Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo is proposing that unemployed individuals who refuse job placement of counselling from the National Employment Bureau (NEB) should have their unemployment benefits discontinued.
Under a revamped NEB, those who lose their jobs are required to visit the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) to have their book stamped then taken to the NEB for a second stamp, at which time they are offered counselling and available jobs, before collecting unemployment benefits.
“Persons who refuse to be counselled or who turn down job opportunities should not have the forms stamped . . . By law if you refuse to be counselled and you just come to have your form stamped you are not supposed to have it stamped and therefore you will discontinue your unemployment benefit,” Byer-Suckoo said.
“Contrary to popular belief there is no such thing as an entitlement to 26 weeks’ unemployment benefits. And I do know there are persons who refuse to accept opportunities for interviews because their unemployment benefits has ‘not yet run out, they still have several weeks to go’. That is a notion that we want to disabuse persons of. There is no such thing as an entitlement to 26 weeks’ unemployment benefit. That is a maximum, only if no job is available. So when you come to the NEB you have two options: you either find a job , one that is offered, or if not, they will stamp the form,” she explained.
The minister contended that Barbados was one of a few countries to have an unemployment benefit scheme, but that Barbadians were taking it for granted.
This, she said, had to stop.
“We cannot support the abuse of our system, and indeed the new and improved NEB will see better counselling and placement and less people relying on the unemployment benefits, but instead having the satisfaction of employment,” she added.
The NEB is currently undergoing restructuring and institutional strengthening, which includes rebranding – the first in a series of initiatives to improve its image, quality and relevance.
The employment agency will now be called the Barbados Employment and Career Counselling Service.
Addressing a stakeholders’ seminar at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre Tuesday morning, Byer-Suckoo also pointed out that the cry by some individuals for the social and development agency to be relocated to a more central area had not fallen on deaf ears.
In April 2012, the NEB was moved to the Warrens Office Complex after the old NIS building on Fairchild Street, The City became unsuitable.
However, unemployed individuals who have to conduct business with the government agency have been complaining about the distance which they have to travel between the NIS on Culloden Road in Lower Collymore Rock and the NEB offices in Warrens, and have been calling for the NEB to be more centrally located.
Byer-Suckoo said Government was in search of a “suitable and affordable” venue at which to relocate the unit.