COVID-19 update and press conference – March. 3, 2021. (PMO)

The Ministry of Labour and its Labour Department when interacting with employers remain very forceful in emphasising and making clear that fairness and reasonableness must obtain in the workplace.

This was underscored by Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan, as he outlined his Ministry’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, at last evening’s press conference at Ilaro Court.

He noted that employers had been told that if a person works, he or she needs to be paid, and if a person is sent on vacation, that person is to receive vacation pay, or what is referred to in the legislation as holiday pay.

“The Holiday with Pay Act speaks directly to what is supposed to happen, those are very clear,” Mr. Jordan stated, while also pointing out that sick leave, contained in the collective agreement, must be followed.

On the matter of severance, he said this was fully ventilated by the Prime Minister as there were situations, some still existing, where persons have been severed, but the employer has not made the payment.  

“The Prime Minister, the Head of the Government, has been very clear that Government will be going after those employers to make sure that even if the National Insurance Scheme makes the initial payment that those employers have to pay.

“For persons…who are paid by the hour or paid by the day, there is no requirement for that person to be paid if that person is not at work…. The person is paid when that person works. When that person is in quarantine, through no fault of their own … then we are in an area that is not governed by legislation. And, that is why we speak then to fairness and reasonableness and ask employers to, as far as is possible, do not allow the worker to suffer on their own. Help if you can….”

Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan

“So, there is no getting away from it.  Government … has made it very clear and we make it clear to employers as well, as we interact from a Labour Department perspective, [that] the severance liability falls with the employer.”

Mr. Jordan disclosed that Government’s position is not only shared with individual employers, but with various groups, such as the Barbados Chamber of Commerce, the Barbados Employers’ Confederation, and in one or two situations through speaking to the group at the level of the Social Partnership “to ensure that people follow through on what they’re supposed to do on their obligations under the law”.

Queried about employers’ behaviour towards employees who refuse to take the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the Labour Minister emphatically stated that it was illegal to insist that employees do so.  

He stressed that Government had indicated its rollout was optional, and while it strongly encouraged people to take the vaccine for their own good, vaccination was not compulsory.

Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan, stressed that there must be fairness and reasonableness between employer and employee in the COVID-19 work environment. (PMO)

“It is not a mandatory thing, even though we strongly encourage people,” Minister Jordan stated, adding that this was not legal in Barbados and no employer could insist that if “you don’t take the vaccine, you don’t have a job”.

Meanwhile, addressing the current work environment where complaints are rife about employees not being paid during the period of national pause, he explained there was no legal requirement for employees to be paid by employers.

“For persons…who are paid by the hour or paid by the day, there is no requirement for that person to be paid if that person is not at work…. The person is paid when that person works. When that person is in quarantine, through no fault of their own … then we are in an area that is not governed by legislation. And, that is why we speak then to fairness and reasonableness and ask employers to, as far as is possible, do not allow the worker to suffer on their own. Help if you can….

“So, we try to use moral suasion. We try to encourage, but I’m saying the bottom line is that we cannot force a person who is not obligated to pay, when no work is done. There is no legal authority to force that person to pay that employee. So, we have to be clear on that,” the Labour Minister stated.

joy-ann.gill@barbados.gov.bb

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