Thu | Jul 9, 2020

Employees can get certified not to return to work – PM

Published:Monday | June 1, 2020 | 12:00 AM

Some categories of employees dreading returning to the physical workplace can request to continue operating remotely even as the work-from-home orders have been lifted.

For example, persons who are immunocompromised with underlying illnesses may be allowed to continue the arrangement.

But they would be required to present a medical certificate indicating that they are not fit to work in an environment of general access that may expose them to increased risk during the coronavirus pandemic.

The request can be made, effective today, and run till the end of the month.

Other workers who may be considered for exemption include “persons who have no other suitable arrangements to care for their children at home if they were to go to work”.

The prime minister said that such persons could negotiate with their employers.

“We expect that their employers will make the necessary provisions and arrangements,” Holness said at a Jamaica House press conference yesterday evening.

People who have ailing family members but cannot find suitable care provisions are to be considered for the continued work-from-home arrangement, Holness also said.

The prime minister outlined specific protocols for physical distancing that are to be observed at the workplace.

“Where an employer assesses that the employee-to-square-footage ratio will not allow for employees to have at least 36 square feet of functional space individually to facilitate the recommended social-distancing space of six feet apart, the employer must make arrangements with some employees to have them work from home, or stagger working hours, or make some other arrangement to ensure that social distancing is possible to be practised in the work environment,” Holness stated.

He urged employers to maximise productivity without compromising health “by reconfiguring how, where, when we work by integrating technology and innovation in all our business processes”.

“While we are encouraging persons to go back to their place of work, we acknowledge that this may be not practical or feasible in all cases. We must examine our situational realities and determine what is appropriate,” the prime minister said as he defended lifting the work-from-home orders.

With mounting reports that public-sector workers are being coaxed by their managers to still turn up to work, the prime minister said he would be convening a meeting of the permanent secretaries in the various ministries to investigate the claims.

“I must confess that it is the first time I am hearing that the managers in the public sector were not following the guidelines … ,” he said, vowing to speak with the Cabinet secretary as well.

Holness, in the meantime, continued to defend the so-called reopening of the economy, arguing that the country must get back its footing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“No one can dispute that the economic crisis spawned by this pandemic requires everyone to act in such a way to save lives and livelihood,” Holness declared.