Voluntary Bonding Scheme

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

About the scheme

The Voluntary Bonding Scheme (the Scheme) is a practical initiative run by the Ministry of Health 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. It also aims to increase representation of Māori and Pasifika within the health workforce.

The Scheme is targeted to new graduates in eligible professions (and General Practice medical trainees) who are starting their career, with the aim of incentivising them to work in eligible hard-to-staff communities or specialties. Those accepted to the Scheme can become eligible for payments in the first three-to-five years of their career, to help repay their student loan or as top-up income.

Analysis of historical workforce data indicates that registered nurses on the Scheme have higher retention in hard-to-staff specialties compared to nurses not on the Scheme. Of graduate nurses who have registered for the Scheme, the retention rate after five years is up to 27 percent higher than those graduates who did not register for the Scheme.

The Scheme also provides important geographic location incentives for other Scheme professions.

More information and eligibility criteria for the upcoming 2021 Intake of the Scheme can be found below, and on the 2021 intake page.

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

2021 intake – eligible professions, communities and specialties confirmed

The Ministry of Health is pleased to announce the eligible professions, communities and specialties for next years’ 2021 intake of the Scheme. Changes from the last intake include the addition of:

  • new graduate Radiation Therapists who will work in the public sector
  • new graduate Medical Physicists who will work in the public sector
  • Dunedin as an eligible community for new graduate DHB-employed midwives
  • Dunedin, Queenstown Lakes District and Whanganui DHB as eligible communities for new graduate LMC midwives

The full list of eligible professions, specialties and communities can be found on the 2021 Intake page.

The Registration of Interest period for the 2021 intake is anticipated to open on our website  in early 2021 (probably February).

Registrations for new (2020) graduate Registered Nurses, Enrolled Nurses, Midwives, Sonographers, Dentists, Radiation Therapists, Medical Physicists and Postgraduate General Practice trainees must be received within the registration period – late registrations cannot be considered.

For more information see the 2021 intake page.

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 Scheme are not required to sign an agreement in advance. Those who are accepted 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

Those who register and are confirmed on the scheme, and who meet the Terms and Conditions, can apply for the following after-tax payments (in addition to your salary) after three to five years’ service:

Profession 1st Payment for Years 1-3 (after tax) 2nd Payment for Year 4 (after tax) 3rd Payment for Year 5 (after tax)
Doctors & Dentists $30,000 $10,000 $10,000
General Practice Trainees $30,000 - -
Registered & Enrolled Nurses $8,499 $2,833 $2,833
Midwives $10,500 $3,500 $3,500
Medical Physicists & Sonographers $11,796 $3,932 $3,932
Radiation Therapists $10,125 $3,375 $3,375

Note: Medical physicists and radiation therapists were included health professions for the 2012 to 2015 intakes, and again from 2021.
Sonographers are included from the 2015 intake onwards.
Dentists are included from the 2016 intake onwards.

Payments are made to IRD against your student loan account, or if you have no loan, into your bank account. You can apply for your first payment after three years, and again at the end of your fourth and then fifth years. Payment forms for your intake will be available for download on the  Terms and Conditions and Payment Application 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/intake. To be considered for the Scheme, you must register during the Registration of Interest period if you:

  • completed study at an accredited tertiary institute (check the Terms and Conditions for the full list)
  • completed your final year of undergraduate study* before the annual Registration of Interest period closes – for example, those who complete their studies in 2020 or early 2021 can register for the 2021 intake
  • have started working – or intend to start – in an eligible hard-to-staff profession, community or specialty and intend to do so for at least three and up to five years
  • will be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident by the time you apply for payment from the scheme (three years after you register for the Scheme)


  • you are a postgraduate doctor who has recently commenced training as a GP in an eligible hard-to-staff community.

*Or, if you are a sonographer or medical physicist, you have completed your postgraduate qualification the year before scheme registration.

In order to receive payment(s) you must meet the terms and conditions of your intake year for at least three years. The date you complete studies is considered to be the date on your statement of completion of studies – not the date of your graduation ceremony. You may need to obtain this statement from your education provider if requested by the Ministry of Health.

Hard-to-staff professions, communities and specialties

Information about the eligible hard-staff specialties and communities can be found in the Terms and Conditions for your profession and intake year.

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

If you have registered and been accepted on to the scheme and work according to the terms, you will still be eligible for payment(s) even if the profession, community or specialty you work in is removed from the eligible hard-to-staff list.

Once accepted on to the scheme, to remain eligible for payments 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, communities or specialties

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). This is the equivalent of a workload of 24 hours per week, or 1,152 hours over a normal working year of 48 weeks. 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 an eligible 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 any 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 verification of any  annual/sick/unpaid/parental leave and gaps in employment  taken when you apply for payment.

Email [email protected] to let us know if your circumstances change, or if you have any eligibility queries. If your circumstances are exceptional and result in an inability to meet the terms and conditions, you may request an exemption. Please refer to the Terms and Conditions for more information.

Leaving the scheme before five years are up

You can leave the scheme before the five years are up, but the minimum bonded term to be eligible for any payment is three years. Your involvement is up to you. Should you decide to leave please email [email protected].

If you have any questions, email [email protected].

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