Stakeholders in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector are now seeking to identify employees, who require limited supervision, to be a part of the work-from-home regime for companies operating in the special economic zones (SEZs). The arrangement will officially start on January 1, 2024.
“Not everyone can work without supervision; there are some who constantly have to be told what to do. Those who are efficient and continue to meet their targets are the ones that we are allowing to work off-site,” a BPO operator, who requested anonymity, told The Gleaner. “We will only allow the best of the best to operate under the work-from-home framework.”
Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority, Kelli-Dawn Hamilton, told The Gleaner that the programme creates greater flexibility for business continuity among SEZ operators.
Hamilton further outlined that her entity would collaborate with Jamaica Customs to monitor work from home, including a self-reporting option for the operators. There will also be a nominal fee for each employee working from home to ensure that the new framework’s administration adheres to international requirements, relating to matters such as profit shifting.
A specific list of equipment will be allowed to move out of the zone to facilitate the arrangement, which was developed in response to the needs of the sectors operating under the SEZ.When quizzed on the viability of the work-from-home policy, industry minister, Senator Aubyn Hill, said it was established out of extensive discussions between the GSAJ, the Ministry of Planning and Public Service, and the Ministry of Industry, Investment, and Commerce.
“The industry has been moving in that direction in countries that compete with Jamaica,” said Hill. “Some of these countries have allowed a larger per cent of people to work from home. To the BPO operators, it is a big cost consideration.”
When pressed as to whether the Government is set to lose revenue from relaxing the guidelines, Hill intimated that he did not believe that would be the case.
“Given the overall arrangements, I suspect not, (but) very importantly, though, we are securing jobs, in arguably our fastest growing sector,” said Hill.
The work-from-home arrangement was introduced with support from the Government during the pandemic, but continued even when the mandatory work-from-home order for public-sector workers came to an end on December 31, 2021. The Government extended the allowance to BPO companies, as they explored a permanent solution.
In the early stages, productivity was said to have increased as workers no longer struggled with commuting from home. The operators also realised significant savings in operational cost. Currently, some 60,000 workers are employed in the over 90 outsourcing firms operating in Jamaica.
Source: Jamaica Gleaner
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