UPDATES: COVID Management March 3, 2021

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Key points and live updates from the March 3, 2021 COVID management press conference featuring Minister of Labour Colin Jordan; Claudette Hope-Greenidge, Chief Labour Officer; Leslie Haynes, QC, Chairman of the National Insurance Scheme and Jennifer Hunte, acting Director of NIS.

Ambassador Elizabeth Thompson

  • At Harrison Point there are 2 young people between 17 and 40 years old in primary isolation;
  • 1 minor under 18 is in secondary isolation;
  • 3 minors are in tertiary isolation;
  • 108 minors are at facilities across the country.

Minister of Labour Colin Jordan

  • All labour laws are still in effect.
  • Workers must adhere to all laws.
  • The Ministry will not allow any group to take advantage of another group.
  • All partners engaged must make sure laws are followed – and there is reasonableness and fairness.

On the Minimum Wage …

  • The board got to work and came up with a report which will be made available to the public.
  • A minimum wage order was drafted.
  • Objections can be lodged with the Ministry, addressed to the Minimum Wage Board.
  • Before month end, they will go back to Cabinet and a decision will be made on a minimum wage and what it should be.
  • A decision will be on April 1, 2021.
  • The Employment Rights Act is being reviewed
  • It is hoped by the middle of March 2021 the amendment will be ready.
  • There are discussions for a Labour Code
  • The Ministry is also working on legislation that deals with discrimination, not just in the workplace.
  • The Ministry is meeting with a cruise line, pursuing employment opportunities.
  • The Ministry is exploring opportunities other than agricultural or hospitality for workers.
  • If you have been asked to quarantine at home or any other place, you can’t be at work.
  • Therefore, no employer can say to a worker ‘you have to come to work’.
  • Isolation means the person is ill.
  • It is not legal nor allowed to flout an instruction from the Chief Medical officer or someone acting on his behalf.

The Ministry dealt with complaints:

  • People being called out to work, pay issues and vacations.
  • Vacation is at the discretion of the employer according to law.
  • Employers can’t give less than 14 days’ notice.
  • When you can’t have the six week period as far as layoffs are concerned, you still have to enter into consultation immediately with Chief Labour Officer.
  • Workers’ representatives must be brought into picture and must be informed.
  • Let lay-offs be your last resort.
  • Severance liability falls with the employer.
  • People who work must be paid.
  • Vacation is to be paid.
  • The Minister says he had no reports of employers coercing workers to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Taking the vaccine is optional.
  • We strongly encourage people to take the vaccine but it is not compulsory.
  • Medical officials, the Attorney General and Prime Minister have been strong on this.

Chairman of the National Insurance Scheme, Leslie Haynes, QC

  • Barbadians understand now, the important role played by the NIS
  • The NIS paid over $155 million in claims
  • There were approx. 50 000 unemployment claims
  • 38 000 individual unemployment claims
  • 4000 of these did not qualify
  • There were then 34 000 people who benefited from the unemployment fund
  • The NIS had to ensure severance payments were made with alacrity
  • A Board paper was sent to the Ministry of Finance within the last week.
  • Hopefully after review, the request to become a statutory body will be approved.
  • That was triggered by the pandemic.
  • This should be an essential step in the growth of national insurance and social security of Barbados.
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