Special Recognition Payment – Agency Workers


What is the Special Recognition Payment (SRP)?

The Minister of Health has approved a Special Recognition Payment (SRP) for eligible agency workers, up to a value of £500 net.  This is a one off payment to reward workers for their work throughout the Covid 19 pandemic.


In which organisations do agency workers have to have worked to be eligible?

Agency workers working in any of the host organisations below may be eligible for the agency worker payment:


Organisations in the Independent Sector are not included at this time.


Does every agency worker get the full / maximum amount of the SRP?

No. There are a number of criteria to work through to assess whether an individual staff member gets the maximum payment, a partial payment or no SRP. Detail on eligibility is set out in the sections below.


Who is eligible for the payment?

Eligible agency workers are those who have been on a minimum of a 12 week placement with a host organisation throughout the ‘qualifying period’. This period may be cumulative across different placements within the same host organisation provided that separate placements have not been interrupted by a break of six or more weeks.

Periods of annual leave do not constitute a break in service and should be included as hours worked.


What is the qualifying period?

The qualifying period is 17 March 2020 to 31 January 2021.


Does the agency worker have to work a minimum number of hours?

There is no minimum time commitment per week, however the placement period must be covering employment in one host organisation for a minimum duration of 12 weeks.

An agency worker may have worked one day per week and provided that the placement is to cover one post they will be eligible. If the placement is to cover ad hoc shifts in different settings (even if within the same host organisation) they will not qualify.

For example, an administrative officer supplied to cover a vacancy caused by maternity leave may qualify, but a nurse supplied to cover different ad hoc shifts across different settings will not be eligible.


What if an agency worker has worked in more than one host organisation in the eligible period? Which organisation is invoiced?

Agency workers must have been placed for a 12 week period in any host organisation and have been covering one post to be eligible for payment.

If an agency worker has worked across more than one host organisation they must have been on at least a 12 week placement in each organisation to be eligible on each occasion.

Agencies should submit a single invoice for HSCNI, regardless of whether an agency worker has worked in more than one host organisation.


Are there a maximum number of hours that can be claimed per week?

Yes, for staff who are on AFC rates no more than 37.5 hours per week can be claimed. For staff on M&D rates no more than 40 hours per week can be claimed.


If some agency workers have only worked for part of the qualifying period, will they get the maximum SRP?

No. To get the maximum SRP, an individual will need to have worked full time hours for the whole qualifying period.



What are the maximum number of hours that can be claimed overall?

The maximum number of hours that can be claimed per agency worker is 1,725 for an AFC worker and 1,840 for staff employed in a M&D role.


Will staff who have been paid enhanced rates be eligible?

No, only staff paid hourly rates commensurate with the post being filled will be eligible. This applies to posts on both the AFC and M&D scales. Any hours paid at a rate higher than the appropriate rates according to the HSC terms and conditions must not be included.


Are agency workers who have been on furlough eligible?

No, staff who have been on furlough will not be eligible for the payment. Only workers who have been on active placements will be eligible.


If an agency worker has taken annual leave during the period in which they are eligible, how are those hours dealt with?

Periods of annual leave do not constitute a break in service and should be included as hours worked.


How do I know how much an agency worker is due to be paid?

A calculator tool has been provided to supplying agencies. This allows for automatic calculation of the amount due based on the eligibility criteria and the hours worked in the qualifying period.


What verification checks will be carried out on the invoices and will this impact on payment? 

BSO Payments Service will be undertaking verification checks on invoices submitted, on behalf of the Department of Health.

Invoices received will be part paid (80% paid) to all agencies upon receipt, in line with normal payment timeframes. Verification checks will be carried out on a percentage of the claims on all invoices submitted. Once this is complete, and provided that the invoice is deemed accurate, the remainder of the payment will be made to the employer. 

Verification checks will be undertaken within 6 weeks of the closing date and, subject to these being satisfactory, the remainder of the payment will be made to the agency.

Post validation checks will also be carried out once all payments have been made. Any charges found to not be valid will be offset against future payment for services.


What enhancements are included?

Agency workers must have been paid at rates commensurate with the terms and conditions for the post they have filled. This may include allowances applicable to that post such as for evening or weekend working or public holidays, but may not otherwise exceed the maximum pay applicable to the role. These enhancements must also be in line with the appropriate rates as set out in the relevant terms and conditions for the post covered. If any worker an agency has supplied has been paid in excess of the rate for the post which might be applicable to a substantive employee, they are not eligible for that period.

When submitting claims for workers who receive these enhancements, the basic hourly rate should be recorded on the claim form only. The amount paid for enhancements for evening or weekend working or public holidays should be excluded.


What is the maximum gross value of the payment for an individual who qualifies for the full amount?

The maximum gross value is £836.77 for an agency worker of an Agency which is not subject to the UK Apprenticeship Levy, or £840.45 for an agency worker of an Agency which is subject to the Levy. This includes employee tax and National Insurance, and Employer’s National Insurance contributions.


What is the Apprenticeship Levy?

Apprenticeship Levy is a levy paid, based on 0.5% of an employer’s paybill.  Companies meeting certain criteria will be subject to this levy, e.g. those with an annual paybill of £3m or above.  More information on this can be found on the .gov.uk website


Is the payment to staff subject to pension deductions?

The payment to HSC directly employed staff was provided as a non-consolidated, non-pensionable payment. If agency workers can be paid in the same way this is encouraged.


Will Benefits, which the agency worker may be entitled to, be affected if they receive this payment?

Can agency workers be paid in instalments?

Can agency workers opt out of the payment?

An individual’s benefits may be impacted if these are means tested.



Any agreement to pay in instalments to agency workers should be managed by the agency employer.

Agency workers cannot chose to opt out of the recognition payment. This is in line with the approach taken across all parts of the Health Service.


What is the claims process?

Templates for claims have been provided for employers to complete. Separate tabs within the claim form should be completed for those staff who are on AFC T&Cs and those who are paid M&D rates, although both claim forms should be presented on a single PDF invoice.

Full guidance on how to complete the template has been provided. Employers are asked to complete and submit one claim form per HSC organisation for all workers who have been working in that organisation (split into separate claims for AFC and M&D).

Once complete, the claims and PDF invoice should be sent to srp@hscni.net.

To release the final 20% of invoice payments, agencies will need to supply the required supporting documentation for a random sample of employees on claim forms. This will include:

  1. a P60 report to validate the worker’s earnings for the 2020/21 Financial Year; and;
  2. evidence that the SRP amount claimed has been paid to the agency worker.

BSO Payments Service will be in contact for this information.


How are payments made to agency workers?

Agencies should calculate the amount of SRP owed to each eligible agency worker, using the template provided, and make payments to employees in line with the amount due.

Agencies should then submit one invoice to claim the funding required for having made the payments to their agency workers.

Claims should be submitted to srp@hscni.net no later than 5pm on 31/12/21. Claims submitted after this date will not be accepted.


Will I be reimbursed for administering the payment to staff?

Yes.  For each agency worker that an agency claim a payment for HSC will reimburse you an administration fee at a rate of £12.60 per individual. This is built into the template to calculate how much will be paid for administration costs and will be included in the total reimbursement amount on the Invoice Cover Sheet.


Who should I contact if I have queries about the scheme?

If you are unsure of any detail, please email the Pay and Employment Unit of the Department of Health at P&E@health-ni.gov.uk .

Please note that the Department may not enter into any direct correspondence, but will address common themes via the FAQ


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