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Unions seek ‘equalisation’ of HSE serious assaults scheme

By Catherine Reilly - 05th Nov 2023

physical assault

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ staff panel of health unions has submitted a claim to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to ensure that all staff have access to the same leave entitlements under the HSE serious physical assault scheme, this newspaper has learned.

Mr Kevin Figgis, Divisional Organiser, Siptu Health, emphasised that the same terms should apply to employees assaulted at work, regardless of their grade.

The serious physical assault scheme is accessible to employees who are absent from work after being assaulted by a patient/client in the course of their duties. It provides for full pay, including allowances and premium earnings, for a period of up to six months.

However, only nurses and midwives may be eligible for two further extensions of three months each, with the second extension only covering basic pay.

As of 29 August, the maximum limit for payment to “support staff grades” under the scheme was increased from three to six months following sanction from the Department of Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform. This ended an inequity between the conditions that applied to ‘officer grades’ and ‘general support staff’ such as healthcare assistants. This issue had been prominently raised by Siptu over the past year.

Mr Figgis said while the extension to six months for support staff was to be welcomed, it “doesn’t go far enough”. Therefore, he said, the staff panel had referred an outstanding claim for “equalisation” of the scheme to the WRC.

According to HSE figures, there were 1,446 reported incidents of assault (physical, verbal, sexual) on staff in HSE facilities in quarter two of this year, compared with 1,458 in quarter one.

In 2022, there were 163 reported incidents of “direct physical assault” of staff by a service-user where the “severity rating” was either “major/extreme” or “moderate”, states HSE data.

However, healthcare unions have warned of an under-reporting of such incidents for a number of reasons, including lack of confidence in existing procedures, service pressures, and a cultural reluctance to report.

This newspaper awaited latest data on the number of staff accessing the serious physical assault scheme and the HSE’s response to the claim submitted to the WRC.

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