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Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus says draft guidelines to prepare workplaces for COVID-19 will be discussed on Monday.

She was responding to concerns raised that some public servants were unable to access pandemic leave.

A worker employed with the San Juan Regional Corporation said she was unable to access pandemic leave even though she made applications to the Chief Executive Officer stating she was a single parent and had no one to watch her children because of the closure of daycare centres.

Another employee was told that she had to find someone to watch her children because there was legally no such thing as pandemic leave.

Contacted for comment, Minister Baptiste-Primus said she tabled the Draft Policy Guidelines on Preparing Workplaces in TT for COVID-19 at a Special Meeting of the Cabinet last Wednesday.

“The Document was however deferred to the regular meeting of the Cabinet held yesterday Thursday 19th March. Cabinet referred the Draft Guidelines to the Finance and General Purposes Committee. This Committee is expected to meet on Monday 23rd March, at 10 am. Until the Guidelines are approved I am unable to respond to the concerns raised,” Baptiste-Primus said.

Pandemic leave was first raised by Baptiste-Primus during a press conference last week.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government said it was discussed three times in the Cabinet last week. Once it is approved, it will be sent to the various ministries, who will then issue memos ordering their various offices and agencies on how to proceed with the leave.

Officials have advised staff to use sick leave and apply for casual leave in the meantime. When Pandemic leave comes into effect, they can request that their leave be reclassified.

What is Pandemic Leave?

Pandemic Leave is a new classification of paid leave in light of the effects of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on business operations.

CPO Commander Darryl Dindial explained that this type of leave is different from sick leave and is meant to accommodate leave for employees who do not have sick leave eligibility as part of the agreed terms of their employment.

The leave applies to workers classified as short-term employees, and temporary workers who only have sick leave, but no provision for extended sick leave. He further explained that this leave will assist parents who are unable to report for work because there is no one to supervise their children while schools are closed.