Northern Ireland

What impact will the end of the pay cap have on NI health workers?

nurses comforts patient Image copyright MartinPrescott/Getty

At last, the Department of Health (DoH) is in a position to make a formal pay offer to trade unions.

If agreed, workers could see the difference in their packets in the new year.

The offer is based on applying this year's English NHS pay settlement to current pay rates in Northern Ireland.

If it goes ahead, it would represent an estimated 3% increase, or slightly more than £60m, on the pay bill for staff on Agenda for Change terms and conditions.

The offer has been a long time coming, with unions threatening a consultative ballot on industrial action.

The package, which will be backdated to 1 April 2018, includes a minimum rate of pay to be set at £16,943 - an increase of up to 15.5% for some of the lowest paid employees.

This would equate to an hourly rate of £8.67 and a 3% increase to the top point of most bands.

'Unprecedented pressure'

There will also be an increase in starting salaries across all bands - for instance the entry point for newly qualified nurses would increase by 4% to £22,795.

The pay offer is possible as a result of the setting of a Northern Ireland public sector pay policy by the Department of Finance (DoF) however formal approval to the full package will be needed.

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DOH Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said: "Our health and social care system depends on the dedication and expertise of staff, particularly during these times of unprecedented pressure on services.

"Our health and social care system depends on the dedication and expertise of staff, particularly during these times of unprecedented pressure on services.

"I am delighted to be able to reach this point.

"The department, alongside our colleagues in the Department of Finance, has worked hard to make this possible, and I am very grateful to staff across the sector, and our trade union colleagues, for their forbearance while we were doing so."

Pay progression

The proposals would offer about 70% of staff a 3% or more uplift to current pay scales.

In addition, eligible staff will receive incremental pay progression - increases that move them towards the top of their pay bands.

The department is aiming for the increases to be in pay packets in the new year.

Mr Pengelly added: "In common with many other parts of the public sector, health and social care services are facing intense budgetary pressure.

"Nevertheless, a pay settlement that recognises and rewards our hard-working staff has been an important priority, reflecting our determination to build a sustainable workforce.

"The department remains committed to Agenda for Change as the UK-wide framework, and to working in partnership with trade unions on efforts to refresh Agenda for Change for future consideration."

The Department of Health is also in the process of considering doctors' and dentists' pay awards for 2018/19.

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