Through the policy, employees are required to secure good standing certificates from the National Health Insurance (NHI), Social Security and Inland Revenue departments.
“In hindsight, I’m studying the problem right now, the extent of the problem, the extent of the consequences of that policy and I think what we’re going to do is to roll it back a bit. Roll it back, give businesses a little chance to catch up and we’re going to bring back a new system, a more efficient system of dealing with this,” Wheatley said while appearing on the Honestly Speaking radio show yesterday.
The policy, which was previously relaxed after experiencing challenges, was never removed.
In the meantime, Minister Wheatley declined to offer any sort of timeline for when the rollback is expected to begin, saying that he was hopeful that it would be done sooner rather than later.
According to the Minister, one of the issues that exacerbated the problem was that many businesses are removing taxes from employees but not paying them into the relevant departments.
“I don’t think at that time we had really considered how bad the challenge was for businesses,” Wheatley said.
He further noted that some persons, in his estimation, “do very bad business, to put it bluntly”.
“You cannot run a business losing money and by taking out employees’ NHI and Social Security and not paying it in so your business could float. That is bad business in my opinion,” Minister Wheatley said.
“Your business is supposed to take care of all its overheads, [pay] the staff and still make a profit,” Wheatley explained. “That is good business. You don’t run a good business by not paying your employees’ NHI.”
He added: “That is criminal, and we’re going for these businesses. We try not to make the employees pay for business owners running bad businesses.”
Despite conceding that in hindsight, there was never a right time to have the policy, the Minister said he had to start somewhere in addressing some of the deficiencies within the system.
“What we did unintentionally was, we created a lot of illegal workers,” he explained.
He said while the issue of businesses having to present good standing certificates was not a new one, it was never previously required for persons who needed work permit renewals.
“Every business should be paying their NHI and Social Security all the time – but you can’t really police that so easily right now, until we get online,” the Minister said. “The easiest ones to police were the work permit holders.”
He said despite giving the various government departments one year’s notice of the planned implementation of the policy, they still weren’t quite ready.