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Sick at work

The Employers’ Consultative Association of Trinidad and Tobago (ECA) is encouraging employers to pay full salaries to quarantined and/or confirmed COVID-19 patients where an employee’s sick leave eligibilities do not fully cover the leave required at this time.

“Where employers are financially strapped and cannot pay the sick leave period in excess of eligibilities, the employee may apply for National Insurance Sickness Benefit (NI-15 benefit) to cover the period of unpaid sick leave. Employers in this instance, may consider paying for half or the full difference between the NI benefit and the employee’s full salary/wage, based on financial realities,” the ECA stated.

The ECA, however, urged that COVID-19 sick leave and quarantine periods should be treated as normal sick leave and relevant 2020 eligibilities applied.

“Given the recent increase in reported cases of COVID-19, the ECA is urging Employers to commit to consistently doing their part in slowing the spread of the virus,” the association stated in a release yesterday.

“All business establishments, regardless of size, should be strongly enforcing physical distancing and hand-washing or sanitising protocols at their establishments and offices, doing temperature checks before entry and require the mandatory use of face masks by customers and service providers,” it stated.

The ECA stated that employers should mandate adherence to the same protocols among members of staff including avoiding closed meetings, shaking of hands, sharing of utensils and other forms of close congregation.

“Where recommended physical spacing is not possible, employers are strongly encouraged to consider implementing staggered hours, rostering, shift systems or other forms of flexible work schedules so as to minimise contact among members of staff at this time. Remote work is also an available option, providing that job duties allow for such arrangements and that proper systems are implemented for the monitoring of work schedules, measurement of deliverables and protection of sensitive company and customer data,” the ECA stated.

The ECA argued that the agreed terms and conditions of employment between employer and employee or employer and registered majority unions (RMU), where existing, must first be consulted before making any adjustments to employees’ established work arrangements and the payment of salaries/wages.

“Where there is no RMU and provisions/policies for adjustment of working hours are already in effect, such provisions/policies must be considered and where they cannot be honoured due to COVID-19 realities, alternative arrangements should be put forward to employees in a consultative fashion,” it stated.

“Finally, employers are once again encouraged to develop a business continuity plan (BCP) where none currently exists or sensitise employees about existing business continuity plans where national work restrictions or stoppages are mandated by public authorities. According to a membership survey conducted in April, 60% of responding companies did not have a BCP in place, which can present some difficulty in maintaining operations during a lockdown or recovering quickly after a lockdown,” the ECA stated.