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System error leaves thousands of NHS staff owed earnings in NI

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Nurses in Northern Ireland have been underpaid by hundreds of pounds due to errors following the introduction of a new payroll system.

Overall around 7,000 staff employed by Health and Social Care trusts have been affected by mistakes that have emerged over the past five months.

The Royal College of Nursing, which is stepping in to help resolve cases, said there had been a surge in complaints this month with the end of the tax year.

Garrett Martin, deputy director of the RCN in Northern Ireland, said the union had so far been contacted by nearly 100 people after appealing for information about irregularities in pay packets.

“A lot of them are very distressed that their pay is not correct and at the impact of that”

Garrett Martin

Errors include incorrect tax and national insurance deductions and missing payments for travel and working unsocial hours.

“The majority of people affected have been under-paid,” said Mr Martin. “Members have reported getting anything from £800 to £900 less than they’re owed to a range of smaller amounts.

“A lot of them are very distressed that their pay is not correct and at the impact of that, which includes not having access to money in their account and incurring bank charges.”

Fellow union Unison has threatened to ballot for strike action over the issue.

The problems stem from teething problems and technical glitches linked to the introduction of the online HR, Payroll, Travel and Subsistence system.

The new system is part of the Northern Ireland government’s Business Services Transformation Programme, which also includes the centralisation of trusts’ payroll and HR personnel.

Mr Martin said some of problems had been caused by a bug in the system while others were because managers were unfamiliar with how to use it so had sent information to the wrong place.

“We’re concerned that we haven’t been given an exact timeframe for sorting these issues out and there is still a lot of confusion. It really is a mess,” said Mr Martin, who urged nurses to check their payslips very carefully.

The Business Services Organisation, which provides professional services to health and social care organisations in Northern Ireland, and individual trusts have assured the RCN that pay packets will be corrected by the end of this week.

But Mr Martin said that was still “too long” and feared issues could run on for days because of the bank holiday weekend.

The union said it would be writing to finance directors at the region’s five trusts to alert them to specific cases among their staff and ensure mistakes were speedily corrected.

Anne Speed, head of bargaining and representation at Unison in Northern Ireland, confirmed there had been a formal request for a ballot for strike action via the worst affected trust and that threat was still “on the table”.

Unison has raised the issue with the health minister and permanent secretary, as well as trust chief executives. It is due to hold a meeting today with trust chief executives and HR directors.

“What I hope comes out of that is demonstrable confidence-building that measures are already under way to ensure money goes back into people’s bank accounts and that our members reports back to us that money has been received,” she said.

“We want to be assured that if there are glitches, that rather than just repeating the process with those glitches, something is actually done about it.”

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