On July 10, Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley announced the immediate implementation of extra steps for businesses renewing work permits.

This week, he walked back that plan after hearing objections from businesses that the new rules were too demanding.

Instead, government will offer a bit of leeway in the transition, Mr. Wheatley said July 21 in the House of Assembly.

Under the rules announced July 10, renewal applications must include letters of the company’s good standing with the Social Security Board, Inland Revenue Department and National Health Insurance, as well as certificates of earnings from SSB and IRD for the employee.

Mr. Wheatley said at the time that these changes were meant to ensure that employees and employers comply with government requirements for working in the territory.

However, applicants experienced some challenges in securing the letters on such short notice, Mr. Wheatley said, and the Department of Labour and Workforce Development is therefore willing to be flexible at this time.

“It is not our intention to turn well-meaning businesspersons into criminals,” he said on Tuesday.

The minister added that the relevant departments will also switch from slower manual processes for delivering letters to faster electronic systems.

Another barrier for renewal is some businesses’ inability to pay all outstanding dues to the SSB and other entities, he explained. As many employers are still recovering from the 2017 hurricanes and already experiencing financial hardship from the Covid-19 pandemic, he said, it is difficult for some to pay a large lump sum.

Therefore, the department will consider renewal applications as long as the business presents a “reasonable” payment plan, he said.

“We still have to collect our dues,” he added.