NEWS | Health workers calls for inclusive tax exemption
By Yvette Lalaine Baroro
The Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) sees the release of recent guidelines regarding the provision on tax exemption under Republic Act 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) as an unfair stunt and further depreciates the efforts of health workers.
In section 4(w) of Bayanihan 2, temporary health workers, referred to as Human Resources for Health (HRH), were given benefits in return for their engagement in the government’s actions to mitigate the worsening health crisis caused by the pandemic. This included the exemption of hazard pay from income tax.
However, the said provision does not include the permanent hospital personnel of the Department of Health (DOH).
According to Robert Mendoza, national president of AHW, the policy would divide health workers in both hospitals and 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. “This is divisive and deceptive among our ranks because all health workers whether temporary or regular are all prone to the deadly virus in hospitals and health facilities.”
Mendoza emphasized that both temporary and regular workers were exposed to the same risk, and yet many regular health workers receive low salaries.
“Using a tax exemption scheme is just a safety net but does not address the main problem of understaffing in public hospitals,” Mendoza lamented.
Undervalued Health Workers
Even before the pandemic, healthcare professionals in the country were already calling for salary raise. Despite being professionals, many government health personnel are classified under Salary Grade 1 (SG1).
“What we want is that all the benefits of health workers must be tax free,” Mendoza said, stating that the group is urging for SG1 health workers to receive P16,000 as starting salary.
According to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), an entry-level registered nurse received an average salary of P8,000 to P13,500 per month. Meanwhile, the rate of hired registered nurses in government and private hospitals ranges around P10,000 and P13,000 respectively.
AHW urged the government and the legislators to take action on how to raise the salaries of health workers and to regularize all contractual health workers.
“If the legislators and the Duterte government are truly sincere about the welfare of the contractual health workers under the Human Resource for Health (HRH) the best thing they should do is to regularize them,” Mendoza concluded.
During the 2021 budget deliberation, the DOH proposed budget for 2021 is P203.1 billion, two times higher than last year which was P100.5 billion.