In recognition of the efforts of the general public, volunteers and all workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and in remembrance of people who lost their lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on Wednesday 19 January, the Government announced a once-off public holiday will take place on Friday 18 March 2022.
The Government also announced COVID-19 recognition payment for frontline public sector healthcare workers, to recognise their unique role during the pandemic. The payment of €1,000 will not be subject to income tax, USC, or PRSI. The measure will be ring fenced to staff ordinarily onsite in COVID-19 exposed healthcare environments within the period between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2021.
Those public sector frontline healthcare workers eligible for the payment will be directly employed public health sector staff working in clinical settings. A pro-rata arrangement will apply for eligible part time staff / equivalents and supernumerary students who were required to perform training in clinical sites.
The Department of Health will also introduce a measure for making a similar payment to staff in private sector nursing homes and hospices that were affected by Covid-19.
I would like to assure the Deputy that work is underway to ensure fairness in the application of this measure as the Government intended.
The cost of providing a recognition payment of €1,000 to all eligible public servants working in the health and ambulance services depends on the number of staff who are eligible for the payment. If there were 100,000 WTE deemed eligible, the estimated cost would be approximately €100 million. This figure of 100,000 WTE represents approximately 75% of the HSE/Section 38 workforce and would be the minimum expected to be eligible for this recognition payment.
Similarly, the cost of providing an equivalent recognition payment to relevant staff in private sector nursing homes and hospices affected by Covid-19 depends on the number of staff deemed eligible for the payment. The estimated cost set out above does not include the cost in respect of nursing homes and Defence Forces staff. This measure will exclude all private sector health workers except those working in nursing homes and hospices affected by Covid-19. This measure, including costings, will be progressed by the Department of Health.
The Department and the HSE are currently engaging in finalising arrangements to give effect to the Government announcement concerning the Recognition Payment. Full particulars, eligibility and terms and conditions that apply to this payment shall be made available shortly. It is important that this measure is applied fairly as intended and I welcome the work that is ongoing to ensure this is so.
I am also mindful of other workers who played their own part during this difficult period in sustaining other services other than healthcare. It is tough to draw a line on this matter, but the Government based its decision on the risks which frontline healthcare workers faced.