HSE staff say annual leave hours will not be cut over weather warning after contentious memo

Fintan Walsh, Health Correspondent

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Fintan Walsh, Health Correspondent

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fintan.walsh@limerickleader.ie

HSE staff to get 'emergency leave' after contentious memo said annual leave hours could be cut

Memo was sent on Tuesday to HSE officials that annual leave hours could be cut if staff could not turn up to work for health and safety reasons

THE HSE has confirmed to the Limerick Leader that emergency leave and pay will be granted to all staff unable to attend work due to health and safety reasons during Status Red weather warning this week. 

This is after a HSE memo was sent to all management, including officers in Limerick, that indicated if staff are unable to attend work for health and safety reasons in the future, hours will be cut from their annual leave.

The memo was sent on Tuesday by Rosarii Mannion, the HSE’s national director of human resources, who addressed Met Eireann’s red alert warnings and the staff disruptions caused by Storm Ophelia in October. 

Met Eireann is forecasting that blizzard-like conditions will develop in heavy snow and strong easterly winds on Thursday evening. This will continue Thursday night and Friday morning giving significant snow drifts in many areas.

Referencing a memo that had been sent out to staff regarding Storm Ophelia, the director said that those who were unable to attend work, for health and safety reasons, were paid for the hours which they were scheduled to work. They did not have to take annual leave.

However, in a memo sent on February 27, it said that in the event where employees are unable to attend work for health and safety reasons “those affected can be granted annual leave from their allocation, for the hours they were scheduled to work”.

The memo states that if the employee has no annual leave remaining “they may use leave from the next leave cycle and have their allocation adjusted accordingly”.

But in a statement at 5.55pm this Wednesday, a spokesperson for the HSE told the Leader: “The health and safety of our staff and essential service provision during this current period of severe weather are our paramount concerns.  Where staff are unable to travel to work over the coming days when the Met Eireann red alert weather warning is in place, they will be granted emergency leave with pay and, in agreement with their Line Manager, can make up the time before December 2018.”

Meanwhile, the HSE Mid-West’s chief officer Bernard Gloster issued an urgent staff notice, notifying them of all restrictions throughout Storm Emma’s blizzard-like spell.

Mr Gloster is chairperson of the HSE Mid-West crisis management team, which is made up of local health services and works with all local authorities and garda divisions.

“The crisis management team is now moved from standby to active and will remain so for a minimum of 48 hours.”

In a message to staff, Mr Gloster said that, in some cases, “specialist transport” can be made for staff who may need assistance in getting to work.

All non-urgent HSE buildings and health centres will be closed this Thursday and Friday.

Staff who require access to urgent client and public work are advised to contact line managers and restrict access to “essential only”.

Staff involved in domiciliary care have been advised to make early assessments as to what service users are “essential to see tomorrow and they should be prioritised for the earliest part of the day possible with exceptions for those who critically need evening services also”.

“UL Hospitals Group will significantly restrict non urgent work and appropriate arrangements are being made to communicate in this regard with ULHG staff and patients,” the HSE chief officer said.

“Staff required to work in critical and 24 hour services are asked to make every effort to assist in attending, to discuss with line managers where not possible or where you may need assistance to get to work (in some cases this can be arranged with specialist transport) and any staff working between two shifts Thursday and Friday and for whom it is not safe to travel home in between please contact your line manager where we will support reasonable accommodation needs and requirements.

“If you are involved with a service, service user or other issue of concern to you during this interruption please contact your line manager at the earliest opportunity where finer details can be clarified and actions taken.”