Public servants, who cannot find supervision for their children over the next week while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, can now benefit from pandemic leave.
The novel paid-leave, part of a draft national policy for workplaces during the pandemic, was announced by Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus during a press conference at her ministry’s headquarters in Port-of-Spain, this morning.
Baptiste-Primus explained that the leave would immediately apply to public officers, who are permanent, temporary, monthly paid or daily-rated, on fixed or temporary contracts, who fall under the Salaries Review Commission, and On-the-Job Trainees (OJTs).
It will apply to public officers assigned to Government ministries and State-companies.
Baptiste-Primus noted that the policy, which is expected to be taken to Cabinet after the National Tripartite Advisory Council considers it early this week, will have to be implemented by private companies through consultation with trade unions.
During the press conference, Baptiste-Primus presented a series of guidelines to be applied by private-sector employees and employers before the full implementation in their workplaces.
She encouraged employees with children to first utilise their usual support systems and employers to implement policies to allow employees with children to work from home.
“One parent is encouraged to stay at home with the children while the other reports for duty,” Baptiste-Primus said.
While Baptiste-Primus said that the ministry could not seek to compel private employers to implement the exact policy, she encouraged them to introduce compassionate measures aimed at ensuring business continuity while securing the national interest.
Baptiste-Primus repeatedly stated that parents, employed both in the private and public sector, should not bring their children to work during the period, which may still be adjusted by the Government based on how the situation develops.
However, she called on citizens not to abuse the proposed facility.
“If you are not sick, do not stay away from work,” she said.
Speaking at the event, Chief Personel Officer (CPO) Daryl Dindial stated that there was no suggested cap on pandemic leave as the situation may evolve.
“It has been left open because we don’t know how long this would occur,” Dindial said.
Dindial also explained that the leave would only apply to parents with no supervision for their children and those employees who do not benefit from for sick leave as part of their employment, in the event, they fall ill, have to be quarantined or eventually are confirmed to have contracted the virus.
He said in situations where employees with sick leave become ill or contract the virus, they would have to exhaust their sick leave and extended sick leave before qualifying for the pandemic leave.
He also noted that his office had already held preliminary discussions with associations for police, prison, and fire officers as special provisions will have to be established for them.
Companies, trade unions, and non-unionised staff who hit snags in their negotiations over the implementation of the workplace policies may consult with the Conciliation Advisory and Advocacy Division of the ministry.