HSE staff going to work overseas

While there are a number of considerations when staff request leave to go to work overseas, there are HR mechanisms in place to facilitate staff who wish to work in a development programme or in a humanitarian emergency. See HSE Terms and Conditions of employment. 

These include:

  1. Special Leave with Nominal Pay
  2. Special Leave with Pay to Volunteer in Exceptional Humanitarian Crisis
  3. Leave for Deployment with Rapid Response Corps
  4. Career Break

Since the Haiti earthquake in 2010, the HSE has been in discussion with Irish Aid about increasing the participation of health personnel in the Rapid Response Corps. This will facilitate the availability of health service personnel to be deployed in future humanitarian emergencies

In response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014, a number of HSE personnel volunteered to work in west Africa, as part of the WHO response and with international NGOs such as MSF. The HSE has encouraged staff to only work with NGOs with the most comprehensive arrangements in place and to follow guidance prepared by the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) for humanitarian workers.

In January 2015, as part of the HSE response to the Ebola crisis, the Director General approved that the HSE will additionally support up to three HSE staff, at any one time, to be deployed with WHO through its Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN). This would be primarily Public Health and/or Microbiological staff and deployment is co-ordinated by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), as designated focal point for WHO GOARN.

The HSE further agreed to amend existing Special Leave policy as an exceptional measure so that these staff can be allowed to take Special Leave on full pay for up to a maximum of three months. This is to facilitate the deployment of personnel with particular skills and experience.

In order that such an arrangement can be in place for future global humanitarian emergencies, the National HR has developed a new policy for selected staff to take special leave on full pay to facilitate prompt deployment for humanitarian action. This was approved by the Interim National Director for Human Resources in August 2015 (HSE HR Circular 020/2015)

The aims of this are:

  • To facilitate volunteering by health professionals with particular skills and expertise required in the humanitarian response
  • To support official Government responses, particularly through multi-lateral organisations, including the World Health Organisation
  • To support selected Irish based and international NGOs which are playing an essential role in the humanitarian response and which adhere to national and international standards of practice in development and volunteering

During 2014 dialogue took place with a number of volunteering agencies to explore ways of facilitating volunteering:

  • Comhlámh – the HSE has been working with Comhlámh to promote its Volunteer Charter and its Code of Practice for Sending Agencies. The aim is to seek organisational endorsement of these standards and encourage HSE staff who wish to volunteer to do so with agencies that are signatories of the Code of Practice.
  • VSO Ireland – the HSE has been exploring the possibility of staff volunteering in Ethiopia, under a Government sponsored volunteering initiative. 
  • Several other NGOs approached the HSE about recruiting volunteers
  • Mentoring and training – opportunities were explored for staff to contribute their skills while based in Ireland. 

Staff are strongly encouraged to follow principles of best practice in volunteering, as set out in Comhlámh’s Volunteer Charter.  http://www.comhlamh.org/volunteer-charter-2/