Basseterre, St. Kitts (SKNIS): The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis is introducing new measures to protect workers who are placed in quarantine or isolation from losing their income during their time away from work due to the local exposure to COVID-19.
Minister of Labour, the Honourable Wendy Phipps, noted that the Ministry of Labour is working closely with the Legal Department to ensure that the necessary protections are applicable to the Social Security Act and they fall in line with the provisions of the Quarantine Act, the Public Health Act, and the COVID-19 Control and Prevention Act.
“If an individual is away from work by order of being ill or by a state authority then that person is to be considered as being out of the realm of decent work that they would normally have,” the minister stated. “And then when we take into account the Social Security Act, especially that particular portion … that speaks to the payment of sickness benefits, that particular part of the legislation also speaks to that as well.”
Honourable Phipps added: “The fact is that once someone is in quarantine or isolation as long as they are being gainfully employed and covered under the Social Security Act by virtue of being registered and by virtue of having regular contributions being paid in by the employer on his or her behalf, that person’s period of quarantine and isolation will be considered to that extent.”
The Minister of Labour called on employers to tap into their humanity and their own regard for public health regulations and not penalize employees who are away from work due to quarantine or isolation, as directed by health authorities due to local transmission.
Additionally, Minister Phipps clarified that persons who return from overseas are not covered under this provision.
“That can’t happen because a Social Security Benefit as a result of sickness is a totally different kettle of fish compared to someone who would have travelled overseas and now is returning and would be facing either a nine or 14-day quarantine as a result of the travel overseas. The two things should not be confused,” she said.
Minister Phipps said that the requisite paperwork between the Ministry of Health and St. Christopher and Nevis Social Security Board will have to be put in place and will include the full involvement of the employer.
The Social Security Act: Part III—Benefits 9(2) states “For purposes of this regulation, an insured person shall be treated as incapable of work on any day during which that person is required to abstain from work because of being under observation by reason of being a carrier, or because of having been in contact with a case of infectious disease.”