In order to attract health workers to engage in the government’s anti-COVID-19 efforts, temporary health workers, referred to as Human Resources for Health (HRH), are to be hired with the added benefit that the hazard duty pay will be exempt from income tax. The provision in the law, however, does not cover permanent hospital workers of the Department of Health (DOH).
By RITCHE T. SALGADO
MANILA — Unfair and divisive.
This is how the Alliance of Health Workers described the recent guidelines released by the Bureau of Internal Revenue regarding the provision on tax exemption under Republic Act 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2).
According to Robert Mendoza, national president of the Alliance of Health Workers, the policy would divide health workers both in public and private hospitals, as well as those in health facilities.
“We are disappointed with the provision of Bayanihan 2 that only temporary hired health workers are tax exempted on their COVID-19 Special Risk Allowance and Hazard Pay,” Mendoza said in a statement.
Mendoza was referring to Section 4w of Bayanihan 2 that seeks to augment the apparent lack of health workers engaged in the government’s efforts to curb the worsening health crisis in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In order to attract health workers to engage in the government’s anti-COVID-19 efforts, temporary health workers, referred to as Human Resources for Health (HRH), are to be hired with the added benefit that the hazard duty pay will be exempt from income tax.
The provision in the law, however, does not cover permanent hospital workers of the Department of Health (DOH).
“This is divisive and deceptive among our ranks because all health workers whether temporary or regular are all prone to the deadly virus in hospital and health facilities,” he added.
Mendoza said that both temporary and regular workers face the same risk, and considering that many regular workers in the health sector are receiving low salaries, they too could not cope with the high cost of living.
Many government health workers, despite being professionals, are classified under Salary Grade 1 (SG1) or as utility workers with a salary of around P11,551 (US$239)
“What we want is that all the benefits of health workers must be tax free,” Mendoza said, adding that the group is pushing for SG1 health workers to receive P16,000 ($330) as entry salary.
In this time of 2021 budget deliberation, AHW appeals to the government and the legislators to look on how to raise the salaries of health workers and to regularize all contractual health workers.”
“Using a tax exemption scheme is just a safety net but does not address the main problem of understaffing in public hospitals,” the group said.
AHW is calling on government to hire more permanent health workers, by filling in vacant plantilla positions and create more plantilla positions.
“We vow that we will not stop and get tired of calling for a living wage, to regularize our fellow contractual workers, and for fair and just benefits for all health workers,” Mendoza adds.
The DOH, under the emergency hiring program, seeks to hire 10,693 temporary health workers for a minimum of three months. As of September, the DOH has hired nearly 8,000 temporary health personnel.