A special order that suspends a provision of the Employment Act related to automatic redundancy after a lengthy period of layoffs, remains in place to protect the economic viability of businesses, according to Attorney General Carl Bethel.
Many workers have been laid off now for more than six months, but their status is not automatically considered redundant as it ordinarily would under law. As such, employers have no obligation to pay severance.
The Emergency Powers (COVID-19)(Special Provisions)(Amendment)(No. 6) Order, 2020, which was implemented by the prime minister on May 26, suspends Section 28(C) of the Employment Act for the duration of the state of emergency and 30 days after.
Section 28(C) states that where an employee has been laid off for a continuous period of at least 12 weeks, such layoff shall be deemed a dismissal because of redundancy.
“Where an employee has been laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the period referred to in paragraph one shall not be taken into account in the calculation of any period used to presume redundancy in accordance with section 28C of the Employment Act,” the special order also states.
Bethel told The Nassau Guardian that the order is “designed to preserve employment and preserve the economic viability of employers so that when the economy fully reopens they are able to bring their staff back to full employment”.
When asked what the result would be if the order were not in place, Bethel replied, “It could be catastrophic to a number of businesses and many Bahamian businesses as well, not only touristic businesses, not only hotels. Many Bahamian businesses would suffer catastrophically.”
On Monday, scores of furloughed Atlantis employees packed Global Ministries Bahamas on Pinedale Street demanding that the Paradise Island resort formally release them and pay them severance.
Atlantis temporarily laid off staff on March 21, for what was initially planned to be a period of four weeks and assured the employees of its commitment to support them during the period of uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.