Hazard pay for health workers hailed

SENATOR Sonny Angara welcomed the grant of hazard pay and a special risk allowance to public health workers who are serving the nation at this critical time, but emphasized that volunteers should also be included.

Administrative Order No. 26, which was issued last Monday, authorizes the grant of hazard pay to government personnel and enumerates the coverage and conditions.

Several hours later, Congress approved the Bayanihan to Heal as One bill that grants President Duterte additional powers to address the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and provides a package of financial aid to health workers and indigent families.

Angara urged the DOH to clarify if the volunteers will be covered by AO No. 26 and the Bayanihan to Heal as One bill, which is en route to the President for signing.

“As the term ‘hazard pay’ implies, what they are doing is extremely hazardous to their health. They are the individuals carrying the most risk of being exposed to the coronavirus, but in spite of the dangers, both to their lives and the lives of their families, they are responding to the call for help from the government,” Angara said.

“Just because they are volunteers doesn’t mean that they should be working for free. Under the current circumstances, there is no dispute that they should be compensated just like everybody else in the health sector,” he added.

The Department of Health and its hospitals have been asking for volunteers to help in various tasks including contact tracing.

Under Section 21 of Republic Act 7305 or the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers, a hazard allowance is granted to public health workers who are required to work in areas declared under a state of calamity or emergency, “for the duration thereof.”

Based on the implementing rules and regulations of the law, all public health workers are “eligible to receive hazard pay when the nature of their work exposes them to high-risk/low-risk hazards for at least 50 percent of their working hours as determined and approved by the Secretary of Health or his authorized representatives.”

The hazard pay will be equivalent to at least 25 percent of the monthly basic salary of those receiving salary grade 19 and below, and five percent for those with salary grades 20 and above. 

For public health workers exposed to high-risk hazards, they are entitled to receive a hazard pay not exceeding five percent higher than what is prescribed under the law.

Under AO No. 26, the COVID-19 hazard pay was pegged at P500, multiplied by the number of days physically reporting for work during the quarantine period.

Under the final version of the Bayanihan to Heal as One bill, a special risk allowance will be provided to public health workers, on top of the hazard pay.

The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will shoulder the medical expenses of all public and private health workers who are exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

In the event that they contract “severe” COVID-19 in the performance of their duties, the public and private health workers will also receive P100,000 each.

In case of death due to COVID-19, the family of the public or private health worker will receive a P1 million assistance. This will have a retroactive effect.