Section 28 of the Protection of Employment Act Cap 18.27 states that “Where an employer lays off an employee or suspends an employee for a period of at least twelve weeks, the employee may request his or her employer to treat his or her employment as terminated, and the employee shall then be entitled to severance payment if he or she has worked for the same employer for at least one year and would be entitled to severance payment under Section 26.”
Section 29 notes that “The services of an employee shall be deemed to be terminated under the preceding section unless the employer is able to offer employment to that employee within twelve weeks from the time of lay off or suspension and such employment is substantially the same in relation to terms, conditions and place of employment for a period of not less than thirteen weeks.”
St. Kitts and Nevis entered temporary lockdown in late March 2020 as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The method was extremely successful as it allowed authorities the time to contain the virus and prevent any community transmission.
The lockdown measure is used in almost every country that had multiple cases of the coronavirus. However, a consequence of this was limited business operations which negatively impacted the bottom line.
As such, some employers have decided to lay off employees, while others reduced hours temporarily for their workers. Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Labour, Dr Deon Webb, said that after the twelve weeks, an official letter of termination is required from the employer if the laid-off employees make such a request.
This will provide proof that an individual has been laid off in excess of twelve weeks and will help to expedite a claim for severance for eligible persons.
In order to qualify for a severance payment, an employee must have continuous employment with the same employee for more than twelve months. Eligibility conditions are outlined in Section 26 of the Protection of Employment Act Cap 18.27.
Dr Webb said that the Department of Labour is working expeditiously to process the claims of qualifying persons.