Employers could get tax breaks to employ over-65s
Employers could be offered payroll tax breaks to keep people on after 65, and a new task force is to be set up to crackdown on immigration violations, the Minister of Economy and Labour said yesterday.
Jason Hayward also moved to allay concerns from the Bermuda Public Services Union over possible redundancies owing to digitalisation of services.
In addition, he said his ministry would also look at the causes of emigration, saying it would “commission research to understand better what motivates Bermudians to leave and what might entice them to return”.
Mr Hayward held a joint press conference with the Minister of Transport, Wayne Furbert, on the Throne Speech.
Mr Hayward said: “The Speech from the Throne states that a cross-functional partnership between the Ministry of Economy and Labour and the Ministry of National Security will strengthen the Department of Immigration’s Compliance Section.
“Plans are under way to form a task force of mid to senior-level officers from the Bermuda Police Service with strong investigative and interviewing skills alongside senior inspectors from the Department of Immigration.
“Rather than the sole reliance upon the public to report breaches, the task force will be commissioned to visit employment sites to assess workers’ status and address complaints and potential violations.”
Mr Hayward said that he expected two to four police officers would help form the task force alongside existing immigration officers.
“We put out an immigration reform strategy and one of the areas in that strategy was strengthening compliance.
“We determined that we needed to strengthen compliance, but we also realised that the Department of Immigration didn’t solely have the manpower required.
“We looked at where we would leverage the skills and expertise of other ministries and the Ministry of National Security has the skills and expertise that we require to execute on our objectives.”
“We are looking at an additional two to four police officers but then we also have immigration officers who are also responsible for compliance as well.”
The Throne Speech outlined a plan to incentivise employers to keep on employees 65 or over.
“We are still mulling over what we will land on as it pertains to benefits but the most enticing benefits would be some sort of tax incentive, maybe a decline in payroll tax.
“We will discuss other benefits, but certainly what we want to do is, we want to have a package in place that entices business owners to retain persons beyond the age of 65.”
Mr Hayward rejected that there was a risk of blocking new entrants to the workforce by keeping employers on over the age of 65. Government employees can already elect to carry on working to the age of 68.
“No, not at all. Based on the demographic make-up of our economy there will be, and continue to be, more jobs in our economy than able-bodied Bermudians.
“As a result of that, there will be a need to fill the labour force with expatriate labour on an ongoing basis.
“We did explore this when we were looking at an initial report to increase the retirement age, and what we found was that there was no one-to-one relationship.
“So, it is not like an old person exits the workforce and a young person enters the workforce in that particular position.
“The economy and the job market simply does not work like that. So that is not a realistic risk.”
The Throne Speech outlined plans to digitalise some services, including immigration.
Mr Hayward said the process had started some time ago, but he was not happy with the outcome. He said he was now looking to put out an RFP to get a vendor on board.
“We want to have it completed within this 12-month period,” said the minister.
This week, the Bermuda Public Services Union issued a statement, part of which read: “To avoid redundancies resulting from digitisation, Government must also allow transfers to other roles where appropriate.”
“We are not looking to displace staff, but we are looking to create operational efficiencies and improve services.”
Asked if there will be redundancies, the minister said “no”.
Mr Hayward added: “The ministry will also commission research to understand better what motivates Bermudians to leave and what might entice them to return.
“Once completed and with this information in hand, the ministry will make an aggressive and targeted effort to encourage Bermudians studying or living abroad to return home to reside and work, which will ultimately support our economy.”
• For the full BPSU statement and the minister’s statement, see Related Media