HSC Staff Recognition Payment - FAQs

Date published: 29 July 2021

Q&A for payments to HSC Staff and Students

£500 FOR HSC STAFF

Who qualifies for the payment?

Everyone on the Business Service Organisation payroll – including doctors, community dentists, Agenda for Change staff

Non-Executive Directors are not included.

Staff dismissed for misconduct will not be eligible.

Staff on a career break for the duration of the qualifying period will not be eligible.

Do staff in the Independent sector qualify?

Yes.  Staff must have worked in an organisation registered with the RQIA and holding a contract with a Health and Social Care Trust or the Health and Social Care Board for the provision of adult social care or a children’s residential care service.  In addition, staff working in an organisation with a contract with a Health and Social Care Trust for providing day opportunities will be eligible. 

Staff must have worked at least one month’s continuous service between 17 March 2020 and 31 January 2021.  Staff dismissed for misconduct will not be eligible.’ 

Do staff working in community pharmacy qualify?

Yes. The scheme includes community pharmacists and their staff.  Work is ongoing to establish the number of eligible staff that meet the criteria, and to establish payment methods.

What about Personal Assistants?

Personal Assistants employed through the use of Direct Payments or payments from the Independent Living Fund or Thalidomide Fund will be eligible for the payment.

When will the payment be made to staff in the independent sector? 

We are working with trade unions and employers to ensure there is a process in place for making the payments.  While this will take a little longer than for staff working in Health and Social Care Trusts this does not reflect any difference in value of the work done.  We hope staff will start receiving payments in the early autumn and will provide any further updates on timeframes here.

Do staff working in GDS dental practices qualify?

Yes, the scheme includes GDS dentist and dental teams, including clinical staff e.g. dental nurses, administrative staff and practice managers.  Work is ongoing to establish the number of eligible staff that meet the criteria and to establish payment methods.

Do staff working in opticians qualify?

Yes, the scheme includes community optometrists and their optometry practice teams, including administrative staff and practice managers.  Work is ongoing to establish the number of eligible staff that meet the criteria and to establish payment methods.

Are Private Ambulance staff included?

 

While the contribution of all individuals who have contributed to the provision of much needed services across the pandemic period are greatly appreciated and valued, it is not possible to extend the scope of the scheme to recognise all such contributions. Qualifying individuals must have completed at least one month's continuous direct employment within the HSC, or, in the case of an agency worker, have been on a placement of more than 12 weeks’ duration. Ad hoc shifts for cover, be they within nursing, medicine or patient transport, are not eligible under the scheme.

The payment is “non-consolidated”. What does that mean?

Non-consolidated means it is not pensionable and does not create a new baseline for future pay calculations. However, tax and national insurance are payable on the sum. The payment will not increase any hourly rates.

Do I have to apply for this payment?

No, it’ll be processed and paid to all those that meet the eligibility criteria.

Will this payment be included in my holiday pay calculation?

No, the additional £500 stands in isolation and will not be included in the calculation of any payment which is based on a reference period, such as holiday pay, sick pay or occupational maternity pay.

When will I receive my payment?

The first payments, to some HSC statutory sector employees paid fortnightly, were included in salaries paid on 22 July. The remainder of HSC statutory sector employees will receive their payments in salaries paid 29 July.  Discussions are ongoing with the Independent Sector around eligibility and payment for staff in those settings.

Will I have to pay tax and National Insurance on my Award?

Yes – all income derived from employment is subject to tax and National Insurance. The Department is however, making payment of up to £735 per individual which means if you qualify for the full award, and pay tax at 20% and National Insurance at 12% you should receive approximately £500 pay in your pay.

If you are a higher rate tax payer you will receive less depending on your individual circumstances.

We recognise that this may be disappointing for those affected, however as it is not possible to exempt the bonus payment, the Minister, supported by the Northern Ireland Executive, has taken the decision to provide additional funding to enable more individuals to benefit more fully from the intention to pay an award of up to £500, after tax and National Insurance.

Will my benefits be affected if I receive this payment?

The Department is very aware that any additional income may have unwelcome implications for any individual in receipt of income assessed benefits, and has been has been working strenuously to try to minimise any disruption to benefits payments. While it is not possible to disregard the Recognition Payment, HSC Trusts will be offering any employee with concerns, the option to receive their award in instalments.  Staff will be asked to opt-in to that arrangement, if they choose to.

Individuals are encouraged to seek independent advice, neither the Department, nor individual employers can offer advice on benefit entitlements. 

Payments will be made as soon as is feasibly possible, however, given the need to provide staff the opportunity to consider their options, and seek independent advice to inform their decision, we are working to commence payment of the award to HSC employees in July.

I receive Universal Credit. Will my Universal Credit be reduced if I receive the payment?

If you are currently receiving Universal Credit and you receive a special recognition payment to make sure your payment is correctly calculated you need to tell Universal Credit how much you have received and when you will receive it.  If you would like to speak to someone about how your payment may be affected, or if you should receive a phased payment over 3 months, you should speak to your work coach or contact your service centre on 0800 0121 331.

I was part time during the qualifying period and worked additional hours, will this be reflected in my payment?

Yes, your part time hours, including additional hours worked, will be averaged over the qualifying period. Your payment will therefore be based on your average hours worked per week, pro rata to the full time payment of £500.

