5 quick tips for employers considering staff separations resulting from COVID-19 Orders…

This is an extraordinary time for employers in The Bahamas.  Many are faced with the need to make major adjustments in staffing.  Staff separations are never easy, especially in times when mass separations must occur and must take place relatively quickly.  Notwithstanding the emergency orders and social distancing requirements, staff separations must be done in accordance with the law and with the employment contract.

Below we have provided some quick tips for employers faced with having to carryout staff separation in this time of COVID-19 pandemic.

Tip 1 – Review your employee contracts.  Ensure layoffs are carried out in compliance with the terms of the contract;

Tip 2 – Review the Employment Act and the Employment (Amendment) Act Part VI before dismissing staff or shortening their time.  Part VI deals with Redundancy, lay-offs and Short-Time.  Part VI addresses in addition to other elements of dismissals:

  1. What is redundancy;
  2. Consultation requirements prior to dismissals for redundancy with Employees, their Representative and the Minister of Labour;
  3. Timelines for when redundancy should take effect; and
  4. Redundancy pay and rights of the employee;

Tip 3 – Prepare proper agreements if the contract of employment is to be altered in any way.  Discuss these agreements candidly with staff.  In instances where an employer wants to retain staff but seeks to reduce pay or benefits this is essentially a new contract and must be agreed to by the staff before it is implemented, barring an existing contract that expressly permits these adjustments in certain conditions);

Tip 4 – Consider thoughtfully all possible options for dealing with reduced staff hours and staff separations including:

  1. temporary dismissals (this permits staff to receive unemployment benefits);
  2. furloughs (note that furlough is defined in various ways, but it is essentially time off without pay. This will not allow for unemployment benefits to be available as the employee is still employed only off without pay.  Further, some furloughs may be with partial pay and with benefits remaining in place;
  3. possibility of reduced hours, permit accrued vacation time to be used or reassignment of tasks;

Tip 5– Assist staff as best as possible in helping them transition to the new normal.  Try to provide support in finding alternative employment, resources and wellness programs.  This is a difficult time for your business and your team.  Maintaining staff loyalty will help both your business and your team in the long term.

The above tips are not to be construed as legal advice. Employers are encouraged to seek assistance from an Employment Law Attorney to provide complete and well researched legal guidance in this area. We are available for consultations and can be reached at (242) 677-5265 or 6 or email address [email protected]

Yvette C. Rahming is the author of this quick tips article, she is an Attorney with years of experience dealing with corporate matters in particular employment matters relative to big industry. Yvette a business consultant who has provided success in Enterprise Wide solutions for her clients, she is approachable and highly skilled and will provide pragmatic business and legal guidance.

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