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 is a practical initiative run by Health Workforce New Zealand to move graduates into the communities and specialties that need them most, and to retain essential allied health professionals in New Zealand. Those on the scheme receive annual payments to help repay their student loan or as top-up income.

It was launched in 2009 to encourage graduate doctors, midwives and nurses to work in hard-to-staff communities and specialties in New Zealand. Radiation therapists and medical physicists were included health professions from 2012-2015 and sonographers were added to the Scheme from 2015. Dentists were added in 2016. Payments are also available to GP trainees. Other ministries run similar schemes for teachers and veterinarians.

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

2017 Registrations of Interest

The Registration of Interest (ROI) period for the 2017 Voluntary Bonding Scheme for 2016 new graduate nurses, midwives, dentists and sonographers, and postgraduate doctors in General Practice has now closed. Queries can be forwarded to vbs@moh.govt.nz.

The 2017 Intake Registration of Interest period was open Monday 20th February 2017 at 8am to Monday 3rd April 2017 at midnight.

The 2017 Registration of Interest period has now closed.

Should you have queries, please contact vbs@moh.govt.nz.

To be eligible, registrations must have been successfully submitted within the ROI period, and no registrations received after the ROI period has closed can be considered.

If you have registered for the 2017 Intake: For now, all you need to do is abide by the 2017 Terms and Conditions. Please advise us via email if you have any change in postal or email address, or if you have any queries: vbs@moh.govt.nz.

Once the ROI period closes, the applications are analysed to help ensure eligibility and to prevent duplication of entries.

If places on the Scheme are over-subscribed, a ballot process will be undertaken. At that point we can then advise registrants on whether they have successfully obtained a place on the Scheme.

Letters or emails advising positions on the Scheme will be sent out by the Ministry of Health in due course, probably around late April/May 2017.

The number of places available in the 2017 Intake are limited. This is in response to the high level of interest in the Scheme, increased retention rate and the need to ensure payment commitments to registrations are consistent with funding available.

There are 350 places available on the Voluntary Bonding Scheme across five health professions in 2017 (see table below).  Where eligible Registrations of Interest exceed the number of places available on the Scheme, a ballot process will be applied for selection. The ballot process is not subject to appeal.

2017 Cap for Voluntary Bonding Scheme  
New graduate Doctors 48
Postgraduate Doctors in General Practice 15
Nurses 229
Midwives 44
Sonographers 10
Dentists 4
Total 350

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

What does bonding mean?

There is no up-front bonding agreement to sign. After being accepted, you begin working – or continue to work – in an eligible hard-to-staff community, specialty or profession. If you abide by the Terms and Conditions of your intake year, you can apply for payments after three, four and five years.

How much will I get paid?

In addition to your salary, those accepted on the scheme will receive the following annual after-tax payments for up 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.

The money will either be paid 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.

Am I eligible?

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 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 intending to train as a GP
  • are a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident by the time you apply for payment on 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 studies – not the date of your graduation ceremony. Your education provider will need to supply this statement if requested by Health Workforce New Zealand.

What are the hard-to-staff specialties and communities?

Please refer to the Terms and Conditions for your profession and intake year.

The community I work in has been removed from the hard-to-staff list – am I still eligible for payments?

Yes. Once on the scheme, you must continue to work in a hard-to-staff category for your intake year for the duration of your bonded period – even if it has been removed for future intakes.

What if I work part-time, take leave or change jobs?

A minimum of 0.6 FTE is required during your bonding period, except for lead maternity carer midwives, whose requirement 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 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 absence, 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, parental leave taken when you submit your application for payment.

Email vbs@moh.govt.nz to let us know if your circumstances change.

Can I leave the scheme before five years are up?

Yes. 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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