TT Labour Ministry proposing ‘Pandemic Leave’

Trinidad and Tobago’s Labour Ministry is looking into providing “Pandemic Leave” for employees who may have to stay away from work as a result of COVID-19.

The announcement was made during a media briefing on Sunday (March 15).

Chief Personnel Officer Darryl Dindial indicated that the Ministry is looking into a new category of leave to treat with the absence of duty under the presence of COVID-19. As the pandemic has created unprecedented circumstances, Dindial said that there need to be provisions in place for the labour force to treat with the potential fallout.

“Any absence of duty has to be classified because it will impact on pension, gratuities, acting appointments, and increments. The pandemic leave proposal is to ensure that none of these will be affected, that it will not impact on the calculations and employees will be accounted for [under these circumstances],” he said.

Most of Trinidad and Tobago’s labour force currently have access to sick leave. The proposed pandemic leave will apply to those who are under quarantine or have contracted the coronavirus and have exhausted sick leave and extended leave. Those who do not have access to sick leave, for example, short term employees or day labourers, will be eligible to utilise pandemic leave. 

The matter is set to go before Cabinet later this week.

“Parents are strongly encouraged to use their support systems as an option to look after their children…”

— Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, Jennifer Baptiste-Primus

Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, Jennifer Baptiste-Primus also addressed public concern from parents about the dilemma of bringing their children to work or stay home in light of the announcement of the nation’s closure of schools.

She indicated that the Ministry has provided guidelines for citizens that have been designed to mitigate the circumstantial inconveniences.

Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, Jennifer Baptiste-Primus (Photo: NewsDay TT)

She said, “Parents are not advised to bring their children into their workplaces including company vehicles. Parents are strongly encouraged to use their support systems as an option to look after their children and in two-parent households, one parent should stay home while the other goes to work. In situations where a parent has no one has to stay home with their child or children, they will be allowed to stay home without risk of penalization by disciplinary action or non-payment of salary.”

She also stated that employers are encouraged to implement remote work policies where possible. Where not possible, employers and employees are required to explore shift work, rostering and staggered hours options. She added that employees that are not sick should not stay away from work.