When Parliament resumes from its summer recess, one of the items expected to be on the Order Paper will be the Employment Sexual Harassment Bill.
Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, Senator Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo expressed optimism of an early debate on the Bill during a recent interview with the Barbados Government Information Service. She said the Bill had been certified by the Attorney General’s office and approved by the Cabinet for debate in Parliament.
Senator Byer Suckoo explained that the Employment Safety and Health Bill defines what is sexual harassment and outlines how workers both male and female, are protected from any sort of sexual harassment in the workplace including sexual advances that are made physically, verbally or electronically via text messages and pictures via WhatsApp.
She said the Legislation outlines the steps employees can take when this type of harassment is encountered on the job. “If that [sexual harassment] is happening in the workplace it sets out how it is to be dealt with in the workplace. If nothing has happened after you have spoken to your supervisor, you can take your complaint to the next level. Employees can even come to the Labour Department, or the Employment Rights Tribunal (ERT). The ERT is empowered to hear matters dealing with the sexual harassment…” Senator Byer Suckoo pointed out.
The Minister further noted that the Bill addressed situations where workers were demoted or denied a promotion or other opportunities for advancement on account of failure to accept sexual advances – a form of sexual harassment.
Senator Byer Suckoo added that the Legislation was gender neutral which meant that it “does not only speak to male-on-female harassment. It does not presuppose that it is a male harassing a female but speaks to a male or female perpetrator and a male or female victim”.