Conyers has been advising on employment issues arising out of the disruption caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19). In this article, we share some employment considerations for Bermuda businesses and organisations responding to the impact of COVID-19.
The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has obviously been impacting businesses in many sectors, from travel and tourism, restaurants and events, to professional services. Across the island, companies and organisations are considering how to implement procedures to best protect the safety of staff and customers, but also to ensure the continuity of business and services both during the period of “lockdown” and when the economy starts to reopen. There are certain legal considerations to be taken into account, as outlined below.
Under Bermuda employment law, employers must provide employees who have worked at least one year of continuous employment with eight days of paid sick leave per year. This will be subject to the terms of an employee’s contract of employment, which may provide for earlier entitlement (i.e. before the completion of one year’s employment) and/or a greater number of days of paid sick leave (it may not provide for less). If the employee is sick for two or more consecutive days, the employer is entitled to request a certificate from a registered medical practitioner certifying that the employee is unable to work. Once the paid sick leave is exhausted, further leave will be unpaid.
Where an employee is ill, the above procedure is straightforward to apply. If you have employees who are refusing to come into work for fear of contracting COVID-19, and such employees are unable to work from home, it is more difficult. Any company policy on vacation or unpaid leave should be taken into account. Generally, though, it is important to note that fear of contracting COVID-19 is not a reason for not working. Sick leave can only be used if the employee is genuinely sick, it cannot be used to avoid becoming sick. Other issues are engaged; see below.
While recommendations and requirements are being regularly updated, at the time of writing the Government of Bermuda requires that all individuals must shelter in place and that in certain circumstances individuals must go into quarantine or self-isolation at a designated facility. Where arrangements cannot be accommodated to allow the individual to work from home, you may want to consider providing the employee an election to use paid vacation days or unpaid leave for this period.
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Impact of COVID-19: Bermuda Employment Considerations