Thursday 29 October, 2020

Amended Severance Act gives employees a new option, only if they know

New Severance Act can only protect or help employees if they know their rights.

Reminding employees of this most recently was Attorney-at-law Kemisha Benjamin.

On June 17, 2020, the government of Barbados enforced the Severance Payments Amendment Act. This now allows for the extension for the period of layoffs and short-time employment before being able to file for severance.

This is according to Benjamin who is also one of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) Legal Officers. She relayed this information as she spoke on VOB 92.9 on Sunday (August 23) on Workers' Viewpoint.

Benjamin stated that prior to the Act being passed, persons had to be laid-off, or on short-time employment for a period of 13 consecutive weeks or a series of 16 or more weeks of which not more than 12 were consecutive within a period of 26 weeks.

However, due to COVID-19, this amendment has been made. Subsequently, an employee will be able to “trigger” severance if they were laid-off or placed on short-time for 22 consecutive weeks or a series of 18 or more weeks in a period of 24 weeks between March 1 to April 30, 2020.

“…If your lay-off period commenced before the 1st of March or after the period of the 30th of April, the amendment does not apply to you and you most therefore comply with the original legislation which requires the 13 consecutive weeks” she added.

She further stated that if an employee wishes to apply for severance, they must give notice to their employer of their intention within four weeks upon the date which they will become entitled to the payment.

“If you approach your 22 weeks, on the last day of that twenty-second week your time starts to run. To trigger severance you must give notice of that intention four weeks from the last day.” 

Answering the question of "If I have passed the four-week mark can I still trigger severance?", Benjamin said:

“No, it is time-sensitive. That is why it is important to know your rights and to know the law because an employer would be able to resist payment of the severance if you did not follow the timeline.”

Benjamin also disclosed that in addition to the timeframe and the notice given in which an employee is able to trigger severance, employees must give notice of termination of their contract.

She also outlined the span of which employees will be able to benefit from their employment benefits.

“An employee is only entitled to their employment benefits for a period of 26 weeks which means that on completion of the 26 weeks of unemployment, persons are no longer going to receive any benefit cheques from the NIS."

She added that if an employee has been laid-off for 26 weeks but their employer brings them back to work and lets them go again, the employee is not entitled to file for severance.

An employer however can contest.

"So say the person wishes to trigger severance and they give notice of their intention to do so, an employer can contest that notice by giving notice within seven days of receiving the notice of the employee’s intention. If the employer can prove or if it can be reasonably expected that the employee would, not later than four weeks after the date of notice of intention enters upon a period of not less than the 24 weeks during which he would not be laid-off or kept on short-time, then the employee would not be entitled to severance.”

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said 15 weeks instead of 13 weeks. Loop apologises for the error. Benjamin did correctly state 13 weeks. 

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