Ministry VSA intends to increase labor Compliance

The ministry of Public Health, Social Development & Labor (Ministry VSA) is currently  looking for ways to improve labor compliance. In respect to this, Minister of VSA, Emil Lee, along with members of his cabinet, made a visit to the prosecutor’s office on Friday, March 18th, 2016.

According to Minister Lee, “Compliance with the law should be realistic, practical and the path of least resistance”. The ministry is planning a campaign to increase labor law compliance.

In preparation for this campaign to increase compliance, a number of activities are being looked into, including procedures related to issuing an official report or process-verbaal (PV). A “proces-verbaal” is an official report compiled in the case of a criminal offence, as stipulated by the law and is necessary for prosecution and possible court proceedings.

During the meeting at the prosecutor’s office, the cabinet was given a better understanding of the process involved for enforcing consequences on businesses that do not comply with the legislation. A proces-verbaal (PV), is a very serious tool that leads to stern disciplinary action. Once the PV is submitted to the prosecutor’s office, the criminal process cannot be halted. Additionally, the process is complicated, time consuming, and procedurally demanding, and should be used as a last resort.

According to the Inspector General, Dr. Earl Best, “only a handful of PV’s were issued by the Labor Inspectorate in 2015”, however, several warnings and stop orders for illegally employed workers were given.

The Inspectorate in consultation with the prosecutor’s office has held training sessions in the past for various inspectors as it pertains to P.V. writing. The prosecutor’s office continues to pledge their support with an agreement to provide the Inspectorate with assistance in order to continually enhance PV writing.

As the Ministry increases compliance activities, businesses are hereby advised to comply with the legislation.

During the Council of Minister’s press briefing on Wednesday, Minister Lee said that  “It is commonly agreed upon by many, that there is a large amount of people working on the island, without an employment permit”.

“This is a situation that has evolved over time, however, there are just too many consequences for the economy of the country to permit this to continue. Government’s loss in tax revenues is substantial and employment opportunities for citizens are reduced”. 

The Minister stressed that the Ministry will take “a balanced, measured and fair approach towards compliance”.

In the meantime, as the Ministry increases compliance measures, they will look for possibilities to streamline the permit process, in combination with controls and measured disciplinary actions.

Another topic of discussion was government’s aim of having the draft law on “Administrative fines”, which is going through the legislative process, finalized. “This will add yet another “tool” to the Inspectorates  existing tool chest”.

“This would give the ministry the possibility to levy fines, without going through the prosecutor’s office, as a means of improving compliance. This is a legislative process, and will take some time to finalize” informed Minister Lee.

In the interim, the Ministry of VSA is working on a structural cooperation agreement with SZV.

 “We are examining the possibility that, instead of having 2 labor inspectors going out to a particular entity, we can have one labor inspector, and also one inspector from SZV to go out together. This way, they are complimentary, and would be able to share resources to a certain degree”.

The minister further said that “Because they have complimentary authorities, and responsibilities”, this is a good way to implement intermediary disciplinary actions”.

Minister Lee also gave an example, where he informed, that recently, the labor Inspectorate inspected a business that is operational. “This business has no business license, is not registered with Labor Affairs, nor with SZV and has 15 employees, of which 11 are not in the possession of an employment permit.

“The Ministry is taking this issue very seriously, and recommends employers and employees, to get educated on their rights and obligations”.

Minister Lee also stressed that “It is important that everyone has health insurance!”

“I’m in the process of working with a private insurance company to see if they can offer an attractive package for independent workers (vendors, bus drivers, taxi drivers, etc), while we are in the process of working on ways to reform our healthcare system, and in general, our health insurance policies”.

“When an emergency happens, and someone needs to be evacuated for medical emergencies, even if they are undocumented or uninsured, Government has the responsibility to take care of the people that are here”.

Therefore,  the Minister made it clear that going forward,  whenever there is a medical evacuation for an un-insured person, it should trigger a reaction/investigation from Government and inspectors of SZV, who will then investigate the circumstances to see why the person was not properly insured. “If we find out that the person was working in a business that should have provided him/her with health insurance and did not, then the Ministry will hold that business financially liable for the medical costs incurred to the country. My recommendation to the businesses is to make sure that you have health insurance in place for your employees” the Minister said.

Also, he made it clear that if a business is having structural issues on the path of becoming compliant, then they should contact the Ministry. “We will not intervene in specific cases, but welcome constructive recommendations on how to adjust policies, in order to improve overall compliance” the Minister said.

Source: The Daily Herald Ministry VSA intends to increase labor Compliance