Caribbean Employment

Barbadian labour official says existing legislation still helping to protect workers in post-COVID environment

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Employment Rights Act can offer protection to workers in cases of questions over layoffs and redundancies, says Hope-Greenidge 

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS — Although the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic brought along with it multiple challenges within the workforce, Barbadian Chief Labour Officer Claudette Hope-Greenidge is confident that existing labour laws can offer protection to workers.

She argued that although current laws predate the COVID pandemic, the Ministry of Labour has found them to be effective.

“In terms of how things are looking, of course we have a suite of labour legislation on the table which would not have in any way at the time when these pieces of legislation were written…contemplated something like a pandemic — COVID-19 or any type of pandemic,” Hope-Greenidge said in an exclusive interview with CaribbeanEmployment.com.

“So, therefore, there would be some areas that the legislation perhaps would need to be tightened up on to stave off any similar difficulties should a similar situation occur. But at the same time, what we have been finding is that although the legislation did not contemplate something like this, it is still robust enough to help us manage some of the issues.”

She gave the example of “some instances early on in the pandemic where, in some cases, there would have been the need for persons to be out of the workplace — maybe they could not perform the work remotely”. In such instances, Hope-Greenidge said, the employee’s vacation time was used instead and labour laws updated as recently as five to eight years ago “still assisted” with managing such cases.

She continued, “Say, for example, there was not the provision where an employer could simply just send you on vacation; you need to have two weeks’ notice, and that is something already [in] legislation — that was kind of a protection.

“In addition to that, there were cases — of course, as in every other country in the world affected — where business was not at the optimum level or even the mid-level that the employer may require or that is needed, so then there will be the question of layoffs and there’s also the question of redundancies.

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    “We know that both of those things can occur in a situation such as this, but we have the Employment Rights Act, which provides for the process that has to be gone through by the employer with the employee and the employee’s representative, if the place is unionized.

    “You’re looking at just how you manage the process of layoffs and redundancies.”

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