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Delinquent employers increasing; NIS concerned

Delinquent employers increasing; NIS concerned


The high level of delinquency among employers here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, is a growing concern for the National Insurance Services (NIS).{{more}}

Executive director of the NIS Reginald Thomas, in a brief interview on Wednesday, while declining to say how many of the 2,222 active employers in St Vincent and the Grenadines were not fulfilling their obligations, offered that it is “becoming a concern”.

Chairman of the NIS Lennox Bowman, also declined to give exact figures, but said the levels of arrears remains “unacceptable”, in spite of NIS efforts to employ different strategies to encourage compliance.

However, he noted that the staff is working hard to rectify the problem.

According to Mineva Glasgow, deputy executive director of the NIS, a delinquent employer is any employer who has not made any payments for two successive months.

Glasgow said, over the years, the NIS has tried strategies including: granting amnesty to employers who make good on their arrears; garnishing accounts; naming and shaming by printing their names in the newspapers; undertaking public education for employers and moral suasion.

“Despite our best efforts, some employers continue to evade the system. The situation is further exacerbated by those employees who deduct the contributions from the employees’ salary, but never remit to the NIS,” Glasgow said.

According to Glasgow, when this is done, employers are depriving employees twice, first by reducing their disposable income and by putting their benefits in jeopardy. She however added that the NIS has to frequently intervene to mitigate the effect of the deprivation caused by putting the employees’ benefits in jeopardy.

One such employee spoke with SEARCHLIGHT recently.

The young adult, who is employed with an accounting firm, told SEARCHLIGHT that in the almost two years since being employed, contributions were only made to the NIS, for the first four months after being hired.

The employee provided SEARCHLIGHT with documentation from the NIS which showed the four month period in which the contributions were made. We were also shown salary slips indicating that on a monthly basis, the company had made deductions from the employee’s salary.

“This is not going on for me alone. Other employees have checked as well. I just think it is unfair to us that it is being deducted from our salary and it’s not being paid over to the relevant authorities,” the worker said.

“I am being robbed”, the young adult said.

“It’s like we are going to forfeit our years of work in the NIS, since those years are not recorded. If anything is to happen to us, what are we going to get from the NIS? how are we going to claim anything from the NIS?” the employee questioned.

“This is bothering me and it needs to get sorted out now.”

According to the employee, when he visited the NIS to inquire about the situation, he was told that they (NIS) are making efforts to get the NIS deductions on their behalf.

The employee however noted that since the complaints were made, nothing has changed.

The NIS Act #33 of 1986 section 37 (1) states that, “any person who fails to pay within the time prescribed for the purpose any contribution which he is liable to pay under the act, is guilty of an offence and is liable to pay a fine of four thousand dollars”

Sections 40 A and B of the Act also authorize the NIS to recover outstanding contributions from persons holding money from another person to register the debt and create a charge or lien.

Glasgow however indicated that the NIS prefers using moral suasion to encourage employers to meet their obligation and will only apply stringent measures when all other methods fail.

“Going forward, the NIS is appealing to employers to treat compliance as a serious matter. Salaries and/or wages should be a priority. The human resource is still the most important asset in any organization…,” she added.

There are 37,972 active workers in St Vincent and the Grenadines registered with the NIS.