That’s the revelation made by Labour Minister Vincent Wheatley who was speaking in the House of Assembly on April 15. He said the investigations show that much of these unscrupulous activities were done in 2019 — before COVID-19 began affecting the economy.
The minister said officials noticed the illegal trends in the labour market after examining documents that business owners must submit for work permit applications to be processed.
The documents include Certificates of Good Standing from the Social Security Board, Certificates of Earnings on behalf of the employees, and paperwork from the National Health Insurance and the Inland Revenue Department.
“After conducting thorough investigations, the department found that in 2019, which is even before COVID-19 affected our shores, many employees were making less than the mandatory minimum Gross Income of $12,040.00 per annum. In fact, many persons were not even remitting the 52 weeks contributions prescribed by the Social Security Board,” Minister Wheatley explained.
He continued: “It was further noted that in 2019 gross earnings for some permit holders were even listed to be as low as $960.00 for the entire year.”
Additionally, Minister Wheatley said officials have noticed a trend where some employees’ w `ork permits were found to be held by one employer but their statutory contributions were being paid in under another employer.
This means that these employees were not working with the companies identified on their work permits.
But instead of denying these work permits, Minister Wheatley said officials took a proactive stance and approved the renewals for these workers for six months as a means to ensure that the employers and the employees would meet the established protocols.
“This is what we call extending mercy; particularly during these times that we are faced with,” Minister Wheatley expressed.
The minister further said the government knows that some cash-strapped businesses choose to take the monies from their employees’ paychecks under the guise of “borrowing” the money to pay it back later.
“Others simply take the money with no plan to repay it,” Wheatley expressed.
“As such, we are reminding employers that once they withhold the requisite payments from their employees’ paychecks, along with their required out-of-pocket portions, the monies deducted must be reported and paid directly to these agencies on a monthly basis. Failure to ensure that these measures are taken will result in work permit applications not being processed efficiently,” the Minister further stated.
He added that some businesses involved in ‘pyramiding’ may also try to start a new business under a different name.
“Whatever the reason, not making these payments is one of the worst things an employer can do. Failure to pay constitutes stealing from their employees. Employers who engage in this practice are subject to penalties assessed by the relevant agencies. It is important to understand that these contributions or payments are part of government’s revenue.”
“Therefore, when payments are not made, the government loses money that is beneficial to the running of this territory, especially during these adverse economic times. The government does not take this lightly and will not relent in its efforts to collect the amounts owed,” Wheatley expressed.