The body which advises employers in Barbados said this morning that it was not its members concern what may prevent a worker from being able to get to the job.
The position was made clear by Executive Director of the Barbados Employers Confederation, Tony Walcott, during the question-and-answer segment of a panel discussion on absenteeism at the Savannah Hotel, Hastings, Christ Church, which was organised by the Human Resources Management Association of Barbados.
When a member of the audience asked the panel to comment on a scenario where a worker reported he could not get to work because there was no bus, Walcott responded: “Missing the bus or the bus not coming is not the concern of the employer.”
Walcott, a member of the Employment Rights Tribunal, insisted that workers were paid to be at work and to be on time.
“Even if you have to run, it is your responsibility to get to work,” he argued.
But when she gave her presentation, fellow panellist, Mona Robinson, who is Assistant General Secretary of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations, rejected Walcott’s “hard-and-fast” position.
Robinson, who is also General Secretary of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union, reasoned that such an approach did not lend itself to proper employer-employee relations. She was of the opinion that employers needed to be more flexible, adding that if they were flexible in one way, they should be so in others.
In his substantive presentation, Walcott did admit that workers had legitimate reasons to be away from their jobs. He cited personal illness and family issues as two such issues.
However, he noted that absenteeism could be traced to other factors such as a poor working environment and workers who lacked commitment to their jobs. The BEC executive director recommended that a tracking system for absenteeism be introduced along with another to cost absenteeism.
He told the panel discussion that the Tuesday after Grand Kadooment “is real grief in most organisations”. He also suggested that employers tighten up their employment contracts, pointing out that under the new act, they had until October to do so.
The member of the Employment Rights Tribunal also advised employers to put all interviews with offenders of absenteeism in writing. He said the onus was on the worker to justify his or her absence. He stated that three out of every 100 workers were likely to take advantage of the system.
“The costs associated with absenteeism can be controlled. Scheduled time off for vacation and illnesses is an inevitable cost of doing business,” Walcott submitted.
He recommended the development of absence policies, noting that “written polices can give employers added legal protection from employees who have been terminated or disciplined for excessive absenteeism”.
The employers advisor said this was provided that those policies explicitly state the allowable number of absences, the consequences of excessive absenteeism and other relevant aspects standard. (EJ)