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Bell: Govt looking to get furloughed people back to work

With the state of emergency now over, Labour Minister Keith Bell said yesterday that there is “a bit of confusion” in respect to the way forward for furloughed workers.

However, he declined to provide further information on what he meant by confusion in relation to the process for furloughed workers.

“What we propose to do is not so much so look at the process but rather try to get them back to work,” Bell said.

“And so, again, as I indicated, we’re having a National Economic Council meeting and the idea and object really is to get Bahamians back to work inclusive of those who are furloughed because again, as you asked me earlier, a number of them will not be going back to some of those employments.

“So we want to give them alternatives and opportunities where they can also seek employment.”

As to those people who may want to be laid off to receive the severance as opposed to returning to work, Bell said that each person has to make a decision that is in their best interests.

“You have to look at your family and your financial situation and determine what is best,” Bell said.

“There are some workers who have been there for a number of years. It’s just a judgment call that they have to make.

“Those who may have just been there a year or two, then again they need to determine that ‘I need to go and find alternative employment’. And so it’s a personal choice.”

Bell was unable to provide a figure for the number of Bahamians still furloughed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union President Darrin Woods said last week that approximately 50 percent of the union’s membership remains furloughed.

Attorney General Ryan Pinder has indicated that, in accordance with the Employment Act, companies will have 12 weeks to either make furloughed employees redundant or bring them back to work in the wake of the state of emergency, which ended on November 13.

“Our advice is that the 12-week clock started November 13,” he told The Nassau Guardian last week.

“Others are of the opinion that the 30-day extension that was in the emergency orders gives 30 days, plus 12 weeks.”

A special order that suspended a provision of the Employment Act, related to automatic redundancy, after a lengthy period of layoffs, was in place to protect the economic viability of businesses during the state of emergency.

For several months during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been ongoing since March 2020, many workers were laid off but their status was not automatically considered redundant as it ordinarily would under law as a result of that special order.

As such, employers had no obligation to pay severance.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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