Companies reopening next week are being asked to “share the time” evenly among their employees, so that “everyone can get a piece”, Acting Director of Labour John Pinder said yesterday.
Pinder said the prime minister’s announcement that he would partially reopen the economy couldn’t come soon enough, because anxiety was growing among employers as the extension to the layoff period – provided for in the Employment Act before severance of employees – would soon expire.
“The extended grace period for employers is at the end of September and even some employers were complaining that they were afraid it was going to expire on them, and they need to hurry and get their businesses open so they can start doing some things. So a number of employees who were really, really frightened that their jobs were in jeopardy, they feel much better now that they can at least go back to work even if it’s not full time, because I think some employers will share the time,” Pinder told Guardian Business.
“Because if you can only open to a certain hour, they are prepared to split those shifts so everybody can get a little piece of it. In fact that is something we are trying to discuss with the employers opening up next week, where if you had a business where you would have had much more hours than the government is allowing now, you can at least split the shift to give people the opportunity to get a salary.”
The newest emergency orders allow businesses with the ability to provide curbside services, delivery services or outdoor dining to reopen beginning August 31.
With the retail industry accounting for approximately 20,000 jobs in the country, Pinder said this means thousands of Bahamians who have been struggling for months will finally be able to earn a salary.
“Listen here, one of the best things that ever happened was for the government to make that announcement that they are going to begin to open up the economy. That’s a few thousand people that will now get back employment. Certainly, it takes a burden off NIB (the National Insurance Board) because once you start to work again the unemployment assistance program can discontinue and you don’t have to worry about the unemployment benefit,” he said.
“So, this has a tremendous impact on the workforce in a positive way, in that they are able to go back to work and make some money which is good for the economy. If people make money they’ll spend money.”
Earlier this month, Pinder estimated that national unemployment was more than 40 percent because of the economic crisis associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Data from NIB indicated that more than 55,000 people were seeking unemployment benefits.