NHS volunteers being denied £4,000 payment

NHS volunteers, who combated deadly Ebola virus, being denied £4,000 payment, says Unite

19 February 2016

About 200 NHS workers and academics, who risked their lives in combating the deadly Ebola virus disease in West Africa, are being denied a more than £4,000 bonus that was paid to colleagues working for Public Health England (PHE).

Unite, the country’s largest union with 100,000 members in the health service, has twice written to the International Development (DFID) secretary, Justine Greening asking her to rectify this ‘huge inequality’.

The union said that about 250 staff from Public Health England (PHE), including the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and Public Health Wales (PHW), were given this payment for their work in Sierra Leone. PHE was reimbursed by DFID.

But 200 volunteers from the NHS and academia have, so far, been denied the payment, even though they were working in the same life-threatening situations.

Unite said that those that went to West Africa did not go, risking their lives, for financial reward, but there should not be a two-tier bonus payment system.

Chair of the Unite healthcare sciences national committee Ian Evans has twice written to Ms Greening, MP for Putney, on this matter, but has yet to receive a reply.

Brighton-based Ian Evans is due to travel to Sierra Leone next month for four weeks to help set up a ‘legacy’ centre in preparation for another possible outbreak of Ebola, using his annual holiday entitlement. He also went to the country last August for five weeks.

In his letter, Ian Evans said: “There was recognition that colleagues who worked over the Christmas (of 2014) would receive a one off financial payment. This later became a payment for all PHE employees and, after a prolonged negotiation, also to PHW staff that were deployed to Sierra Leone.

“The payment was broken down as follows: A deployment allowance of £516.50, an operational working allowance of £3,615.50 and a tax free clothing allowance of £100.

“However, there was a caveat attached that these payments would be for PHE, DSTL and PHW colleagues only. This has resulted in a situation where the aforementioned scientists will receive over £4,000 more than volunteers from the NHS and academia who are of equal merit and who are qualified and trained to the same level. 

“As you can appreciate this is a huge inequality and needs to be addressed. We all acknowledge that colleagues who volunteered to be deployed did not do this because there was a financial incentive, but it does not excuse a two tier payment scheme.

“We believe that all volunteers, who were deemed suitable by PHE and trained by the Novel and Dangerous Pathogens team at the Porton Down facility, should be remunerated in the same manner.”

After more than 11,000 deaths over nearly two years, the West Africa Ebola outbreak was finally declared over on 14 January 2016. However, on 15 January, Sierra Leone officials confirmed a death from Ebola. The World Health Organisation has warned that more flare ups are expected.


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. 

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.