The explanation came after questioning from senior legislator and Member for the Third District, Hon Julian Fraser (RA) at the August 16, 2021, Eleventh Sitting of the Third Session of the Fourth House of Assembly.
According to Hon Wheatley, employees must now submit a Good Standing Certificates for work permit renewals, after it has come to the fore that many persons who receive work permits in the VI are not actually working at the company listed on their permits.
“Companies and persons do what is inspected, not what is expected. We expect all companies to be in compliance and in good standing all the time. But what we have found over the years is that companies because it wasn’t being inspected, now this forces the companies to do it,” Hon Wheatley said.
He said if a good standing certificates are not available, employees can also submit payment plans that will bring their employees up to date with the relevant agencies as a workaround to the system.
However, Hon Wheatley said with flaws having been identified in the system, the new policy will only help to regularise the work permit system in the VI and has already had major success in achieving its mandate.
Hon Wheatley said persons have been working ‘off the grid’ where they cannot even be located at their job site when checks are made following the issuance of work permits, as such the system will only ensure that persons are doing legitimate work, for a legitimate business.
He said for new employees, the system is not required as persons would be applying for the first time.
“Persons have been here for five or 10 years with no record of any earnings, absolutely none… But the employer is here now trying to renew your permit. Those are things we are trying to avoid,” he said.
In cases, according to Hon Wheatley, persons have been issued work permits for some strange titles, and when it is time for inspection at the company, no one is actually doing the job.
“But the persons [employee] are trying to get 5, 6, 20 permits for these persons and no real work… Mr Speaker, it’s a problem in this country that we are trying to fix,” Hon Wheatley said regarding a crackdown on illegal working.