Employers who insist that their employees take vacation during the COVID-19 curfew, which began on Saturday, March 28, are in breach of the law.
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Dale Marshall, made this clear during a Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation’s News Night Special recently held to discuss Stage 3 of the National Preparedness Plan for COVID-19.
“The law is the law and it must not be mocked. Under our Holidays with Pay Act, an employer cannot send an employee on vacation without giving him adequate notice. So, when an employer says to an employee, I want you to take a vacation, that employee has the right to say no, plain and simple. I’m not here to give people labour law advice, but that is the effect of the law; we have not amended that legislation,” he said.
According to the Holiday with Pay Act, employers are required to give staff no less than 14 days of notice for vacation leave. However, the Attorney General has appealed to employees with accumulated vacation days to compromise.
“Let’s be reasonable. I know of some in some places where employers have said that individuals have 120 days of vacation accumulated. So, if an employer says to an individual, I want you to take vacation, there should be some spirit of compromise, if you have that flexibility,” he urged.
Minister Marshall warned that the island’s economy will go through some challenging times ahead given the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“The fact is, the Barbadian economy is going to go through some very difficult times for workers; it is going to go through some very difficult times for businesses. And, you know, we’re going to have to come together to help each other to survive this process. Employees are going to have to give a little; business owners are going to have to give a little.
“The bottom line is that any employer who insists that the person goes on vacation is in breach of the law. But at the same time, I’d like to urge that if there is some flexibility, an individual who doesn’t mind taking the vacation early, an individual who has a lot of holidays stored up, there’s room for accommodation,” the Attorney General said.
The curfew is expected to end on Tuesday, April 14.