Leave it alone!

Leave it alone!

Jamaica Employers’ Federation rejects proposals to amend redundancy laws

Senior staff reporter

Friday, January 08, 2021

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HEAD of the Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF) David Wan says the provisions of the employment termination and redundancy payments law need to be strictly enforced, instead of amending it to deal with issues surrounding entitlements in the labour market.

Wan was responding to a call made by senior trade unionist and Government Senator Kavan Gayle, in a recent Jamaica Observer interview, for the entrenchment of provisions in the law to bound employers to pay redundancy entitlements within a specified period. Gayle pointed to situations where employers challenge these cases at the Industrial Disputes Tribunal.However, the JEF president noted that it is not that the statute does not exist, but that what is happening now is that some employers are in breach of their obligations during that time frame. “Some people are going to break the law, but I would argue, those are not the majority,” Wan said.

“There is a time window where the employer must pay. So the issue is how do you get compliance. I don’t think the law needs to be changed; compliance needs to be enforced,” he said. Wan is also wary of any law that would give the Government the authority to investigate the accounts of companies to verify their ability to pay.Senator Gayle had proposed an auditing process which could be used to probe an entity’s’s financial standing as justification for delayed redundancy payments, or repeatedly extended layoffs to avoid redundancies, at least in the short term.“If you say you cannot pay the redundancy entitlement then who investigates this? Who looks at your books to make that determination? That should also be prescribed in law, that your books are examined for a determination to be made,” said Gayle.But Wan countered that, saying that while he understands that the issue is highly emotive, any such move would open a can of worms.“I have a fundamental disagreement with giving the Government the ability to go into a company’s books to find out if they can pay another private party. If you analyse it dispassionately it is no different from a relationship between the company and a private supplier. It’s a slippery slope, because if you open that door are we going to next say that the Government can go into the company’s books to find out if they can pay the suppliers [of food or service] to the company, or any other private debt,” he said.

Wan said such powers should be left to matters in which a company is indebted to the state: “If you owe the Government money, they are entitled to force you to pay [and] if you’re dissolving your business and you’re going bankrupt; the Government has the first priority to get their statutory payments or taxes. I have no difficulty with that.”The JEF president said it would be useful to have data on the number of companies which are not paying out this debt, but noted that most companies would not easily volunteer such information.

Under law, when a person who has been employed for a period of at least 134 weeks has his/her job made redundant, the employer and any other person to whom the ownership of the business is transferred must, within a year, make redundancy payments to the employee in the prescribed manner.

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