Information Officer I (Ag.)
Department of Information and Public Relations
Mister Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity again to address this Honourable House and the people of this Territory. Today, I want to give an update on the lay-off period and severance pay matters for employers and employees of businesses in these Islands.
Mister Speaker, over the last year my Ministry, the Department of Labour & Workforce Development and the Immigration Department have continuously banded together to make the necessary adjustments needed to accommodate legal work in this Territory during the Pandemic. We have made many adjustments to procedures, policies, and even legislation to accommodate the varying needs of our people. Mister Speaker, the issue of lay-offs and payment of severance is one that is burdensome to say the least, as we straddle the thin line of economic sustainability and humane practices for workers. I want the public to know that we are cognizant of all possibilities surrounding the payment of severance.
Mister Speaker, as you would recall in June 2020 I introduced the Labour Code Amendment Act, 2020 which allowed for the lay-off period to be changed from its usual three (3) months, and announced an extended period from March through 31st October, 2020. That amendment suspended the payment of severance pay due to an employee during that period, thus allowing businesses to get their bearing as the Pandemic had just hit our shores. Once this period had ended and we realised the effects of COVID-19 were still very real and fluid, we again sought to bring aid to employees and employers.
In November 2020 I came before you Mister Speaker again to bring forward the Labour Code (Extension of Severance Pay Period) Order, 2020 which allowed for a further extension to 31st January 2021, giving employees and employers a further three months. Thereafter, the final extension was given in February of this year to cover the period of up to 28th February, 2021. Mr. Speaker, we have done all that we can to make the necessary adjustments to allow for employers to be properly prepared to make the relevant payment in a timely manner to their employees.
Mister Speaker, as the Government continues to push forward with initiatives that will aid in bringing persons to our shores, to revive economic activity, we are cognisant of the climate that persists where work is scarce. However, Mister Speaker, employees are the most important asset of a business and compensation should be delayed no further. Mister Speaker, I ask here today, that employers make the necessary arrangements with employees to bring outstanding payments current. Those who may be unable to honour their full obligation to employees are required to visit the Department of Labour and Workforce Development to gain assistance in developing plans to make these outstanding payments, and make them in line with a mutually agreed plan with their employees. The Department of Labour and Workforce Development is ready and available to assist those who are unsure of the way forward and those needing guidance with closing these outstanding matters. Persons needing assistance can visit the Department of Labour and Workforce Development in person, or contact a Labour Relations Officer at 468-4739 and 468-4713.
Mister Speaker I will repeat those numbers for persons who may have not had a pen ready. Persons needing assistance can visit the Department of Labour and Workforce Development in person, or contact a Labour Relations Officer at 468-4739 and 468-4713 or they can also send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mister Speaker, these are not easy times, but I implore persons to remain considerate of their employees and employers, remain honest in their dealings especially as it relates to owed severance, remain sympathetic to the many situations created, remain thankful for all opportunities, and to remain safe during this time.
Mister Speaker, may God continue to bless these beautiful Virgin Islands as we navigate this Pandemic.
Thank you, Mister Speaker.