STATEMENT BY THE HONOURABLE VINCENT WHEATLEY
MINISTER FOR NATURAL RESOURCES, LABOUR & IMMIGRATION
SEVENTH SITTING OF THE THIRD SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
THURSDAY, 15TH APRIL, 2021
MISREPRESENTATION OF EARNINGS CERTIFICATES OF GOOD STANDING AND CERTIFICATES OF EARNINGS
SUBMISSION TO DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
Mr. Speaker, on 10th July, 2020, I announced that all renewal work permit applications submitted to the Department of Labour and Workforce Development are to be accompanied by Certificates of Good Standing from the Social Security Board, National Health Insurance and the Inland Revenue Department on behalf of the businesses, as well as Certificates of Earnings on behalf of the employees from the aforementioned agencies, since no applications would be accepted without these documents.
Mr. Speaker, I now state that through submissions of the requisite Certificates of Earnings, particularly those from the Social Security Board and the Department of Inland Revenue, after conducting thorough investigations, the Department found that in 2019, which is even before COVID-19 affected our shores, many employees were making less than the mandatory minimum Gross Income of $12,040.00 per annum or Gross Earnings of less than the established standard. In fact, many persons were not even remitting the 52 weeks contributions, prescribed by the Social Security Board. It was further noted that in 2019 Gross Earnings for some permit holders were even listed to be as low as $960.00 for the entire year. Additionally, some employees work permits were even found to be held by one employer but their contributions were being paid in under another employer, which showed that the employees were not working with the companies identified on their work permits.
As such, instead of denying these work permits, the Department of Labour took a proactive stance, and approved the renewals for these workers for six (6) months as a means to ensure that the employer and the employee would meet the established protocols, even though the permits should have been out right denied! This is what we call extending mercy; particularly during these times that we are faced with.
Mr. Speaker, both employer and employee hold the responsibility, for ensuring that their relevant contributions and payments being submitted, to the applicable agencies. For the most part, it is true that employers withhold these payments on behalf of their employees. Unfortunately, the Department has found that some employers attempt to evade these responsibilities, as some cash strapped businesses choose to take out the monies from their employees’ paychecks thus “borrowing” the money with the intention to pay it back later. Others simply take the money with no plan to repay it.
As such, we are reminding employers that once they withhold the requisite payments, from their employees’ paychecks, along with their required out of pocket portions, the monies deducted MUST be reported and paid directly to these agencies on a monthly basis. Failure to ensure that these measures are taken will result in a work permit applications not being processed efficiently.
Pyramiding of these payments is simply theft. Business owners are withholding monies from their employees’ paychecks and intentionally failing to pay them into the systems. Businesses involved in pyramiding, may also try to start a new business under a different name.
Paying employees in cash is another means of employers evading making these mandatory payments. While it is not illegal for a business to pay an employee in cash, but the obligatory contributions/payments should still be deducted and a receipt showing same should be given to the employee for documentation purposes. So even if paid in cash, a pay slip, even in the form of a receipt should accompany the payment.
Whatever the reason Mr. Speaker, not making these payments is one of the worst things an employer can do. Failure to pay constitutes stealing, from their employees. Employers who engage in this practice are subject to penalties assessed by the relevant agencies.
Mr. Speaker, employees are also being reminded that they too have a responsibility to ensure that the monies deducted from their salaries/wages are paid in. Employees who are concerned that their employers are withholding payments, but neglect to remit them or even fail to deduct the requisite contribution payments are strongly encouraged to report their concerns to the Department of Labour and Workforce Development or to the identified agencies.
Mr. Speaker, it is important to understand that these contributions or payments are part of Government’s revenue. Therefore, when payments are not made, the Government loses money that is beneficial to the running of this Territory, especially during these adverse economic times. The Government does not take this lightly, and will not relent in its efforts to collect the amounts owed. For businesses, with numerous employees, the assessment of the monies owed can be huge.
Additionally, falsifying salaries or wages to evade the proper payments of work permit fees being assessed is an absolute NO NO! The Department of Labour has found that many work permit holders, have been understating their incomes and through the submissions of these certificates, these actions have been unearthed. Therefore, I implore both employer and employee to render to the Government what belongs to the Government.
Thank you Mr. Speaker