Man claims employer won’t let him work after he completed quarantine


Tribune Chief Reporter


A MAN who has been cleared by the Ministry of Health to leave quarantine after contracting COVID-19 on his job says his livelihood is being threatened because his employer will not allow him to return to work.

However, while he is asymptomatic, the man has tested positive for the virus several times, the most recent being about two weeks ago.

In an interview with The Tribune, the man who requested anonymity out of fear of retribution, said he first exhibited symptoms about three months ago.

A colleague first began experiencing symptoms like a sore throat and headache while at work, prompting his employer to quarantine members of staff and order testing.

Once the testing was complete, several workers tested positive.

Given the circumstances, the employer paid for initial tests and those that followed.

The man has taken issue with how his employer is handling the situation. Apart from disallowing his return to duty, his employers have also attempted to force him to either take vacation or sick leave.

He said: “This company has acknowledged that I got sick while on their job. My colleague started showing symptoms first while on the job and did not come back to work.

“My work then told us who may have come into contact with him to quarantine and they paid for tests.

“I didn’t have the symptoms at work, but I started to have headache, sore throat and nausea at home. This spread to others in my household.

“My initial test was positive and all the other tests have been positive, but I don’t have symptoms now. The ministry has released me from quarantine, so why then can I not go back to work? On top of that at one point I was asked to take sick leave and then they came back trying to demand that I take vacation. I have refused.”

Yesterday, a senior Ministry of Health official said currently only some healthcare workers and those who were hospitalised for moderate to severe symptoms are required to have negative RT-PCR tests for COVID-19 to be allowed to return to work.

Asked further if employers had to adhere to this position, the official said: “That’s an employer mandate. Not that of the ministry of government.”

When contacted, Director of Labour John Pinder said a worker cannot be forced to take vacation or be barred from work if the ministry has cleared a patient.

“Part of that could be labour’s responsibility,” Mr Pinder said yesterday. “You can’t force an employee to take vacation for a COVID-19 situation and if the person has been quarantined and been released by a licensed physician, the employer has to accept that. If they want something else they have to pay for it. They might want you to go to ‘doctor so-and-so’ and let that doctor say you are negative.

“But if the authority says you’re okay, the employer is not above the authority or above the law. but if they want a second opinion then they can pay for it. But no one can be forced.

“Now, according to the competent authority, in the event that the person has travelled to a high risk area then the employer has the right to force vacation because you put yourself at risk. However, if you are on the job and someone exposes you there, they can’t force vacation.

“Even the NIB Act covers people in this situation. It’s more like an industrial incident so they are covered under that,” Mr Pinder added.

As of July 20, the US Centers for Disease Control said a test-based strategy is no longer recommended to determine when to discontinue home isolation, except in certain circumstances.


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