In these unusual and unfamiliar times, it is more important than ever that each of us does our part to be “our brother’s keeper.”
For our part, the Ministry of Labour, Community Affairs and Sports is doing what it can to assist the many people that have found themselves displaced and their financial future uncertain due to Covid -19.
Recently I advised employers and employees to contact the Labour Relations Section for advice and guidance on how best to move forward whilst remaining compliant with the Employment Act 2000.
I also advised that the Government will provide a safety net for those who will be left out of work as a direct result of COVID-19.
Today I am pleased to share more details about the Unemployment Benefit and how it will be distributed.
The Unemployment Benefit is to provide a temporary financial cushion for eligible employees who may not qualify for financial assistance. This new benefit will be administered through the Department of Workforce Development.
The proposed period for this unemployment benefit is for a maximum of twelve weeks per employee, thereafter applicants may apply for financial assistance, if needed.
The Unemployment Benefit will be for eligible employees not currently on Financial Assistance and provide a payment of 60% of their gross earnings up to a maximum of $500 per week.
Where the eligible applicant is receiving a percentage of their salary from their employer and the amount they receive is less than $500 per week, the applicant will be entitled to the difference up to a gross amount of $500.
Those employees eligible for the proposed unemployment relief benefit must:
A) Meet the definition of an employee under the Employment Act 2000 and be either:
o A Spouse of a Bermudian
o A Permanent Resident Card (PRC) Holder
o A work permit holder with a valid work permit who is unable to leave Bermuda owing to travel restrictions.
B) They must have been fully employed and because of COVID-19 they have been either:
o Laid Off;
o Had their employment terminated
o On mandatory medical quarantine without compensation from their employer; or
o Self Employed individuals who are no longer employed as a result of Covid 19.
I want to take a moment to explain the Government’s rationale in providing this benefit to all workers in Bermuda whether they be Bermudian or guest workers.
Though financial assistance is only open to Bermudians, during this difficult pandemic period, what we need in Bermuda is unity. Guest workers who have lost their jobs and are unable to return home have financial obligations to meet. They like Bermudians need support to meet those obligations to ensure that other sectors of our economy are not further damaged.
From Wednesday March 25, 2020, applications can be made online through either the Bermuda Job Board or at www.gov.bm.
Alternatively, hard copies of the application forms will be available from Wednesday at the Hamilton Post Office lobby. We encourage employers to assist their employees with providing hard copies as needed. As we are trying to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 I would encourage eligible employees to apply online and use the help line number 297- 7714 and 297-7716 should they require assistance.
Lastly, this Government is trying to be sensitive to the needs and hardships that our residents are facing.
We will work with our employers and employees to ensure that we provide as much support as possible during these testing times. I have been very encouraged by a number of Companies who as good corporate citizens will pay laid off staff a percentage of their salaries and their health insurance premium in full. Together through a shared and concerted effort we will get through this.
We will continue to provide updates on this benefit package.
As a general public reminder for the latest health information associated with COVID-19, visit www.gov.bm/coronavirus. I encourage everyone to remain vigilant, please follow the Ministry of Health guidelines and please be safe.