Staff forced to go to work ‘unacceptable’

  • David Burt, the Premier (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Penalties could be imposed on employers who do not allow staff to work from home over the Covid-19 crisis, the Premier warned tonight.

David Burt said that he had asked Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, to look at changes to public health law to compel businesses that can do so to let employees work from home.

And he warned a hotline would be set up so workers could report businesses that exploited their staff.

Mr Burt added: “Having strongly urged non-essential business that remain operational to empower their employees to work from home, it is disturbing to find out that some employers are either refusing to permit this, period, or are demanding that employees exhaust their sick leave or vacation time if they wish to work from home.

“This is unacceptable and does nothing to encourage the unity of purpose demanded by the times in which we live.”

He added: “Putting profits over people is never in the best interest of the community.”

Mr Burt said that he would tomorrow introduce a system for anonymous reports of “unscrupulous practices” by employees to be made to the Government.

He added: “My call continues to be for unity of purpose and for all sectors to act in the best interests of the community in which we live, of those who we serve, and of those on whom we rely to do the work that drives Bermuda’s economy.

“Reports reaching me confirm that not all employers and businesses are adopting the flexible, sensitive approach these times demand.”

He said that 78 tests for Covid-19 had been done so far, with 49 of them clear and that 23 results were still awaited.

The number of confirmed cases was static at 6.

Mr Burt said: “The public may recall six tests were sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency last week. The results were received today with all test returned negative.”

He added that “more than” 30 samples were taken today and one test was done yesterday.

Mr Burt said: “There is a maximum 48-hour turnaround on the tests carried out in Bermuda.”

The Premier said that police had advised that roadside checks conducted with the Royal Bermuda Regiment to check for quarantine breaches had led to traffic delays “which are caused by people who have no reason to be on the roads”.

Mr Burt added: “If you don’t have to be on the roads, stay home”.

He added that police and soldiers would also carry out home visits to people under quarantine orders.

The Premier said that the health service staff had visited the Salvation Army Shelter “to assess protection measures for the unsheltered”.

He added that the Pharmacy Council had taken steps to ensure “adequate stock levels of medications in Bermuda”.

Mr Burt said: “The 10-day supply normally approved for verbal prescriptions from doctors to pharmacists will be extended to allow a 30-day supply.”

He added that workers from the health ministry’s Ageing and Disabilities Services team would distribute hand sanitiser kits and carry out health checks on “vulnerable seniors with respiratory issues, as well as checking on their food supplies”.

Mr Burt said that visits to rest homes would be limited to terminal patients only.

But he added: “It should be noted that no exception will be made for visitors who are under self-quarantined restrictions.”

Mr Burt said that the Covid-19 hotline had taken more than 500 calls since it was set up last week.