15 Apr 2020

DHBs apologise after casual workers not paid, hoping to pay next run

2:10 pm on 15 April 2020

District health boards have "apologised for the misunderstanding" which left thousands of casual workers unpaid and say they hope to pay most in the next pay run.

Euro Pay slip and calculator, close up for payroll or salary background

The DHBs today said they had finalised a way to pay the employees who sit outside the wage subsidy scheme. Photo: 123RF

Yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sent a clear message to DHBs that "casual" staff who had their hours slashed should continue to be paid.

Government departments appeared to have been ignoring State Services Commission (SSC) guidance about continuing to pay them.

In recent days RNZ has documented the stories of workers who were employed as casual staff by publicly-funded entities. Those included nurses and health care assistants.

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They are excluded from receiving the wage subsidy because they are considered to be government employees. While they are on casual contracts, many had been working the same number of weekly hours for years.

Following Ardern's intervention, the DHBs today said they had finalised a way to pay the employees who sit outside the wage subsidy scheme.

Michael Frampton, chief people officer at the Canterbury and West Coast District Health Boards and Joint HR Lead for the Covid-19 Workforce Group, said the DHBs "apologise for the misunderstanding which has led to the delay in payments to our casual workforce''.

"Lump-sum payments based on the average weekly earnings of the individual over the last four weeks or two pay periods before the alert level 4 lockdown at 11:59pm, Wednesday, 26 March will be made covering the period from the start of the level 4 lockdown.

"DHBs aim to process the payment in the next pay run where possible."

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Frampton said the payments recognised the "exceptional circumstances" affecting the health sector. They would continue until the level 4 lockdown ended.

He said DHBs had more than 100 collective agreements covering several hundred different work groups and there were complexities payroll staff would be working through to make the payments as soon as possible.

Nearly 8000 people were employed as casual workers across the country's 20 DHBs in a range of roles.

He said creating capacity in hospitals to deal with the potential impacts of Covid-19 had lowered occupancy and services had been deferred where possible.

This had reduced normal activity and affected the DHBs' workforce of more than 70,000 full time equivalent positions, some of whom were already working reduced hours.

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