Unpaid HES staff ‘turning to food banks’ after failing to claim redundancy

Former staff of a Lanarkshire-based clinical waste firm say they are turning to food banks because they are unable to claim lost pay.

Healthcare Environmental Services (HES) in Shotts served all its staff with redundancy notices a week ago.

Unable to pay them, the firm told workers to claim statutory redundancy from the Redundancy Payment Service.

But staff have been unable to start claims without a reference number from an insolvency practitioner.

Former employees have told the BBC Scotland news website the company is unable to appoint an insolvency agent because of a backlog of waste at its sites.

One former staff member said that whoever took responsibility for the failed company would have to deal with the build-up of waste and so far, no-one had agreed to do that.

On Saturday, HES confirmed it had ceased operations.

In its first public statement, Healthcare Environmental Services (HES) said all 400 staff were now redundant.

About 150 staff at its North Lanarkshire headquarters were given redundancy letters on Thursday.

HES lost its contracts with NHS Scotland and 17 NHS trusts in England after it was found to be stockpiling clinical waste.

It is understood HES workers did not receive wages that were due on Friday 28 December. They had not been paid since the start of December.

In a text message to staff on Christmas Eve it claimed the bank would not release the funds.

The firm said it could not pay out redundancy money – and that payments would have to be claimed through the Redundancy Payment Service, a UK-wide scheme for employees of insolvent companies.

One driver, who wanted to remain anonymous, told BBC Scotland: "We need some help here. We are stuck. It's too big a job for the insolvency companies.

"There are more than 400 people UK-wide who can't access redundancy.

"We need a case reference number to make a claim and that can only come from an insolvency company."

He also said that staff who were let go were all struggling to make ends meet.

He said: " People are skint, they are going to food banks, living on the breadline and really struggling.

"They are stressed and being treated for anxiety and I know families who are not using electricity and sleeping in one room to keep heating bills down.

"We need someone to help us."

A group of former drivers are meeting with councillors in Shotts on Thursday to discuss the situation and what to do next.

They are calling on local SNP MSP Alex Neil to step in and help the workers get paid and find new jobs.

Staff are clinging to the hope that companies taking over the NHS contracts for waste disposal may consider employing staff from HES.

In Scotland, the NHS is now dealing with clinical waste under contingency plans until a new contract starts in April.

In England Mitie has taken over some health service contracts previously held by HES.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) said it was monitoring conditions at Shotts and at the firm's other Scottish site in Dundee.

Sepa issued enforcement notices on 12 September and 11 December, and on Friday said it was investigating whether criminal offences had been committed.

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