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by Niall Christie
TRADE unionists representing health workers slammed NHS Scotland today after it emerged that staff have been asked to consider “opting out” of their £500 Covid-19 “bonus” payment.
The £500 payment was announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at SNP Conference in November, where she said the bonus would have “no strings attached.”
But there is rising concern over the potential impact of the £500 payment on benefits such as universal credit.
NHS Scotland has written to all workers stating that “where individuals have concerns about the effect of the payment, they will have the opportunity to opt out of receiving it in their February salary by informing their employer.”
Unite Scotland was left furious by the note, which offered individuals “more time to consult with contacts such as their work coach” in order to ascertain any impact to then have the opportunity to “opt back in” in March.
Ministers have said staff were not being asked to permanently opt out of the bonus, but Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said it was an “absolute scandal” that NHS staff were being offered an option to defer because of the potential impact on benefits.
He said: “Yet again the people who are sadly the lowest-paid workers relying on additional support are being penalised and given unnecessary worry.
“There’s rising anger over the payment and this latest development highlights the whole process must be overhauled to ensure all receive the bonus without detriment to any additional benefits.
“The whole policy, albeit started with good intentions, has descended into administrative chaos.”
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