Senator Morris said: “The issue of compensation has to be dealt with. This order does not give any discretion for persons over 60 years old to be allowed to physically show up to work. It is a mandatory stay at home order. The Government needs to outline what will happen to persons over 60 whose employment requires them to physically attend work. Already several employers have laid off workers in this category and cite the order as their reason for doing so.”
The Senator’s call comes in support of similar calls from several trade unions, insisting that the Government implement a robust work from home policy. Dr Morris said, “Some companies are reducing the allowances paid to workers who now work from home. One such benefit is the travelling and upkeep allowance.
Employers use the fact that employees are working from home as a reason to withhold these benefits. While an employee works from home, additional household costs are incurred e.g. they may have to upgrade their internet connection and increase the use of their utilities. These costs are not reimbursed by their employer. In the circumstances, a strong signal should come from the Government that employers shouldn’t unilaterally reduce worker compensation.”
The Shadow Minister is also concerned that some employers have given an ultimatum to their over 60 workers to either come to work or get laid off. “As is expected, the majority of workers have sought to retain their employment. The Government needs to state clearly who bears the liability if a worker, en route to work, is arrested by the security forces for breach of the Government’s policy. At the moment the worker is the only one who faces a penalty in this regard but in many cases are not being given a choice by their employers,” said Sen. Morris.
Dr Morris notes that, “while there is a clear need to reduce the COVID-19 infection rate, it cannot be done at the expense of the workers. The Opposition is therefore calling on the Government to clarify the ambiguity in this policy so that it doesn’t operate to the detriment of any Jamaican worker.”
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