Independent Senator Sir Roy Trotman Wednesday raised alarm over a new “two child” policy, which he said he hoped was implemented by the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) in error.
Speaking in Senate Wednesday during debate on the National Insurance and Social Security (Amendment), Bill 2017, Sir Roy said he had been informed that BRA was currently advising parents that “where they may have thought that they could follow the maternity leave provisions and . . . get support for three or more children . . . there is a new instruction that is advising parents that they may be able only to get two children”.
The former union boss told the Senate that while he had subsequently heard that the policy was communicated in error, he was also reliably informed that some parents had received correspondence to that effect.
In this context, Sir Roy wondered aloud if BRA Commissioner Margaret Sivers had heard the recent call made by Minister of Education Ronald Jones for Barbadians to have more children.
Sir Roy also pointed out that the officials of the National Insurance Scheme have been warning that by 2030 Barbados may not have enough workers to be able to support its pensioners.
“If we recognize that that crisis is one where, very shortly, we are going to have a problem of a country without people, then clearly we must be able to recognize that negative growth in our population cannot be coupled with the information regarding a reduction in that provision for children benefit,” Sir Roy said.
He stressed that there was need for clarification of the new BRA regulations, adding that given the current economic hardships in the country, consideration should be given ease for workers.
In response to the recent revelation made by Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo that the NIS was receiving approximately 54,000 sickness claims per annum, Sir Roy also suggested that national dialogue was needed on the issue.
He recalled that as General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union, he had endeavoured between 2008-2012 to get employers in the hotel industry and other areas to introduce flexible working hours.
“I sought to discuss with employers cases where workers were not themselves sick but their child may be, so they took sick leave to cover themselves.
“The union suggested that a system of flexi-time could be introduced [and] the employee knew that if she had called in and said that she was staying home with a sick child or parent, she would be dismissed.