An undisclosed number of soldiers who for years received maternity cheques along with their regular pay have suddenly found themselves looking for thousands of dollars to repay the army.
Sources at St. Ann’s Fort, the headquarters of the Barbados Defence Force, revealed that the women were recently called into a meeting with senior officers and told that they had to make arrangements to repay the benefits, which in one case is reported to have amounted to $18,000.
However, Barbados TODAY learnt tonight that the BDF was not alone, and that employees of other Government departments who received similar double payment were being told they will have to repay the Treasury.
One affected army employee said the women were upset because the institution “admitted” the error was its, “but still they want us to repay”.
In fact, one told Barbados today that years ago when she received a benefits cheque from the National Insurance Scheme at the same time at her salary, she raised the matter with a superior who she said to spend the money “and top trying to make bad for everyone else”.
Apparently, one source explained, since 2000 the BDF had been in the habit of paying soldiers their salaries while they were receiving NIS cheques, without question.
Now that the army has determined that it wants back its money, which one source said could exceed $200,000 in total, the women, some of whom had had more than one child, believed they were being made to take the full responsibility for the army’s error.
Efforts to contact Chief of Staff of the BDF, Colonel Alvin Quintyne, were unsuccessful, but a source at the NIS explained that any loss incurred in paying the women twice would be the employer’s, in this case the army.
He explained that years ago when the NIS was not as speedy in the payment of benefits, employers as a favour to their employees would continue to pay them while they were on maternity leave on the understanding that when they received the payment from the NIS they would turn it over to the company.
“These days you are able to get your cheque within two weeks of the claim being received, so the situation is not necessarily as tough on new mothers,” the official explained.
“What we have also suggested to the employer from time to time is that they get the employee to sign an agreement so that if they do not turn in the NIS cheque by a certain time then the employer can deduct it from their salaries.”
The official also explained that the NIS has made a point of not getting involved in the arrangements between employers and employees, but since the contract for benefits was always between the workers and the department they were obligated to write the cheque in the name of the person making the claim, and not the employer, even if the employers continued to pay the worker while on leave. (RRM)