Labour Commissioner Shernel James

Basseterre, St.Kitts (Friday 28th May 2021)- The Department of Labour is appealing to employers in St.Kitts and Nevis to safeguard employment status and to continue the payment of wages and salaries to workers in quarantine.
 
Chairman of the National COVID-19 Task Force Abdias Samuel read a notice on behalf of the Commissioner of Labour Shernel James during the National Emergency Operation Center (NEOC) COVID-19 Daily Briefing on Wednesday 26th May 2021.
 
“In light of the current situation regarding the now 19 active cases of COVID-19, as reported today, in our Federation, the department of Labour is appealing to all employers to be considerate and empathetic towards workers who have been ordered by the health authorities to enter quarantine. The Department of Labour asks that employers preserve the employment of the individuals so affected and where possible continue to pay wages, salaries in full or up to at least 35% as quarantine workers may be able to claim sickness benefits in accordance with schedule 8 part 3 section 9: 2 of the Social Security Act,” the document stated.
 
It was further stated that: “The Department of Labour also strongly encourages employers to insist that all staff members/workers adhere to all of the COVID-19 safety protocols to reduce the spread of the virus, let us continue to thrive towards the maintenance of harmonious working relationships during this pandemic and put our best effort forward in working together to defeat COVID-19.”
 
Government is expected to put together a document addressing measures to see to concerns and arrangements surrounding COVID-19 quarantine and isolation in the interest of employers and workers.
 
Minister of Labour Wendy Phipps when quizzed on the topic
 at a recent NEOC briefing said: “When it comes to quarantine and isolation, it is an issue where  an individual or group of individuals  would have been placed in that type of situation  by the state authority on public health who happens to be the Chief Medical Officer , and it is done in the interest protecting the health and safety of the public at large  while at the same time you give the affected individuals  the opportunity to recover from their illness or to be isolated  during a period wherein a determination is being made as to the illness especially if it is something that is infectious.”
 
She added: “ As a result of that the Ministry of Labour in collaboration  with the legal department through the office of the Attorney General is currently approaching that particular matter, and as a matter of fact, we would have over the course of the last 24 hours been preparing a document  which would be applicable  to the Social Security Act and also falls in line with the provisions of the Quarantine Act, the Public Health Act and of course by no means least COVID-19 Control and Prevention Act, and essentially what it states is that if an individual  is away from work by border of being ill or by a state authority  then that person is to be considered as being out of the realm of  decent work that they would normally have  and then when we take into account the Social Security Act…it speaks to sickness benefit, that particular part of the legislation also speaks to that as well.”
 
The Labour Minister also stated: “The fact that when someone is quarantine or isolation as long as they are being gainfully employed and covered under the Social Security Act by virtue of being registered and by virtue of having regular contributions being paid in by the employer on his or her behalf that person’s period of quarantine and isolation will be considered to that extent.”
 
In replying to a question of concern about whether workers would be penalised for having to go into quarantine or isolation, Minister Phipps expressed hope that “employers through their own humanity and own regard for public health regulations would recognise that these workers are not in isolation or quarantine because of something frivolous that they would have  done on their own, and as such, however, it also then means the requisite paperwork between the Ministry of Health and the Social Security admission  would have to be put in place to justify that with the full involvement of the employer.”