Labour Minister Stephenson King says there’s a proposal before the Attorney General’s Chambers regarding layoffs and suspensions under Section 148 of the Labour Code.
King disclosed that it seeks to seeks to propose an extension to the period of layoffs for a continuous period specific to COVID-19, together with the resolution of some other critical housekeeping matters which have arisen surrounding pay and the new standard of work from home.
But the former Prime Minister made it clear that there has been no change to the laws of Saint Lucia as they relate to the Labour Code.
He observed that periods of layoffs as provided by Section 148(1) of the law can extend to 12 weeks.
According to King, thereafter it is deemed a termination due to redundancy.
He disclosed that it is being proposed that the continuous period of layoffs be extended by an additional 12 weeks during times such as the current COVID-19 crisis or national emergencies.
King indicated that the idea is to give more time for review or assessment by the employer and provide allowance for recovery.
“Given the seriousness of the current COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty of the times, we believe that a layoff period of 6 months is appropriate,” the Labour Minister asserted.
He said while the employee may not be paid during that period of layoff, he or she will still have some measure of job security.
King declared that at the same time, it allows the employer to review and examine redeployment of the work force and reposition the business to work towards recovery.
“While there is no obligation to pay salaries during the period of layoff, the employer is strongly encouraged to exercise goodwill and discretion where resources permit, especially to support bread winners and loyal and long serving employees,” he stated.
King observed that in view of the fact that the laws of Saint Lucia have not changed, it is not the role or the jurisdiction of the Labour Commissioner to sanction rotation, reduced hours, work from home conditions, salary cuts and other adjustments to the contractual terms of workers.
“This continues to be a function of negotiation and dialogue between employers and workers or their representatives,“ he explained.