Unions representing healthcare workers appeared before the Labour Court today in an effort to secure recognition for their work during the Covid-19 crisis.

The unions say Ireland is out of step with other European countries where staff have already seen formal acknowledgement of their efforts during the pandemic.

They say such recognition could include a once-off payment or extra leave.

The unions say the matter has ended up in the Labour Court after the HSE claimed it had no mandate to engage on the issue.

Éamonn Donnelly, from the Fórsa union, said it has become deeply damaging to the morale of healthcare workers and said it was demoralising that the matter has ended up at the Labour Court despite broad public and political consensus on the matter.

In a statement, in advance of today's hearing, the HSE said it "recognises and appreciates the exceptional efforts of staff over the past 18 months and the resilience and flexibility shown during this very difficult time".

It said it would set out the management position in the Labour Court today and would not be appropriate to comment further in advance of the court hearing.

Health Divisional Organiser with SIPTU, Kevin Figgis, said over 30,000 healthcare workers have been infected by Covid-19 since the pandemic struck.

Earlier this year, the Taoiseach said the Government was committed to recognising the dedication of healthcare workers during the pandemic and was considering how best to do that.

Both sides in the impasse, the HSE and the unions, made their submission setting out their cases.

The Labour Court will now consider the matter and it could take a number of weeks before it issues its recommendation.

The hearing, which took place virtually, was in the name of the National Staff Panel of health unions, which represents members of the INMO, SIPTU, Fórsa, IMO, MLSA, UNITE, CONNECT, and the craft group of unions.