Senator the Honourable Jennifer Baptiste Primus provided the following oral response in the Senate of the Parliament on Wednesday 11 February 2020:
Question No. 37 to the Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development
In light of public statements by an official of the Ministry that Trinidad and Tobago has the world’s fifth highest rate of worker absenteeism, can the Minister indicate what measures are being taken to address said issue of worker absenteeism?
(By Senator Wade Mark)
Madam President, the statement to which Senator Wade Mark made reference, concerning Trinidad and Tobago having the fifth highest worker absenteeism rating in the world, was made by an official of the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development (MOLSED) at a workshop hosted by the Department of Labour of the Division of Community Development, Enterprise Development and Labour of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA). The Workshop titled “Decent Work Agenda: Productivity and Managing Absenteeism,” was held on June 14, 2019. Prior to this, at a seminar on Absenteeism in the Workplace hosted by the Employers’ Consultative Association (ECA) of Trinidad and Tobago, the information about Trinidad and Tobago’s rating in worker absenteeism was revealed and published in the Business Guardian on January 21, 2016, by Dr. Kwame R. Charles, Director, Quality Consultants Limited.
Madam President, absenteeism is regarded as one of the many workplace issues that can contribute to low productivity, decreased revenue and even lead to the detriment of the organization and negative impact on the overall development of the nation. In this regard, the National Productivity Council (NPC), which falls under the purview of the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, was reconstituted on May 10, 2017, and has been working to fulfill its mandate which includes, inter alia,:
- to promote and develop greater productivity and quality awareness and consciousness of the people of Trinidad and Tobago in collaboration with key stakeholders;
- to inculcate new values and attitudes in Trinidad and Tobago regarding productivity, quality and competitiveness;
- to establish a system of documentation and dissemination of information relating to productivity;
- to advise Government on the formulation of national policies and strategies on all aspects of productivity, quality and competitiveness;
- to identify constraints to the improvement of productivity, quality and competitiveness and propose remedial measures to be taken;
- to serve as a focal point on all matters pertaining to productivity, quality and competitiveness;
- to develop and adopt a set of key productivity indicators for Trinidad and Tobago; and
- to design and conduct relevant productivity surveys.
Madam President, in the pursuit of these objectives, in September 2019, Cabinet agreed that the National Productivity Council (NPC) be tasked with the responsibility of collecting data on absenteeism, measured in a consistent manner for comparison, across sectors and industries, and with particular attention to absences around holidays. Data would also need to be collected on absenteeism in the Public Service and in State Enterprises.
Madam President, in addition, the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, in addressing a range of workplace issues and in sensitizing employers and employees of their rights and responsibilities in the workplace has embarked on a public sensitization campaign. This includes sharing of information via radio, television and the print media. Additionally, in the Public Service, employees have access to a free and confidential Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) where professional support and counselling is provided in helping employees address personal and professional challenges that may affect their attendance as well as performance.
Madam President, I look forward to the support of employers and workers as we work together to address the issue of worker absenteeism in Trinidad and Tobago and get the job done.
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