Unjust Act!

BEC concerned there are too many grey areas in ERA

Nearly two years after it requested submissions on how to improve its controversial Employment Rights Act (ERA), Government is yet to take on board any of the suggested amendments made by the umbrella Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC).

“We regret that we are yet to see any action to bring the necessary regulations, which are now urgently required to bring some balance to the current environment,” President Marguerite Estwick told reporters during a news conference Monday at which she joined with other BEC officials in complaining about the slow pace of State decision-making.

Estwick also warned of possible fallout in terms of investment if certain “grey areas” in the Act were not urgently clarified.

“It makes our environment very, very difficult and . . . as we position ourselves to compete for investment dollars, we need to look at it from that perspective,” she said.

It was back in July 2015 that the Ministry of Labour had called on members of the public, as well as organizations, to submit comments, recommendations or concerns on the legislation so adjustments could be made to the legislatiion.

In response, the BEC submitted a 14-page document last November outlining its concerns and recommendations, which have to do with the application of the law and the exclusion of what it deems to be important provisions from the measure.

Further to its submissions, the BEC has also been lobbying for discussions on the ERA at the level of the sub-committee of the Social Partnership, which brings together employer, unions and Government.

BEC Executive Director Tony Walcott (left) and President Marguerite Estwick.

“We again ask that this matter be given top priority,” the BEC president urged on behalf of the over 200 members of the employers’ body, who she said continued to grapple with shifts in a legislative environment in which there remained “many ambiguities”.

“It [ERA] has in fact increased and brought a level of a legal procedural element into the workplace that makes it very difficult for small employers who may not have dedicated human resources departments [or] highly trained human resources professionals to lead a process that has become very legalistic in terms of how the procedures have been set out,” she said, while highlighting customer complaints as one area of difficulty.

While acknowledging that the ERA was a substantial piece of legislation with a significant impact on the operation of businesses in Barbados, BEC Executive Director Tony Walcott highlighted two sections of the legislation which he said were open to various interpretations and needed to be immediately clarified.

These are Section 10 of the Act, which makes provision for a person to appear before the Tribunal with “any other person whom he desires to represent him”. Walcott said this section was often “grossly misinterpreted” with many individuals turning up with lawyers.

The BEC spokesman also zeroed in on Section 26 (b) of the Act, which makes provision for an employer to dismiss an employee where “he is employed under a contract for a fixed term and that term expires without being renewed under the same contract”, saying it needed to be clarified, as it was “quite controversial”.

Walcott explained that since the purpose of a fixed term contract was usually for a specific job, and with a number of jobs being done nowadays on a project-by-project basis, that section of the Act also presented some challenges for employers.

“Don’t let us lose sight of the legislation, it was intended to secure the rights of the employee in the workplace. Sometimes too far left takes you right and I think there needs to be an adjustment in the swing of the pendulum. We need to get some balance into the process,” he stressed.

The BEC is also concerned about the delay in the establishment of the minimum wages board under the Minimum Wages Act. And despite being proclaimed and coming into force in January 2013, the BEC said it was concerned that the Safety and Health at Work Act was still to be gazetted and to take full effect.

5 Responses to Unjust Act!

  1. Kevin Gibson
    Kevin Gibson May 8, 2017 at 11:14 pm


  2. Tony Webster May 9, 2017 at 5:46 am

    Good employees, are highly valued by their employers. An employer will almost always try to encourage an employee who has a few shortcomings, to improve …as its way better, to enhance performance, rather than go through the stress of the whole nine yards of dismissal, and the finding of a more suitable staffer. And that “standard” H.R. , even before the new Employment Act’s strictures took effect. Now, all that you will create, is more wuk for lawyers, and clog up our courts even more!!

    On the other hand, an employee who has no real committment to the success and viability of the enterprise, is a not only a liabiity, and a hindrance in a competitive business environment, but could be a real danger to its survival. I know of several businesses, right here in Bim, and elsewhere, where one or two thieving empoyees, actually caused the total collapse of the business.

    Hmmm…I wonder why so many bajans enterprises have so many family members as staff?

    Hmmm2: why is France now going to get itself all streamlined -down, and straightened-out, to let loose the power of unencumbered enterprise; of market-forces?

    We are now in the 21st century: competing gainst the world…and we ought not to be distracted by political tussling and posturing fighting the ghosts of the 1950’s. Workers, as individuals, are free to choose who their employers are; free to come, and free to walk when it suits them. Unions are free to act; to represent properly ther members interetss; free also, in some cases, to align themselves politically, and to bruise their members’ interests in so doing. It’s called “market Forces”, and woe betide those Big Brains, who neglect to value these!

    As individuals, and as groups , and as unions, and as countries…we are all free to do; to neglect to do; to prosper…and also free…to fail, when we go so far East…we find oursleves,…in the West. Or even , vice- versa: Caveat Chinensis.

  3. Peter May 9, 2017 at 9:43 am

    Margaret, get Ian to make this a topical Joke on “Laff it off.” because that’s how Dem look at it. As a big joke.

  4. Milli Watt May 9, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    why this crowd a lawless employers don’t talk about the UNFAIR dismissals they visit on HAPLESS employees and use the tribunal to draw out settlements for more than three years in some instances with more that 21 adjournments asked for by LAWYERS representing employers. talk about the lawyers who work on a full time basis and appear as chairman on a part time basis, talk about the use of these contracts as a means of not providing benefits but set them selves up as engaging full time employment without the responsibilities.

    • VoR May 9, 2017 at 4:16 pm

      Thank you for pointing out these facts. A lot of bad behaviour goes on that they turn a blind eye to.


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