More than 1,000 Northern Ireland health workers waiting for Living Wage increase
More than 1,000 health workers in Northern Ireland are not being paid the National Living Wage, the Department of Health has admitted.
A total of 1,316 permanent and temporary members of staff are still awaiting an increase to their pay, which was due to be implemented two months ago.
The National Living Wage was increased from £7.20 to £7.50 in April, for those aged 25 and over.
The increase means a £500 a year pay rise to full-time workers who do a 38-hour week.
However, in response to a query from the Press Association, the Department of Health (DOH) said a total of 1,316 members of staff within the region's five health trusts, the Ambulance Service and Blood Transfusion Service, have not had their pay uplifted in line with the National Living Wage hourly rate.
The department, which has come under criticism for failing to comply with the statutory requirement, has insisted staff will receive the pay increase, plus arrears, in July.
A spokesman for the department said: "The department has advised all Health and Social Care (HSC) bodies that Agenda for Change pay point 1 should be uplifted to £14,665, in line with the 2017 National Living Wage hourly rate, for staff aged 25 years and above with effect from 1 April 2017.
"It is anticipated that the increased rate, together with any arrears, will be paid in July."
Workers aged under 25 are not included.
The DOH said that in the absence of a health minister "the department cannot go further than compliance with the statutory requirement under National Living Wage legislation, and thus staff under 25 will continue to receive a base salary of £14,437".
The spokesman added: "It will be for a new health minister, when appointed, to consider the NHS Pay Review Body recommendation that pay point 1 is adjusted so that all workers receive the National Living Wage."
SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone said those affected include domestic support workers, housekeeping assistants, drivers and nursery assistants.
"This is clearly unacceptable. It is certainly less than the same staff would be earning in England, Scotland or Wales," said Mr McGlone.
He added: "We cannot expect a first class health service here if some of the front-line staff delivering it continue to be paid less than the Living Wage.
"Many of those employed in Band 1 are already facing significant financial hardship and continued extremely low wages will only increase the pressure they are under."
Mr McGlone said it was "morally wrong that any NHS employee should be paid less than the Living Wage".