AOP membership: tailored to life’s changes
As AOP membership renewals approach, OT hears more about the services available to support members through their career
The AOP membership renewal process is approaching for qualified members from mid-November.
“Now is a good time to look at the membership grade you are on and consider what the most suitable option is for you for 2022,” advised Suzanne Page, head of membership for the AOP.
“The membership has been adapted over time, with the introduction of new grades when we have perceived a need and been able to deliver a suitable package to meet that need,” Page added. “Everybody experiences changes, whether it is taking a career break, becoming self-employed, purchasing a practice, or starting a family.”
A team of expertsPage recommends reviewing the grades available, as well as the benefits included within membership: “The AOP has a whole range of services and it is important members make sure they know what is available.”
The services provided by the AOP can be found on the website and in the Member Benefits booklet.
“I think sometimes those who have had a membership for a long time possibly don’t realise the extent of support available,” Page noted. “It’s definitely time to check that you are on the right grade and you are aware of all the services available to you.”
Highlighting the variety of services available, from access to the online forums, to digital resources for locum members, and the new mentoring programme, Page said: “When you walk into negotiations about your pay or contract, you are not on your own – you have a team of experts behind you. If you get a complaint from a patient, we are your first port of call. Or if you need to unload some stress, we have the Peer Support Line. The AOP membership is a gateway to a team of experts.”
It is particularly important for students to remember to renew their free membership to ensure the services are accessible if they need them. These include the pre-reg register, launched to support students in finding a placement, as well as materials “to set them up for a successful placement.”
Page shared: “There is a wealth of experience there to support you. Why wouldn’t you keep that going?”
Life’s changesOne membership option that addresses life’s changes is the AOP’s parental leave grade. Introduced in 2017, this offers a payment freeze during the period of leave for a minimum of one month and a maximum of 12 months.
“I think a lot of people taking parental leave don’t think about it until they are on leave or their direct debit has gone out,” Page shared. “If you are planning a family, whether its maternity, paternity or adoption leave, as soon as you receive a MATB1 certificate, email a scan or clear picture to the membership team and we can organise this for you. When you’re looking at returning to work, drop us an email to let us know and we’ll update your membership.”
The AOP has a range of return-to-work materials for parents returning after a break.
The AOP membership is a gateway to a team of experts
Retirement planningPlanning for retirement is another time when the AOP membership team can help. The newly-retired membership grade is available to members retiring from all work and requires confirmation that the member is no longer on the GOC register.
“Those members planning for retirement might want to think about organising this around their GOC registration,” Page advises. Optometrists should inform the GOC of intention to retire or withdraw from the register by 31 March and will typically be removed from the register at the end of the current registration year.
“If an optometrist were to retire mid-summer, they wouldn’t be taken off the register until the following April and would need to stay on a full AOP membership until the end of that year,” Page explained.
Encouraging members to get in touch to discuss their options, Page added, “it might be a good time to get in touch with AOP affinity partner, Lloyd & White, to discuss planning for your retirement.”
A tailored approach
The key message regarding renewals, Page said, would be to review the AOP’s renewals notices when they arrive, check the membership grades, and ensure details on MyAOP are up-to-date. The portal can also support setting up payments or direct debits.
“There is a huge amount of opportunity for members to tailor their membership to the different stages of their lives,” Page concluded.
AOP membership runs from 1 January to 31 December. With the exception of the parental grade, a grade runs through the year, but members can contact the AOP’s membership team to upgrade as the year progresses.
More details on the membership grades and contact details for the membership team can be found on the AOP website. During the renewals period the team receives a high volume of queries but endeavours to respond as quickly as they can.