Northern Ireland pay rise leaves some nurses worse off

Increased pension contributions mean backdated award leads to lower take-home pay for some

Increased pension contributions mean backdated award leads to lower take-home pay for some

Picture: John Behets

Nurses in Northern Ireland say they feel ‘deflated, demoralised and lost’ after a pay rise left hundreds of healthcare staff financially worse off.

The Department of Health in Northern Ireland implemented a backdated pay award for health and social care employees in February that has meant a rise of about 1.5% for most nurses, except those at the very top or bottom of their bands.

But the rise, for 2018-19, has also led to a reported 787 staff taking home less money than they were previously receiving because it pushed them into a higher pension bracket.

‘This one-year deal was not agreed by the RCN’

The Department of Health said there had been ‘significant communication’ with staff and trade unions on the issue.

RCN Northern Ireland acting deputy director Rita Devlin said the college was in contact with several members who had been adversely affected.

Ms Devlin said: ‘This one-year deal was not agreed by the RCN. As a result of unsocial hours payments, some of our hard-working members have been pushed into a higher level of pension contributions, which has resulted in some nurses having to pay money back instead of looking forward to a pay rise.

‘We have raised our concerns consistently over this issue and are dismayed that this situation has arisen due to the pay award not being put into place when it should have been, in April of last year.’

‘It feels very unfair’

One nurse who now has to pay 9.3% of their monthly wage towards their pension told the RCN: ‘I feel sick, deflated, demoralised and lost. I can’t bear how undervalued I feel, knowing how hard nurses work and how utterly important our role is. Once again we are bottom of the pile.’

Another nurse, whose monthly take-home pay is now £270 less than it was three years ago, told the college: ‘It feels very unfair that a long-overdue pay rise should actually leave me out of pocket. It feels like staff are less valued than ever.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘Mitigation arrangements have been made available for any staff member whose backdated pay increase does not cover backdated pension contribution arrears.

‘Any such deficit can be paid through wage deductions over a period of up to 12 months.’

Pay awards in Northern Ireland have lagged behind the rest of the UK because the Stormont government has been suspended for more than two years due to a political impasse.

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