Agency staff to get €2.5m in backpay from HSE
HUNDREDS of agency staff are set to get backpay worth €2.5m because a new law means they must be paid the same as Health Service Executive (HSE) workers.
The agency staff, including nurses and health care assistants, who have been paid less than directly employed workers, will get the amount they have been underpaid since last December.
The HSE confirmed it will make the backdated payments, after legislation ensuring equal treatment for staff was passed recently.
The Temporary Agency Work Act, which brings an EU directive into force, means payments will now be backdated to December 5.
A HSE spokesperson said it was estimated that the backdated payments will take up to 12 weeks to process, due to the complexity of calculating the payments and the numbers of staff involved.
The spokesperson said the new pay rates for agency staff will be brought in sooner, and will cost an extra €30m a year.
She said recruitment agencies will pay their staff directly but "ultimately will bill the HSE for the amount".
"It is very difficult to estimate the number of staff due payments, as a large percentage of agency workers would work on a part-time or temporary basis," she said.
However, she said the HSE employs agency workers to fill 1,400 full-time posts in any given week. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) estimated that the vast majority of agency staff will get backpay. General Secretary Liam Doran said agency nurses have been paid between 18pc and 25pc less than HSE nurses since March last year.
Nurses with less than four years' service were on one pay rate, and those with over four years' service were on a slightly higher rate.
They will now transfer to the HSE salary scale for nurses, which rises in increments depending on the nurse's length of service.
For instance, there is an 11-point incremental scale for general staff nurses, which ranges from €30,234 to €43,800 a year.
The cost of the increase in wages for agency staff will wipe out much of the savings made by the HSE when it renegotiated contracts with recruitment agencies, which was estimated to save around €45m a year.
The INMO has written to agencies, including Nurse on Call and CPL, asking them to confirm that they will honour the new law. It says all previous agency work will be counted, although if an overseas agency has closed it says: "That's just unfortunate."