Q&A

 

Who will benefit from the early retirement/voluntary redundancy schemes?The schemes will be primarily aimed at staff in managerial/administrative and clerical grades in the HSE, voluntary hospitals and in voluntary health service agencies funded by the HSE. They will also be offered to support staff, such as catering, portering, cleaning and maintenance personnel. Approval for applications from these grades will depend on the number of management and administrative staff who apply and on the basis of the overall budget for the scheme not being breached.

How many people will leave?

This will very much depend on the categories of staff who opt for the packages. The Government has capped the budget for the schemes at €400 million and if a large number of senior managers choose to go, it will restrict the overall numbers.

Minister for Health Mary Harney said about 4,000 managerial and administrative staff could leave. The HSE said it was estimating that between 3,000 and 5,000 personnel could go.

How do the two schemes differ?

There is a voluntary early retirement scheme, which is open to employees over 50. This provides for immediate payment of pension entitlements on retirement with no actuarial reduction in respect of payment prior to minimum retirement age. Full lump-sum entitlement will also be paid and payments will not take into account the salary cuts introduced in the public service earlier this year.

The voluntary redundancy scheme will involve a severance payment of three weeks’ pay per year of service in addition to statutory entitlements, subject to an overall limit of two years’ pay. This could see some senior managers getting €300,000.

Is there a deadline for applying?

Applications will have to be submitted by November 19th. Staff who take a package must leave the health service by December 30th.

Will all applications be accepted?

Applications from managerial/ administrative staff will be prioritised and will be approved automatically, subject to the overall €400 million budget not being breached.

How will services be maintained?

Management plans to use the provisions of the Croke Park agreement to redeploy staff or introduce more flexible work practices. Much will depend on the type of staff who actually leave. It may be easier to maintain services in administrative areas than if a large number of porters or catering staff, for example, from one organisation took the packages.

Why are these packages on offer now?

Since the establishment of the HSE in 2005 there have been questions raised as to why there was no rationalisation of administrative and managerial staff given that 11 health boards were being amalgamated. On at least two occasions in recent years the HSE and the Department of Health drew up proposals for a voluntary redundancy scheme but these were rejected by the Department of Finance.