By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Government and private sector officials yesterday confirmed there is "much talk" about extending the temporary lay-off period to end-September to ease job pressures.
John Pinder, pictured, the director of labour, and Peter Goudie, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation's (BCCEC) labour specialist, both told Tribune Business an extension of the so-called "grace period" was being eyed to ease the burden on hard-pressed businesses and keep employees in jobs.
Mr Pinder said many companies appeared to be waiting until this month's end, which is when the current temporary furlough period expires, before making decisions on whether they will move to permanent worker terminations.
"A lot of people are waiting until the end of the grace period, the end of July, to see if the Government makes an offer to extend it to the end of September before they make a final decision," he told this newspaper.
Reforms to the Employment Act in 2017 mandate that once workers have been sent home for a 13-week, 90-day period, an employer either has to recall them or terminate them with full compensation as required by law.
However, the unprecedented scale of temporary lay-offs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has already prompted the Government to extend this so-called "grace period" until the end of July in a bid to slow additions to a national unemployment rate thought to be approaching at least 40 percent.
Mr Goudie, too, confirmed discussions about an extension until end-September, telling Tribune Business: "There's a lot of talk about that. We've got to hope they keep the eligibility to be temporarily laid-off and not made redundant.
"We hope they keep extending that. People don't want to be made redundant, and a lot of companies can't afford that."
Mr Goudie added that terminations, both temporary and permanent, will "keep coming for a while" as companies adjust their costs to align with much-reduced revenues in the new COVID-19 reality.
"We don't have any tourists, don't have any business, and without that we won't have any jobs," he said. 'I don't know where we're going to go. We can only borrow so much money. It's tough, it's really tough.
"My view is that we have a really tough labour market, and everyone is trying to hang on by the skin of their teeth. You can terminate, make redundant, lay-off whatever. There's no jobs."
Mr Goudie said the unemployment burden appeared to be falling heavily on junior line staff and young workers, as opposed to management workers. He added that he had expected to "get buried" by applications for a post he advertised recently on behalf of a client, but received not nearly as many as anticipated.
"When you get a whole bunch of people out there in the labour market and there's no jobs, the prospects are pretty bleak," Mr Goudie said.