Shernel James, Commissioner at the Department of Labour

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts –- Shernel James, Commissioner at the Department of Labour, said that her staff is going the extra mile, by working overtime on weekends, and even on public holidays to process claims to the Severance Fund by workers who were laid off as a result of COVID-19.

“As of October 12, 1,855 claims have been received at the Department of Labour,” said Ms. James. She added that 620 claims have been processed to date covering persons who were employed in the hotel and tourism sector. That sector has been particularly hard hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Two hundred and fifty claims have received payment to date.

“We are still going through the process,” said Ms. James. “Every claim must be thoroughly vetted to ensure that there is clarity and to ensure that these claims meet the requirement, additional steps were added by the Department of Labour based [on the] recommendations of the Director of Audit, the Accountant General Department and the Ministry of Finance.”

The additional steps that were introduced are designed to help identify false claims and protect the validity of the Severance Fund claims.

“The Department of Labour apologizes to those persons who would have put in claims … and would not have received any payment to date,” said Ms. James. “I would like to assure persons that all claims that came in from May [up to] August 31 would have gone through the processing stage.”

The Severance Fund is currently under Actuarial Review. Ms. James said that a similar exercise was performed in 2018. However, the scope of this review has been widened to determine the viability of the Fund.