At a time when the Territory is coping with the fallout from the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of Natural Resources and Labour, Hon. Vincent Wheatley has advised that employers can legally utilize temporary layoffs.
The Minister outlined a number of measures that both employers and employees can take during this difficult period.
He said employers are encouraged to develop appropriate arrangements to ensure business continuity during this pandemic.
"It is their legal duty to stay in accordance with the proper health and safety measures at the workplace. Section 107 of the Labour Code 2010 speaks to employers having the option to temporarily lay off employees for a period of three (3) months, after that period an employer either has to return the employee to work or terminate the employee and give a severance package," the Minister stated.
However, the Department of Labour and Workforce Development is working on an extension of this period for particular industries affected by COVID19 on a case-by-case basis to secure jobs for the people of the Virgin Islands.
Keep Children At Home
The Minister advised that at this time, it is not advised that children be allowed into workplaces and work facilities, inclusive of company vehicles or compounds, as they too have the need to be protected. Company vehicles should be sanitised regularly at the responsibility of the company.
"Company vehicles should not carry any unauthorised persons. In order to take care of their children, all parents are encouraged to use their support systems, in the first instance, to allow them to report for duty," the Minister stated.
He said employers are encouraged to implement remote work policies where possible, to minimise the need for employees with children to physically attend work.
"Where it is not possible for all employees with children to work from home, employees and their employers are required to explore options of shift work, staggered hours of work, and/or rostering," Hon. Wheatley shared.
He suggested that where there are both parents in a family, one parent is encouraged to stay at home with the children, while the other one reports for duty.
"Where alternative work arrangements cannot be made, the employer should consider allowing the employee to stay at home with his or her children without being penalised by either disciplinary action or by nonpayment of salary," the Minister stated.
He said that where discussions between employees and employers have failed to resolve the issue, the employee can contact the Department of Labour and Workforce Development at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 284-468-4707
, or 284-468-4708