Work permit delays may soon be minimised by an online system that officials hope to relaunch by the end of March, but staffing constraints and other issues continue to pose problems for the Department of Labour and Workforce Development, according to statements made last month in the House of Assembly’s Standing Finance Committee.
Previously, the much-anticipated online system rolled out in July 2021 and accepted applications for new permits and renewals alike. But it stopped accepting renewals in December 2021 before completely shutting down last February. Businesses have subsequently complained about long delays in processing permits.
Natural Resources and Labour Minister Melvin Turnbull told the SFC last December that the online system could be relaunched by the end of the first quarter in 2023, according to a report on the SFC’s closed-door deliberations held Dec. 1-7.
Also during the deliberations, acting Deputy Labour Commissioner Althea Guishard explained some of the delays in processing permits, the report noted. The department, she stated, is short-staffed and employees have been working overtime and on the weekends to process permits.
Mr. Turnbull expressed concern about the delays, saying that “the longest work permit situation he dealt with took one year” to process, according to the SFC report.
He also stressed the importance of properly staffing the department and said that funds had been allocated to pay for several new positions which had not yet been filled, the report stated.
Ms. Guishard also explained that employers applying for new work permits or renewals are often missing necessary documents, which prolongs the process.
Junior Minister for Trade and Economic Development Shereen Flax-Charles suggested a public service announcement to help educate local businesses about turning in proper documentation, according to the SFC report.
Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley told the SFC that the department’s revenue is important, and that government must modernise its processes to offer services more efficiently, according to the report.
He also said that he supports a “one-stop-shop” approach to streamlining multiple applications coming from a single business, the report stated.