Nearly a thousand staff in the Western Trust have been affected by a controversial pay and pension review that left hundreds of Derry health workers out of pocket.
The Department for Health has confirmed 829 WHSCT staff were hit by extra pension contributions and took home £122 less, on average, in their August pay packets.
This was out of a total of close to 1,000 staff affected, the remainder of whom were put on lower pension contribution bands and thus received back-dated pay to April.
“Nine hundred and seventy two staff in the WHSCT were impacted by the review, which was completed for approx. 60,000 HSC staff in August 2018,” the department confirmed in a statement.
“Eight hundred and twenty nine staff saw an increase in their pension contributions, and the remaining 143 received a refund - backdated to April 1, 2018. The average impact per employee is £122.00
“The deductions were as a result of the mandatory pension band review process, which is designed to ensure that employees are paying the right contribution to the pension scheme, based on their pensionable pay,” the statement said.
Under the shake-up that was carried out by the health service’s Business Services Organisation (BSO) between April and July, the affected workers’ pension contributions were adjusted in line with their pay grades.
Because WHSCT workers pay escalating contributions to their pay pots as they move up the salary grades this resulted in substantial changes for some. For example, workers earning between £15,432 and £21,477.99 contribute 5.6 per cent while those earning between £21,478 and £26,823.99 contribute 7.1 per cent - a 1.5 per cent increase.
The rise in contributions for those in the next band - £26,824 to £47,845.99 - is higher still with a contribition rate of 9.3 per cent. Both NIPSA and the SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H. Durkan have criticised the manner in which the BSO conducted the review, saying workers were not given enough notice.
But the department said: “All staff who were affected by the review were written to. At that time it was not possible to detail each individual over/under contribution, as this does not become apparent until payroll processing is complete. The letter issued to staff provided contact details in the event of any queries arising.
“It has been agreed with trade unions and Trust employers that where an employee requests a reimbursement of the additional contributions, this will be facilitated by BSO Payroll, and a 3 month repayment schedule put in place.
“Any individual who can demonstrate out of pocket expenses, or emergency circumstances has been advised to contact their HSC employer in the first instance, who will consider their particular case.
“BSO has conveyed its apologies for any distress caused as a result of this exercise, and will continue to work with Trade Unions and HSC employer organisations, to improve the communications in regard to all issues impacting on employee pay.”