.

In this Agreement, 'employed solely or predominantly in the provision of Public Mental Health Services', refers to the service, department, unit or program of the Employer rather than the duties of the individual employee.