Magistrate hits out at low fines for health insurance breaches
The island’s top magistrate has called for a review of “egregiously low” penalties for businesses that fail to pay for staff health insurance.
Senior magistrate Juan Wolffe told Magistrates’ Court on that the maximum $1,000 fine for offences was “a slap on the wrist”.
He added: “These courts sentence people every day who potentially face harsher sentences for lesser offences.
“Oftentimes, these people struggle to pay their fines and a $1,000 fine for a business who denies their employees insurance is nothing more than a slap on the wrist.”
Mr Wolffe was speaking after electrical firm Corcon was fined a total of $800 on Tuesday for a failure to provide Dandre Outerbridge, a former employee, with health insurance and for a failure to tell him of the lack of insurance.
The maximum fine for employers who do not provide health insurance is $500 and the maximum fine for not telling them they had no insurance is a $1,000 fine.
The court heard that the Bermuda Hospitals Board got a complaint in September 2019 from the mother of Mr Outerbridge, who claimed that he had not been covered while employed by Correia Construction, a now-closed subsidiary of Corcon.
An investigation revealed that Mr Outerbridge had not been covered by health insurance until July 1 that year despite being employed by the company since April 1.
Dennis Correia, the owner of Corcon, pleaded guilty on behalf of the company.
Richard Horseman, for the defence, told the court that Mr Outerbridge told his employers that he had health insurance when they hired him and they took him at his word.
He added that Corcon continued to give Mr Outerbridge health insurance for about a year after he left the company despite not having to.
Mr Horseman added that Mr Outerbridge had not made any insurance claims while he was uninsured.
But Mr Wolffe said that was “only by circumstance” and that Mr Outerbridge could have been in a “very different situation”.
The Attorney General’s Chambers did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
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