A health crisis that has quickly become a financial crisis globally and the coronavirus pandemic is causing a lot of uncertainty for people in terms of how to manage their employment worries.
In Trinidad and Tobago Minister of Labour Jennifer Baptiste-Primus announced the proposal of pandemic leave provisions, outlining guidelines for employers and employees.
Baptiste-Primus said that this is a new category of leave being proposed to deal with the absence of duty. Additionally she added that the ministry is responding to concerns raised by employees following the announcement by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley that all schools, universities and learning institutions would be closed for one week in the first instance. Trinidad and Tobago has two confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus.
According to Chief Personnel Officer Commander Darryl Dindial working parents who have no support system to care for their children would be able to access pandemic leave during the closure of schools.
Dindial said people who have fallen ill and exhausted their sick leave will proceed on extended sick leave, followed by pandemic leave.
Pandemic leave will also apply to those workers who are not eligible for sick leave. This leave, he said, would not impact workers’ entitlement, including pension, gratuity and other increments.
At the public media conference, Baptiste-Primus said: “It is recognised that there are parents who are also workers who tomorrow [Monday] will be faced with the question of what to do with respect to their children who will be out of school and there are employers who will be faced with requests by employees to bring their children to work or stay at home.”
The minister of labour listed guidelines for employers and employees which will remain in effect during the closure of schools.
• Children are not to be at workplaces, on the compound and in company vehicles
• All parents are encouraged to use support systems in first instance to allow them to report to work. This includes relatives and babysitters to take care of their children.
• Employers are encouraged to implement remote work policies to minimise the need for employees with children to attend work.
• Where both parents in a family are employed, one parent is encouraged to stay at home while the other report for duty
• Where alternative work arrangements cannot be made, employee stay at home without being penalised or not be paid in such an instance.
• Employee are advised to report for duty if you are not genuinely sick
• For the duration of the COVID-19, employers are to implement pandemic leave provisions within their organisation in a compassionate manner which ensures business continuity while securing the national interest. Those eligible for pandemic leave include public officers, fixed term contract employees, short term contract employees, OJT, office holders in salary review commissioner and employers are encouraged to develop appropriate arrangements
• Mechanisms should be put in place for Public officers with no more sick leave to access extension of sick leave with full pay.