The Minister of Labour, Jason Hayward, held a news conference this morning (Feb 3) to address a number of concerns reported to his Ministry “from employees and members of the public about mandatory vaccinations within the workplace and the perceived treatment of Bermudian employees as it pertains to layoffs”.

“Employees, and their representatives, from various industries, have voiced concern that many employers are laying off Bermudian employees at a rate disproportionate to that of Work Permit holders,” he said.

“The Ministry understands that due to the current economic climate in Bermuda, businesses find it challenging to remain open. However, the Government has made its position clear on work permits, in that they should only be used when Bermudian labour is not available.

“It is understood that some employers do not have a layoff policy or schedule in place and are not fair and equitable in their decision making. And so I strongly advise employers to implement a layoff policy or schedule that is equally applied to all employees to avoid further complaints.

“Employers are also reminded to adhere to the layoff provisions as noted in Section 32 of the Employment Act 2000 and they should contact the Labour Relations Section for guidance to comply with the Bermuda Labour Code.”

The Minister also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic “has caused many employers to review their business operations, including how best to protect their staff and clients from contracting the COVID-19 virus”.

“Unfortunately, some employers have practised laying off, suspending, and even in some cases terminating employees who are not vaccinated.

“Employers and employees must recognise and understand that vaccination is a personal choice. An employee who chooses not to be vaccinated must not be treated with discipline or termination of employment.

“To be clear, this Government has not made any statements or implemented legislation mandating vaccination in the workplace. Therefore, employers should utilise the methods and guidelines currently available through the Ministry of Health to maintain public safety as best as they can.Employers are reminded that they have an obligation under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1982 and its relevant regulations to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all of their employees.

“If employees and employers have questions concerning employment-related layoffs or vaccination policies, they should contact the Labour Relations Section. Employers should also contact the Ministry of Health with any COVID-19 concerns or advice.”

Mr Hayward concluded: “The Labour Relations Section is available via phone and email from Monday to Friday between 8:45 am and 5:00 pm and on 297-7716 or at [email protected] Additionally, employment violations may be reported through the job board at bit.ly/employerviolations.”