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Fidelity’s warning on visits to the U.S.

photo

Gowon Bowe

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Bahamian workers were yesterday warned they could find themselves taking unpaid leave if they fail to make "wise" vacation decisions amid the COVID-19 threat.

Gowon Bowe, Fidelity Bank (Bahamas) chief financial officer, told Tribune Business that the bank's employees will, in the first instance, be treated as having taken additional vacation time should they have to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon their return home.

And, should they have insufficient vacation time to cover this period or it be exhausted, he explained that it will be treated as "unpaid leave" - meaning that the employee will suffer a reduction in their take-home pay and earnings.

Emphasising that this only applied to discretionary, leisure travel, and not essential trips to take care of medical emergencies and such like, Mr Bowe said this was not a "dictatorial mandate" going beyond the Government's own regulations as some had portrayed it.

He added that Fidelity Bank (Bahamas), as an "essential service", had an obligation to protect both its operations and other staff/customers from the risk of COVID-19 infection that may be created should an employee elect to travel to popular Bahamian vocation locations in the "hot spot" US.

"For a business establishment, and not just the bank, if you as an employee travel and it is not business or emergency-related, and there are government regulations stipulating you cannot work, that will be governed by vacation time and, if there is no vacation time, by unpaid leave," Mr Bowe explained to this newspaper.

"What I have made abundantly clear internally is that the Prime Minister encouraged people to avoid overseas travel and, as an essential service, in the banking industry we have to protect fellow employees and customers. If you become a carrier you add to the risk.

"During the period of lockdown we have to operate as an essential service, so we have to be extra careful with management of staff and sanitising the environment. We are not saying you cannot travel.... It's no different to you travelling and becoming stuck. That would be vacation time, and if your vacation time is used up, it will be unpaid leave."

Mr Bowe said his caution appeared to have been misunderstood as "a dictatorial mandate beyond what the Government itself has put in place", rather than a simple warning to employees of the potential consequences if they choose to vacation abroad amid the health protocols and COVID-19 restrictions put in place.

While workers able to obtain a negative COVID-19 PCR test within seven days before returning to The Bahamas will likely be able to return to work immediately, barring any concerns detected on their arrival back home, Mr Bowe said obtaining these tests overseas in the time required was likely to prove challenging.

There are also concerns over whether testing in other countries, such as some of the CARICOM countries, may not meet the Government's standards. And while those who leave The Bahamas for 72 hours or less do not have to produce a negative COVID-19 test, they will be required to quarantine for 14 days, which likely rules out weekend shopping trips to Florida for many at the moment.

"The message to staff is we're not discouraging vacation, we're not discouraging time off," Mr Bowe told Tribune Business. "We're saying be mindful of hot spots, especially the US, which is where many of us like to go. Government regulations are also evolving regularly, so factor that into your travel plans.

"People will want to blow off steam, but is it steam that needs to be blown off in the US? Employers have to bear this in mind as well in every business and industry.

"I think most employers will say to employees that it's their choice to take vacation, but be wise as to the choice and location you go, and what the consequences of it are.

"From my internal standpoint we will follow the law, and be as accommodating and equitable as we can with employees, but it cannot be the choice of one impacting the many. We have to be utilitarian and look out for the greatest number of people."

Comments

thps 2 years, 2 months ago

Hey, Bahamians don't go to the crazy US hotspot, especially Florida Califnoia NY Texas the Carolinas, for non-essential travel you may cause a spread when you return.

Hey, Americans especially from Florida Califnoia NY Texas the Carolinas, please come for non-essential travel you won't cause a spread when you return.

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bahamianson 2 years, 2 months ago

Well, it's a balancing act , or the Bahamas closes down for a year. if Bahamians quarantine for two weeks after returning , the chance of spread is minimized. Visitors must present a negative test upon arrival. As we know, there is challenge to that. However, the test is a barrier, Bahamians wearing masks is a barrier, sanitizing hands and social distancing are all barriers. This is the best we can do to balance the virus with the economy. if things get worse, lockdown again.

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thps 2 years, 2 months ago

I understand balancing, not the messaging.

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moncurcool 2 years, 2 months ago

So why does he have to publicised the personal workings of what happens between employee and employer in his company?

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ThisIsOurs 2 years, 2 months ago

most likely because it was being discussed in social media so he either addressed it or the reporter reached out to him for comment

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tribanon 2 years, 2 months ago

What about a Fidelity employee who is ordered by government to self-quarantine for 14 days because he or she was identified through tracing to have had close contact with a Covid-19 infected tourist on New Providence while the tourist was for the most part asymptomatic? Would that Fidelity employee also stand to lose their vacation time and/or pay, or just those employees who travel abroad? And who's to say whether a Fidelity employee contracted Covid-19 while abroad or in The Bahamas?

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mandela 2 years, 2 months ago

Why would anyone run to a country where the leaders of their respective states are telling other states if you visit you will have to quarantine for 14 days. God help us, the USA virus problems today are far worst than they were when the pandemic first broke out. None of the sensible countries are allowing USA citizens into their countries and deterring their citizens from traveling there only Banana boat countries like ours are more than happy to risk our health so we can say " oh I went to the USA for vacation".

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bahamianson 2 years, 2 months ago

difference is, each state is self sustaining . the Bahamas is not self sustaining, we need visitor's money. the majority of our guest come from america. it is what it is.

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tribanon 2 years, 2 months ago

Don't worry, I'm sure St. Peter already has you well labelled as a dollar worshipper. And you know what that means when your turn eventually comes to stand in judgement at the entrance to the pearly gates.

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proudloudandfnm 2 years, 2 months ago

I had two Americans brought into my office this morning, temporary workers here for a month. They arrived yesterday, no masks just t-shirts wrapped around their heads. I got up and walked out.

This is just dumb. They are not tourists they should be made to quarantine for 2 weeks just like Bahamians are required to....

If we surge in the next two or three weeks (which is very likely) I'll be ok, my job will be waiting. If not I need a new job....

PM Minnis and his cabinet will be responsible for any covid related death from this point on....

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ted4bz 2 years, 2 months ago

Not really, Minnis is not in charge, the US state department is. He must do what they say even if it kills us all, as a result they will protect him. It’s that simple.

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