With a number of local businesses still closed due to COVID-19 and the extended October 31 ‘layoff period’ deadline nearing, Labour Minister Vincent Wheatley said he is indecisive on whether to further extend the deadline.
The layoff period describes the time that can elapse before an employer must pay severance to any employee who has been laid off. Back in June, Cabinet decided to temporarily extend the usual three-month layoff period to seven months.
Speaking in a recent live forum, Minister Wheatley said deciding whether to grant a further extension is difficult and will have to be made following consultations with stakeholders.
“I haven’t made a decision as yet because I have to speak with the employers and employees about what’s best for both of them. I know the employees may want severance [and] the employers may not be able to pay severance so they have to come to a happy medium as to what is the best decision to make there,” the minister stated.
Not about choosing sides
Wheatley also said the decision is not about favouring one party over the other.
“I cannot say right now what it is going to be. I really cannot say because I don’t want it to seem like I’m choosing one over the other,” he stated.
“By telling the employer you must pay the employee and you have no money; and if I told the employee, ‘you might just hang around without any payment’, is a very difficult decision for us to make,” Wheatley further explained.
Employers asking for extension
The minister said he has already been approached by some business owners who are yet to recover from the pandemic and who have, therefore, called for a further extension of the layoff period.
“They don’t want to lose employees but they don’t have work for them at this time and they (employees) can’t find other work,” he stated.
Once no further amendments are made to the Labour Code (Amendment) Act 2020, employers who fail to hire employees back by October 31 will have to pay severance.
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