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Eurofound's COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the crisis, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for case HU-2020-27/1213 Updated – measures in Hungary

Healthcare workers’ reward for COVID-19 work

Az egészségügyi és egészségügyben dolgozók bruttó 500.000 forintos egyszeri rendkívüli juttatása

Country Hungary , applies nationwide
Time period Temporary, 01 July 2020 – 31 July 2020
Type Legislations or other statutory regulations
Category Ensuring business continuity and support for essential services
– Remuneration and rewards for workers in essential services
Author Nóra Krokovay (KOPINT-Tárki) and Eurofound
Case created 01 October 2020 (updated 18 November 2021)

Background information

Under the government decree 275/2020. (VI. 12.) health-care workers received a one-off bonus of HUF 500,000 (€1,300) in the summer rewarding them for their extra effort demonstrated in the handling of the COVID-19 epidemic during the months of March to June. The funding for the measure came out of Hungary's newly set-up COVID Defense Fund, see [related 710 in the COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch database] (https://static.eurofound.europa.eu/covid19db/cases/HU-2020-18_710)

Content of measure

The one-off bonus of HUF 500,000, pre-tax, which compares to the average monthly gross salary of HUF 367,800 or €1,009 registered in Hungary in 2019. Employers must apply to receive the bonus on behalf of their employees to the National Health Insurance Fund (NEAK) starting June 10, 2020. Eligibility is specified in a 5-page information leaflet issued by NEAK. The employers whose employees are eligible are: Hospitals, one-day clinics, laboratory service providers, dialysis centres, patient transport services, National Ambulance and Blood Transport Services.

In addition, a wide-range of health-care professions were specified as recipients of the award: from GPs and pediatricians and dentists, to school nurses and hospice workers and medical students involved in COVID-19 defense activities. The bonus is also given to part-time workers, and employees on leave, sick- or maternity leave. The recipient must have had a contractual relationship with the employer on 1 April 2020. Applications were to be received by 19 June 2020.

Updates

The following updates to this measure have been made after it came into effect.

05 March 2021

In March 2021 the health-care union FESZ forged cooperation with the Chamber Of Hungarian Health Care Professionals MESZK in order to lobby for a “COVID-19 supplement” for health-care workers other than doctors. Such bonus pay was given at hospitals to reward COVID-19 efforts, but completely at the hospital management's discretion as to its amount, who would receive it, if at all. FESZ proposes that the supplement should be enacted in law to unify the practice and nurses should get HUF 1,500 (€4.2) per hour or HUF 250,000 (€694) a month to supplement their wages in the pandemic crisis. MESZK agreed to cooperate and suggested to work together with the union in the framework of the tripartite National Economic and Social Council NGTT, but this is a body giving very weak negotiating powers. FESZ also proposed that health-care professionals should be allowed to stay in hotels free of charge to provide some rest in the stressful work period of the pandemic. This measure also relates to FESZ's parallel efforts to fight for better conditions for non-doctor health professionals under new public medical service contracts they had to sign by 1 March 2021 to stay employed in the public health- care sector. See related case 1243 in the COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch database As this was a one-off measure it is no longer in effect.

Use of measure

As HUF 101 billion (€277 million) was earmarked for the one-off bonuses which is sufficient for to reward 170,000 workers, including administrative assistants, business and technical support staff. The health-care trade union FESZ reported that only about 120,000 workers are expected to receive the bonus and that many would not get it despite promises that all workers in the sector were eligible.

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Particular professions
Sector specific set of companies
Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
Social insurance
National funds

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Informed Informed
Form Not applicable Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • Social partners jointly
  • Main level of involvement: Sectoral or branch level

Involvement

Since there was broad agreement even outside the sector, nationally, that health-care workers must be rewarded for their extra efforts, there was not much involvement necessary from social players in the design and implementation of this measure. It was met with approval on all sides, with the caveat that it should not weaken the prolonged fight for better wages in the health-care sector.

Views and reactions

While welcoming the measure, the health-care union FESZ warned in a press report that the one-off bonus does not solve the huge health-care pay crisis. In another related report, the public workers' union and the social workers' union (MKKSZ and SZÁDSZ) said they were "outraged" that social workers were not getting rewarded, when they were just as high risk to COVID-19 as health-care peers. 'This is another sign of discrimination against social services providers,' they said. Social worker unions held a demonstration on 2 July 2020 (National Health Day) where they asked supporters to 'skip lunch' to show that a whole profession is missing out on the reward which they deserve.

The chairman of the Chamber of Pharmacists also said in a report that he resented that their profession did not get the reward.

Sectors and occupations

    • Economic area Sector (NACE level 2)
      Q - Human Health And Social Work Activities Q86 Human health activities
    • Occupation (ISCO level 2)
      Health associate professionals
      Health professionals

Sources

  • 12 June 2020: Govt decree 275/2020
  • 14 June 2020: Exclusion from covid reward unacceptable (merce.hu)
  • 16 June 2020: NEAK: Information on health-care workers' bonus (www.neak.gov.hu)
  • 24 June 2020: Social workers on 'hunger strike' for missed reward (nepszava.hu)

Citation

Eurofound (2020), Healthcare workers’ reward for COVID-19 work, case HU-2020-27/1213 (measures in Hungary), COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, http://eurofound.link/covid19eupolicywatch

Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process. All information is preliminary and subject to change.