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The Employers’ Consultative Association of Trinidad and Tobago (ECATT) is urging employers and operators of business establishments to ensure that required health protocols are continuously and consistently followed by everyone. This includes making provisions for sick employees to quarantine.

The advice comes after the Ministry of Health revealed on Saturday that some employees exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms show up for work out of fear of losing their job if they get tested and are required to quarantine.

In a statement to Guardian Media on the matter, the ECA said: “Chief among the responsibilities of employers is ensuring that persons displaying flu-like symptoms are not allowed to enter their business establishment – whether customer, staff member, supplier or otherwise. As responsible stakeholders, employers must not compel employees to report for work while ill or experiencing flu-like symptoms or after receiving instructions from the Health Authorities to quarantine, and correspondingly, employees must not report for work while feeling ill with flu-like symptoms or after being instructed to quarantine by the Health Authorities.

“Doing so will only endanger their lives, the lives of other staff members, customers and their respective family members,” said the ECA.

It cited several avenues which can be explored by employers to allow the facilitation. Noting there were various reasons why an employee may need to be quarantined, it suggested that work from home as practicable. Where this is not possible, it suggests employers could allow the use of sick leave eligibilities to cover the quarantine period. In instances where neither of these options is feasible, it suggested employers who have the financial resources to do so, in mitigating the loss of salary to the employee, may grant the quarantine period with full or partial pay with clear stipulations in place. However, where the employer does not have the financial resources to do this, the ECA suggested such employees apply for the NI-15 benefit allowed under the NIS. “Where an employee’s access to income during quarantine is limited to the NI benefit, their employers, subject to their financial situation, may exceptionally consider paying half, all or a reasonable portion of the difference between the NIB benefit and the employee’s full salary/wage in an attempt to ease the burden of loss of earnings experienced by the employee,” the ECA said. It strongly urged employers to ensure that all COVID-19 health protocols be strictly mandated in the workplace with breaches of these measures should be treated as for any other safety breach at the workplace.

“Where recommended physical spacing is not possible, employers are strongly encouraged to consider the implementation of staggered working hours, rostering, shift systems or other forms of flexible work schedules in minimising contact among members of staff at this time. Remote work is also an available option, providing that job duties allow for such arrangements, and that proper systems are implemented for the monitoring of work schedules, measurement of deliverables and protection of sensitive company and customer data.”