About the Scheme
The Voluntary Bonding Scheme (the Scheme) is a practical initiative now run by Te Whatu Ora — Health New Zealand, and formerly run by the Ministry of Health.
It aims to encourage newly qualified health professionals to work in the communities and specialties that need them most, and to retain essential health professionals in Aotearoa New Zealand. It also aims to increase representation of Māori and Pacific peoples within the health workforce.
The Scheme is targeted to new or recent graduates in eligible professions 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 incentives for other Scheme professions regarding geographic location, public sector employment and general retention.
The 6-week registration period for the 2024 Intake of the Scheme is anticipated to open early March 2024, on the 2024 Intake page. Further updates will be provided in due course.
Registrations must be received by the end of the registration period. Registration does not guarantee a place on the Scheme. If places on the Scheme are over-subscribed, a selection process will be undertaken.
2024 Intake: eligible professions, communities and specialties
Te Whatu Ora is pleased to announce the eligible professions, communities, and specialties for the 2024 intake of the Scheme.
Expansions and additions from last year’s intake include:
- Expansion of the Scheme to include all new (2023) graduate midwives nationwide, also extended to 2022 graduate midwives who have not already registered to the Scheme
- a new category for new (2023) graduate anaesthetic technicians working in public sector hospitals nationwide, also extended to 2021 and 2022 graduates
- a new category for new or recent graduate pharmacists working in regional public sector hospitals and rural and regional community settings **
- expansion of the Scheme for rural and regional general practice trainees, including to all Mâori and Pacific trainees nationwide, and the addition of non-urban portions of the Waitemata and Counties Manukau districts, and Invercargill as eligible communities
- expansion of available Scheme places for new graduate enrolled and registered nurses
** for Pharmacists, the category is geographically targeted to rural and regional Aotearoa New Zealand and excludes the urban boundaries of the six main centres (Metropolitan Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin). The category is open to new (2023) graduate pharmacists who are commencing their internship in 2023 or early 2024, and also 2021 and 2022 graduate pharmacists who complete(d) their internship in 2023.
The full list of eligible professions, specialties and communities can be found on the 2024 Intake webpage.
The 2023 Registration of Interest period has closed
The 2023 intake Registration of Interest period closed 2nd April 2023.
Information for registrants and the results of the intake are available on the 2023 intake webpage.
Health System Reforms and existing bonds
On 1 July 2022, the enactment of the Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Bill, established Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora - the Māori Health Authority as the new entities to lead and operate our health system. Administration of the Scheme was transferred from the Ministry to Te Whatu Ora.
From 1 July, the only change in regards to existing bonds is that the agreement will be with Te Whatu Ora , rather than the Ministry. If Terms and Conditions refer to a DHB, the bond will be to the current geographical area of that DHB, rather than the DHB as employer.
If you have any questions, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Definition of bonding
Registrants accepted on to the Scheme are not required to sign an agreement in advance. Those who register and 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 receive
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 salary) after three to five years’ service:
1 st Payment for Years 1-3 (after tax)
2 nd Payment for Year 4 (after tax)
3 rd Payment for Year 5 (after tax)
Graduate Doctors & Dentists
General Practice Trainees
n/a (bond is 3 years)
n/a (bond is 3 years)
Registered and Enrolled Nurses
Medical Physicists / Sonographers / Oral Health Therapists / Anaesthetic Technicians / Pharmacists
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 this website towards the end of your third, fourth and fifth years.
The Inland Revenue Department (IRD) website has more information about tax rates and voluntary bonding schemes.
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
- completed your final year of undergraduate study* before the annual Registration of Interest period closes – for example, those who completed their studies in 2023 or early 2024 can register for the 2024 intake (note that the 2024 intake will also be offered to midwives who completed qualifications in 2022, or anaesthetic technicians or pharmacists who completed qualifications in 2021 and 2022)
- 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 GPEP 1, 2 or 3 training as a GP in an eligible hard-to-staff community, or are of Mâori or Pacific ethnicity in any NZ community
- you are a sonographer or medical physicist who has completed your postgraduate qualification the year before scheme registration, or
- you are a dentist or oral health therapist who has completed your undergraduate studies in 2021, 2022 or 2023.
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 Te Whatu Ora.
Eligible 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 (per pregnancy) 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.
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 can make a request for an exemption.
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 get in touch at email@example.com.
Terms and Conditions and Payment Application Forms
We have separate Terms and Conditions and Payment Application Forms by profession and year.