Legislating For A Better Workforce

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Minister of Labour, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo

Promoting opportunities to facilitate the provision of decent and productive work in free, equitable and secure conditions has long been the goal of the Ministry of Labour.?? One of the ways that the organisation has set out to accomplish this is by the introduction and implementation of several pieces of legislation.

According to Minister of Labour, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, the Ministry is set to bring several pieces of legislation to Parliament, which will speak to employment rights, safety and health in the workplace and anti-discrimination.?? These, she anticipates, will "change our society, how people do business, how we value our workers and how things are done in the workplace".

Dr. Byer-Suckoo indicated that there was one important piece of legislation which was nearer to completion.?? "The bit of legislation that is most advanced right now is the Employment Rights Bill.?? That has been through several drafts and I am hopeful that the draft that we have right now is the final draft.?? We are going to take that to the stakeholders again for one last look, but I anticipate that within a matter of months that [it] would be available for Parliament," the Minister stated.

When enacted, this law is expected to empower both employers and employees and bring more dignity and respect to the workplace.?? Among other advantages, it will stipulate that the employee be given a written statement of the work to be produced, an indication of payment, the monies that would be deducted from pay and the right to be consulted before being laid-off or put on short time.??

Conversely, the employer would have the right to demand that employees perform the duties that they have been hired to execute.

Dr. Byer Sukoo also said that her Ministry was working assiduously to ensure that a Sexual Harassment Bill was brought into existence by the end of the year.?? Admitting that this piece of legislation was "fairly contentious", the Minister, nevertheless insisted that its implementation was necessary to ensure that both men and women felt comfortable in the workplace.

"Stress caused by sexual harassment not only impacts productivity, but health and general wellbeing…what concerns me is that we have a lot of men and women, especially those persons who cannot afford to walk away from the conditions of their employment … [who] are subjected to certain conditions at work," she asserted, adding that persons should feel more comfortable in the workplace, knowing that the law guaranteed them a certain level of protection.

In this same vein, Dr. Byer Suckoo further disclosed that her Ministry had just received the approval of Cabinet to begin drafting anti-discrimination legislation. Explaining that this was developed out of the work being done with HIV and AIDS, she said that the planned regulation was part of Government’s strategy to address stigma and discrimination in Barbados.?? "We need it…not just as it relates to HIV but [also] to other illnesses, perceived illness, age, race, political affiliation, colour, creed, sex, marital status and disabilities, among others," she added.

Work is also being done to "fine tune" the Occupational Health and Safety Act which was passed in Parliament some time ago.?? To this end, the Labour Ministry is conducting audits on conditions under which civil servants work in both Government and privately owned accommodations.

Amendments will also be made to the Shops Act and the Shops Order in an effort to provide for longer opening hours for businesses.?? The revised statute will also speak to the provision of better safety and health conditions for shop workers.??

kmoore@barbados.gov.bb

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