Voluntary Bonding Scheme

Payments to reward eligible health professionals who agree to work in hard-to-staff communities and/or specialties.

The Voluntary Bonding Scheme (VBS) is a practical initiative run by Health Workforce New Zealand to encourage newly qualified health professionals to work in the communities and specialties that need them most, and to retain essential health professionals in New Zealand. Those on the scheme receive annual payments to help repay their student loan or as top-up income.

The scheme was launched in 2009 to encourage graduate doctors, midwives and nurses to work in hard-to-staff communities and specialties in New Zealand, with other professions added in subsequent years, including radiation therapists, medical physicists, sonographers and dentists. Similar schemes are also available for teachers and veterinarians.

Health Workforce New Zealand makes at least 350 places available on the scheme each year across the listed health professions. If there are not enough applications for a particular professional group places can be allocated to other groups, according to need. If an intake is oversubscribed, a ballot process is used for selection.

More information and eligibility criteria and payment forms for each intake year and profession can be found on the Terms and Conditions page.

2017 Registrations of Interest

Registration of Interest (ROI) for applicants for the 2017 Voluntary Bonding Scheme for 2016 new graduate nurses, midwives, dentists and sonographers, and postgraduate doctors in general practice closed on 3 April 2017.

All those who have successfully registered have now been notified. Applicants must have submitted their registration before the ROI closing date. Please advise if your details have changed or if you have any queries by e-mailing vbs@moh.govt.nz.

All valid registrations for 2017 were accepted. The number and distribution of registrations received exceeded 350 and sufficient applications were received in all professional groups.

Profession Provisional Cap Volume Registrations Received (2017)
New Graduate Doctors 48 39
GPEP Trainees* 15 19
Nurses 229 242
Midwives 44 53
Sonographers 10 6
Dentists 4 5
Total 350 364

2018 Intake and Registrations of Interest

Information regarding the 2018 intake of the Scheme will be published on this website later in the year. It is anticipated this information will be available in October or November 2017.

Scheme eligibility

Eligibility criteria and payment forms for each intake year and profession can be found on the Terms and Conditions page.

Definition of bonding

Professionals accepted on to the VBS are not required to sign an agreement in advance. Those who are accepted on to the scheme and who work in an eligible hard-to-staff community, specialty or profession and abide by the Terms and Conditions of the intake year can apply for payments after three, four and five years.

How much you will get paid

In addition to your salary, those confirmed on the scheme and who meet the Terms and Conditions will receive the following annual after-tax payments for three to five years:

Doctor $10,000
Midwife $3,500
Nurse $2,833
Medical physicist (2012-2015 only) $3,932
Radiation therapist (2012-2015 only) $3,375
Sonographer (2015 onwards) $3,932
Dentist (2016 onwards) $10,000

Medical physicists and radiation therapists were included health professions for the following intakes: 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Sonographers were included from the 2015 intake onwards.
Dentists are included from the 2016 intake onwards.

Payments are made into your student loan account, or your bank account if you have no student loan. You can apply for your first payment after three years, and again at the end of your fourth and fifth years. Payment forms will be available for download on your intake’s Terms and Conditions page on this website towards the end of your third, fourth and fifth years.

The Inland Revenue Department’s website has more information about tax rates and voluntary bonding schemes.

Eligibility criteria

There are limited places available each year. To be considered, apply during the Registration of Interest period each year if you:

  • study at a New Zealand accredited tertiary institute (check the Terms and Conditions for the full list)
  • graduate the year before the annual Registration of Interest period closes – for example, those who complete their studies in 2016 can apply for the 2017 intake
  • are working – or intend to work – in an approved hard-to-staff community, specialty or profession
  • are a postgraduate doctor  who has recently commenced training as a GP in a hard-to-staff community
  • will be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident by the time you apply for payment from the scheme.

In order to receive payments you must meet the terms and conditions of your intake year for at least three years. Graduation is considered to be the date on your statement of completion of undergraduate studies – not the date of your graduation ceremony. Your education provider will need to supply this statement if requested by Health Workforce New Zealand.

Hard-to-staff specialties and communities

You can read about what the hard-staff specialties and communities in the Terms and Conditions for your profession and intake year.

Payments when the community I work in has been removed from the hard-to-staff list

You are still eligible for payments if the community you work for is removed from the hard-to-staff list. Once confirmed on the scheme, you must continue to work in a hard-to-staff category for your intake year and profession for the duration of your bonded period, even if it has been removed for future intakes.

Working part-time, taking leave or changing jobs

A minimum of 0.6 FTE is required during your bonding period (this can be an average across every 12 months participating in the Scheme). The requirement for Lead Maternity Carer midwives is based on the number of births attended.

If you change jobs and/ or relocate, you remain eligible for payments if you continue to work in a hard-to-staff community, specialty or profession, and you meet the terms and conditions of your intake year.

Annual leave generally counts towards your bonding period but extended time away from work – more than 14 weeks in a 12-month period – does not.

Up to 14 weeks total absence in a 12-month period, (including your annual leave) is classed as a break, and up to 10 weeks beyond that is classed as a pause, which needs to be made up as time on the Scheme.

Absences of more than 24 weeks in a 12-month period would make a participant ineligible for the Scheme and payments, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

You can take up to 52 weeks parental leave and remain eligible for the scheme. Parental leave will not count towards your bonding period.

You need to submit proof of any gaps in employment, annual/ sick/ unpaid leave and parental leave taken when you submit your application for payment.

Email vbs@moh.govt.nz to let us know if your circumstances change, or if you have any eligibility queries.

Leaving the scheme before five years are up

You can leave the scheme before the five years are up. Your involvement is up to you. If you leave after three years, for example, you will only be eligible for the payment due at the end of your third year. Should you decide to leave please email vbs@moh.govt.nz.

Useful guides and contact information

If you have any questions, email vbs@moh.govt.nz.

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