~ Workers must be paid for curfew hours ~
PHILIPSBURG–The Labour Ministry is urging employers to follow “good business practices” and “integrity” when dealing with employees in the wake of Hurricane Irma, in which many persons lost their homes, businesses and other property.
“We understand the extenuating circumstances at hand and therefore encourage both employers and employees to cooperate and act in accordance with the labour laws of the land,” the Ministry said in a release issued to the media on Wednesday.
“We encourage employers firstly to communicate with their employees. The worst thing to do in a time like this is to abandon your staff completely. Invite employees to a central location and discuss with them the damage to the building and merchandise and the consequences thereof. Business owners may want to discuss payment and employment options with their staff on an individual basis. Be honest and direct, but give them options.”
The Ministry also urged businesses to retain their staff as much as feasible.
“In an effort to do this, employers may want to reallocate or reassign staff members to different departments or duties. Perhaps it may be necessary that persons take on different roles for the time being to suit the immediate needs of the business for a time.
“We ask that workers also be flexible to accept reallocation of tasks or responsibilities. If the labour contract between the company and the employee allows, payment options can be discussed. All agreements outside of what is written in the labour contract must be mutual and in written form, such as, for example, a reduction in working days or wages.”
Written agreements must be in accordance with labour laws. Employers seeking assistance with drafting agreements can consult legal assistance or visit the Department of Labour Affairs and Social Services.
“Although we strongly encourage businesses to seek means whereby they can maintain their staff, if dismissals must take place permission must still be requested by the Department of Labour Affairs and Social Services (applicable for employees in indefinite employ).”
There is also an option of rescinding employment relationships through the court. All persons under contract must be paid out for the remainder of their contractual period if the contract is not being extended, and must be given due notice.
The Ministry said businesses have several options: Retain employee through mutual agreement in writing (terms to include job duties, payment, work hours, etc.); have mutual agreement in writing for termination of labour agreement (to include severance payments, notice period, all outstanding vacation days and days worked); dismissal (through the Department of Labour Affairs and Social Services) and dismissal (through the court or legal system)
It was also noted that payment must be upheld for the periods of time when a national curfew was issued by Government.
“Employees must not be financially penalised for these times since they were unable to work due to no fault of their own; therefore, they must be paid for those periods. The Ministry says that ‘no work, no pay’ policies do not apply in this situation. If workers want to work, but are unable to work because their place of work is closed, damaged or employers have migrated, they are still entitled to their wages.
“Any employer or employee with questions concerning pay, dismissal, nature of work, work hours, etc. should visit the Department of Labour Affairs and Social Services and ask to speak to a Dismissal and Complaints Officer,” it was stated in the release. The Department is currently located in the new Government Building across from University of St. Martin (USM).
Employees also have a right to apply for legal aid to contest any unlawful dismissal from their employer, or any action that they deem infringes on their rights, the release said.
“Again, the Department of Labour Affairs and Social Services encourages employers and employees to act responsibly and with integrity during this time. We encourage both parties to work together as the nation rebuilds. In order for the economy to revive, we must adjust, regroup and rebuild,” it was stated in the release.