During the qualifying period I spent time off shielding/on maternity/parental/adoption leave – is my payment affected?

Anyone who was off work shielding or on any form of maternity/shared parental/adoption leave is treated for the purposes of the payment as having been in work, and will have their contracted hours reflected in their payment.

Similarly, any staff member who was absent due to illness will have their normal hours included in the calculation. Only periods of illness in which a staff member is on a zero rate of pay are NOT included.

I was full time during the qualifying period and worked overtime, will this be reflected in my payment?

No, overtime hours above full time are excluded for the purpose of the calculating the payment. Your payment will be capped at £500.

I worked full time and part time during the qualifying period, how will this affect my payment?

A pro rata calculation will be done, based on the period you were full time and the period you were part time. Any excess hours worked when you were part time will also be taken into account.

Will I receive this payment if I have left or retired?

Everyone who meets the qualifying criteria is eligible for the payment. In this case at least one month’s continuous service in HSC NI between 17 March 2020 and 31 January 2021 is required. Former HSC NI staff who retired between 17 March 2020 and 31 January 2021 are eligible, providing they meet the qualifying criteria. Leavers/retirees who are due a payment will be contacted to advise of this and to confirm bank details.

Will I receive this payment if I left one Trust and commenced employment in another Trust?

Providing you meet the qualifying criteria in either of your employments then you will receive the payment, but will be capped at £500 if appropriate.

What about situations where someone has died in service or left and subsequently died?

Everyone who meets the qualifying criteria is eligible for the payment. In this case at least one month’s continuous service between 17 March 2020 and 31 January 2021 is required. In situations where staff died in service between 17 March 2020 and 31 January 2021 or left in that time having fulfilled the qualifying criteria and subsequently died, the payment would be payable to their estate.

The payment is capped at £500. How will the service prevent someone who has moved post during the qualifying period receiving two payments in excess of £500

Payments to HSC staff are made through Business Services Organisation (BSO) and will use National Insurance numbers as a unique identifier.

I am a student on an HSC course. Will I receive the payment?

Students who had paid contracts during the qualifying period, providing they meet the other qualifying criteria, will be eligible.

Students on normal placements for their courses will not be eligible as they are not directly employed during this time. These students do however qualify for the student recognition payment.

I left half way through the qualifying period. How will my payment be worked out?

For staff who left during the qualifying period, providing they had at least one month’s continuous service during the period 17 March 2020 and 31 January 2021, the payment will be worked out according to their average hours during the qualifying period.

I started employment half way through the qualifying period. How will my payment be worked out?

For staff who joined during the qualifying period, providing they have at least one month’s continuous service during the period 17 March 2020 and 31 January 2021, the payment will be worked out according to their average hours during the qualifying period.

I have been employed in the HSC as an agency worker, will I receive payment?

Longer term agency workers in the HSC (i.e. those on a placement which has lasted for a minimum of a twelve week period, or successive periods not interrupted by a break of more than six weeks) and who are in receipt of a salary commensurate to the role are eligible. Employing Agencies will be invited to identify qualifying workers and funded to make the payment to their employees.

£2,000 RECOGNITION PAYMENT FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE STUDENTS

Which students qualify for this payment?

Students on specified pre-registration health and social care programmes commissioned by the Department of Health over the period 1 October 2020 to 31 March 2021. These programmes are:

Nursing and Midwifery courses provided by QUB and Ulster University (i.e. not the salaried option provided by the Open University or those employed by the HSC)

AHP: Dietetics, Speech and Language Therapy, Podiatry, Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Radiography

Social Work

Physician Associates

What is this payment for?

This is a special recognition to healthcare students who have undertaken supernumerary clinical placements in HSC that have contributed to the delivery of health and social care during the unique and unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am a 1st year student.  Do I qualify?

The £2k special recognition payment is for qualifying students in years 1-3 who have been on qualifying health and social care programmes over the period clinical placement between 1 October 2020 and 31 March 2021.

Do I have to apply for this payment?

No. The Department of Health is working with Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University to identify all eligible students. Speak to your Course Supervisor if you have any doubts that is happening.

Is this a pro-rata payment; that is, linked to my length of time on a qualifying programme?

No, this is a set amount which you will receive provided you meet the qualifying criteria.

Will the payment be taxed?

The Department of Health’s intention is that this payment is not subject to tax or other deductions. However, this is a matter to be confirmed by HMRC.

Will my benefits be affected if I receive this payment?

The Department for Communities has confirmed that the recognition payment for Health and Social Care Students will be treated as capital for the purposes of Universal Credit.  Accordingly, this payment will have no impact on the student’s social security benefits.

I am on an Allied Health Professional programme, will this payment have any adverse effect my entitlement to student support?

The Education Authority has advised that all DOH support paid by them to AHP students at Ulster University, including the means-tested bursary and supplementary grants, plus any Reduced Rate Maintenance Loan paid by the Student Loans Company, should not be affected by this one-off acknowledgement payment.

When will I receive it?

Payments will be processed urgently and it is hoped that all cases will be completed by May 2021.

How will the payment be made?

Payment arrangements will vary according to the healthcare programme you are on. The details are still being developed.

Nursing and midwifery students will receive it via BSO who process bursaries. AHP and Physician Associate students will receive payment via Ulster University.

Social work students will receive payment via the Department’s Office for Social Services.

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