HSE staff offered paid three-year career break

Health workers to be offered €12,000 a year to leave for three years in bid to cut costs

Wed, May 8, 2013, 14:21

HSE staff are being offered up to €36,000 in “incentivised payments” to take a three-year career break as part of a dramatic effort to cut the organisation’s operating costs.

No upper limit on the number who may apply is being imposed, and managers are being urged to facilitate applications “to the maximum extent possible”, according to a circular sent to staff yesterday.

Under the terms of the incentivised career break scheme, staff will be paid an incentive payment of one-third of gross pay up to a maximum of €12,000 a year for each year they are absent from work.

Applications have to be submitted by the end of this month and the career breaks will start on July 1st.
Scheme approved
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform approved the scheme last week amidst growing concern over the stalling of Croke Park II on the finances of the Health Service Executive.

In January, the organisation committed in its 2013 service plan to making €150 million in savings from public service pay agreements but the failure to agree a new deal five months into the new year has thrown this target in doubt.

Separately, a career break scheme planned for the wider public service has failed to materialise this year. As a result, the Department of Health has been instructed to proceed with its own scheme as quickly as possible.

“This is a sign that, for the health service at least, things cannot wait for Croke Park II to be resolved,” a HSE spokeswoman said.

Under the service plan, the HSE said it planned to reduce staffing levels in the 100,000- strong health service by almost 4,000 this year. This target cannot be achieved by natural wastage alone.

The resulting savings will be used to fund new investment.

Under the career break scheme, applications may be refused “in exceptional circumstances” where required by the needs of the health service, for example where service provision is undermined. Refusals may also be issued if there is a conflict of interest between the activity employees propose to engage in during a break and their position in the HSE.

Managers will be allowed to prioritise between applications, depending on the level of savings involved and the specialist skills of those applying.

The period of a career break will not count for service or pension purposes, although applicants will have the option of contributing to their pension.
45km radius
On returning from a break, an employee will be assigned to the next appropriate vacancy to be filled within a 45km radius, with a guarantee of re-employment at the relevant grade within a year.

The HSE overspent its budget by €360 million in 2012 and was voted a supplementary estimate for this amount by the Dáil at the end of the year.