All Agenda for Change staff working in health and social care are to receive a 3% pay increase, Robin Swann has confirmed.
The pay rise will be backdated to April 1 2021, having been recommended by the NHS Pay Review Body.
This award represents an estimated increase of approximately £88.24 million on the Agenda for Change pay bill.
Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I want to once again place on record my gratitude and admiration to all who work in our health and social care system.
“So many staff have worked extremely long hours under enormous pressure during the pandemic.
“Staff are the backbone of our health and social care services and I want to recognise their continued professionalism in delivering high-quality effective care to people across Northern Ireland.”
Mr Swann said the increase would ensure that “pay parity with England is maintained”.
He said he wanted to see the pay increase and the payment of associated backpay “progressed as quickly as possible”.
Mr Swann also acknowledged calls from Unions for enhancements to the pay award for 2021 and 2022.
The department and trade unions have been in discussions in recent weeks about possible enhancements to the pay award for 2021/22.
He said: “Any additional non-consolidated award will need to be approved by the Department of Finance.
“Like all my Executive colleagues, I have to operate within budgetary constraints set by the Treasury.
“While there are many conflicting demands on health spending, I am clear that properly rewarding staff is an important priority.”
The 3% pay increase will be made in addition to the HSC special recognition payment which was announced early in the year.
This one-off payment of up to £735 acknowledged the efforts made by staff across the HSC workforce during the pandemic.
In a letter, seen by the PA news agency, sent by Mr Swann to the unions Unite, Unison, the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), he said he appreciated their members “may be disappointed with this offer”.
He added: “But this is as far as I am able to go at this time, given the pressures on the health budget at present.”
Mr Swann has also committed to holding a joint summit with trade unions and employer to examine issues of payment and retention early in the new year.
In his letter to the unions, he wrote: “Looking ahead, and negotiating the challenges facing the AfC workforce, I am content to commit to holding a high-level joint summit with the trade unions and employers to look at key issues of pay and retention early in the new year.
“This would be used to identify our collective priorities for the HSC in Northern Ireland ahead of detailed engagement on a 2022/23 pay award.”