WORKERS who are not provided with sick leave, and workers who may have used up their sick leave before the outbreak of coronavirus (covid19), will be able to access “pandemic leave,” – a special type of leave devised by the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development.
Speaking at a press conference at the ministry’s headquarters in Tower C, at the International Waterfront Centre, yesterday, Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus said the guidelines listed in a draft policy are intended to mitigate the logistical inconveniences coming out of the Prime Minister’s announcement to have schools and universities closed for one week.
She said the special-leave arrangements would apply to public officers, whether permanent, temporary, monthly-paid or daily-rated, fixed-term contract employees, short-term contract employees, on-the-job trainees and officers who fall under the purview of the Salaries Review Commission.
Going through the guidelines, she advised that children should not be allowed at workplaces, facilities and in company vehicles.
She also encouraged workers who are not sick, not to miss out on work. In homes with two parents, it was suggested that one parent stay at home with the children while the other goes to work.
For single-parent families, it was advised that the parent make use of his or her support system, for example a grandparent uncle, aunt, or neighbour, to look after the child while they are at work.
Employers were encouraged to allow workers to work from home, where applicable, and in the event that cannot be done, explore options of shift work, staggered hours of work and rostering.
It was explained that the pandemic leave will be separate from sick leave and people would be allowed to stay at home, whether because they had contracted the virus or because they could not make arrangements to have someone look after their children, without being penalised.
Chief Personnel Officer Darryl Dindial explained that in the first instance, where leave is needed, those who have access to paid-leave will be advised to use it. In the event that more leave is needed, and for those who do not have access to leave, like short-term contract workers, the mechanism of “pandemic leave” will be activated.
“For workers who have sick leave eligibility, it is recommended they utilise it. If there is a situation when someone has exhausted their sick leave they can apply for a sick leave extension with full pay,” Dindial said.
“Permanent secretaries can continue to accept applications from employees. It is not a situation that in the future if someone becomes ill again there is no provision for sick leave. There are mechanisms in place for further extensions.”
Last Thursday, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh confirmed that the first case of coronavirus (covid19) was confirmed in TT. There are now two confirmed cases, while 81 samples have been tested by CARPHA up to Sunday afternoon. On Friday, Keith Rowley announced that schools and universities will be closed for a week.
The Labour Ministry's guidelines for employers and employees for covid19.
1) Children are not to be at workplaces/compound/vehicle etc.
2) All parents are encouraged to use support systems (babysitter, family, etc.)
3) Employers are to implement remote work policies.
4) Employers are to explore options of shift work/ or rostering.
5) One parent is encouraged to stay at home and look after the child or children.
6) If work arrangements can’t be made, the employee is to stay at home and can’t be penalized or not be paid in such an instance.
7) If you are not genuinely sick don’t stay away from work.
8) Pandemic leave for Public Officers (contract or not), fixed terms employees, short term, OJT, officeholders who are with service commission, freelancers, persons employed less than a year, daily paid, etc.
9) Mechanisms in place for Public officers with no more sick leave can get an extension of sick leave with full pay.
10) Minister of Labour advises private employers with the union to seek guidance with respect to sick leave clearance for employees who need Pandemic leave. If there is no union, seek guidance from the Ministry (Conciliation Advisory and Advocacy Division). 299 0300 ext 2043, 2124.