The isolation of employees who test positive for COVID-19 is causing several challenges for the patient and the employer which need to be hastily addressed.
That is the view of COVID-19 Public Advisor, David Ellis who said while workers have complained of not being able to get sick certificates in a timely manner to present to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), employers are in the dark about the status of their employees until after they had recovered and been released.
“There is an issue that I think has come up that is very important and both employees and employers are worried about it. As you well know there are employees who have been placed in isolation or in quarantine, but the big difficulty they have been facing is that they cannot get the sick certificates in a timely manner so what is happening is that the claims are being submitted to NIS later than stipulated by the NIS,” Ellis disclosed.
“In these circumstances, employers are also unaware of the status of the employees. So a person may be in quarantine, then they go and get tested and five days later they are positive, so then they have at least 10 days in isolation. They may get a clearance certificate from the doctor but they cannot get that yellow form. Part of the reason they are not getting that yellow form is because, I believe, it has to be delivered within the first four days of the illness.”
Ellis said the fact that doctors were stretched to capacity meant dealing with the necessary paperwork was proving to be challenging.
“The net effect is that the employer does not have anything to prove that the employee has indeed been in quarantine, has been in isolation, other than the clearance certificate that they get when they come out of isolation and the employee assumes that because the Ministry of Health has sent them home to isolate or quarantine that the employer has to pay them,” he noted.
“Last year when this first arose you may recall that the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC) advised that the workplaces’ usual sick leave and pay entitlements applied if someone was placed under mandatory isolation by a medical doctor or was diagnosed with COVID-19. They suggested that the employers may have needed to modify the usual process of reporting sick leave, including extending the time limit for receipt of the sick certificates and that employees should advise the employers as soon as possible if they were unable to report to work due to illness.
“This matter is occupying the attention of both the Ministry of Health and the National Insurance Department because too many people are being hurt by it and too many employers are finding themselves in a situation where they are uncertain about exactly what has been happening with the employees,” Ellis added.
Executive Director of the BEC Sheena Mayers-Granville told Barbados TODAY the issue of late sick certificates fell squarely at the feet of public health authorities.
She explained while private doctors could provide sick certificates in normal circumstances they were not responsible for the care of COVID-19 patients.
“Standard operating practice even outside of the pandemic is that if you are out of work for something related to illness or certified by a doctor, you submit certification to your employer. Similar processes exist now, the only difference is that only the public health authorities can issue the certification. It can’t be issued by a private doctor because private doctors don’t get involved with COVID-19 diagnosis so much based on how our medical services are rendered,” Mayers-Granville said.
Ellis pointed out that he had been hired by Government to specifically deal with issues of this nature.
“That’s the kind of role I have to play in all of this, which is to help identify what have been the challenges that people in the community are facing and there are many…so a lot of this relationship is not necessarily on air but it is dealing with people on a regular basis. To me, it is a necessary function…” Ellis said. (RB)