NSW Health agrees to $230m settlement in junior doctor underpayment class action

This settlement marks the largest underpayment class action resolution in Australian legal history

NSW Health agrees to $230m settlement in junior doctor underpayment class action

NSW Health has agreed to pay $229.8m to settle a class action lawsuit alleging that junior doctors were underpaid for overtime and other entitlements.  

This settlement marks the largest underpayment class action resolution in Australian legal history, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers. 

The lawsuit, representing over 20,000 junior doctors across NSW, was initiated to address claims that the health system failed to compensate doctors for hours worked adequately. The class action covers December 2014 to March of the current year. 

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Dr. Amireh Fakhouri, the lead plaintiff and a former junior doctor at NSW Health from 2015 to 2018, emphasised that the lawsuit was about recognition of work rather than financial gain.  

"Our purpose in bringing this was to ensure junior doctors’ work was properly recognised. This was not about us asking for more money; it was simply about us being paid for the actual hours that we work," Fakhouri said.  

She also highlighted a budding cultural shift within the healthcare system, encouraging junior doctors to accurately record their working hours. 

The settlement announcement was accompanied by remarks from representatives of Maurice Blackburn Lawyers and Hayden Stephens & Associates, the law firms representing the junior doctors. Rebecca Gilsenan, a principal at Maurice Blackburn, called the settlement "a landmark" achievement, noting that it represents a significant step towards systemic change within NSW hospitals.  

According to Gilsenan, NSW Health has already begun implementing improvements that underscore this change. 

Hayden Stephens, representing the legal interests of junior doctors, pointed out the chronic issues of unrecorded overtime and dangerous working conditions that prompted the class action. He lauded Dr. Fakhouri for her courage in leading the charge against a culture of silence that often plagues hierarchical workplaces like hospitals. 

The legal settlement is subject to final approval by the NSW Supreme Court, with a hearing scheduled for later this year. Pending court approval, a process will be established to assess claims from current and former junior doctors eligible to participate in the settlement.  

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