Against the background of complaints being lodged at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security about workers being asked to undergo polygraph (lie detector) testing at some workplaces, the ministry is to hold discussions on the issue with employers, soon.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, the Hon Pearnel Charles.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon Pearnel Charles, says that he is prepared to discuss the issue with employers, but that he would only consider polygraph testing as necessary in specific circumstances.
Pointing out that there is no statute in Jamaica that currently prohibits the use of polygraph testing as a basis for granting, continuing or terminating employment, Mr. Charles said that the ministry is carefully examining and researching the matter, with a view to recommending policy on the issue.
He was giving the main address at an ICT and Labour Forum organised by Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) for its western Jamaica clients, at the Secret Hotel and Spa, in Montego Bay, on Friday (September 24).
In attendance were representatives of several ICT and Tourism sector businesses in western Jamaica which, collectively, employ over 15,000 persons.
The Jamaican media has reported increased use of polygraph testing in labour situations over the past decade including interviewing applicants for jobs, as well as employees accused of various acts on the job.
There are also strong sentiments supporting polygraph testing for members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). However, there is also increasing concerns about the credibility of polygraph tests results.
Mr. Charles said Friday that there is strong possibility that employers who rely solely on the results of polygraph tests, as the basis for dismissing employees, might not be able to successfully defend a wrongful dismissal suit.
“I have a problem, and probably again influenced by my trade union culture; If you employ a group of workers for five, six, seven or eight years, to go and tell them that, come Monday morning, everybody has to take a polygraph test to stay on the job, I cannot support you,” he stated.
“But, if you tell me that you are going to employ some people next week, and a standard that you are setting is that they must convince you, through a polygraph test, that they are the right employees that you need, then I can discuss that with you,” he added.
He also argued that there is concern that polygraph testing could indicate a lack of trust, which is not conducive to good worker/management relationships.
“So we are going to be discussing this matter with the employers”, he said, although not giving a timeline for the discussions.