Minister: ‘Modernisation Of Labour Legislation’

July 5, 2019 | 5 Comments

It is the Government’s intent to bring forward changes to labour legislation before the end of this year, Minister of Labour, Community Affairs and Sports Lovitta Foggo said, with the changes including provision for increased maternity leave from 8 weeks to 13 weeks, and provision for 5 days paternity leave.

Speaking in the House of Assembly today [July 5] the Minister said, “I also wish to provide an update on the consolidation and modernization of the labour legislation. This project has been ongoing for some five years and progressing these changes is both a Progressive Labour Party Platform and the Throne Speech initiative.

“These changes are currently being drafted at Attorney General’s Chambers and it is the Government’s intent to bring forward the changes before the end of this year for the consideration of this Honourable House.

“The changes will include:

  • “The reduction from ten arbitration/assessor/tribunals in four Acts to a single Tribunal for all labour and employment matters. This will reduce the administrative costs and streamline the functions of the Tribunals.
  • “Provision for increased maternity leave. Currently employees who have been employed for one continuous year, are entitled to 8 weeks paid maternity leave. This will be increased to 13 weeks as promised in our platform and the Throne Speech. Employees who have been employed for less than one continuous year are entitled to 8 weeks unpaid maternity leave. This will likewise be increased to 13 weeks but again remain as unpaid.
  • “Provision for paternity leave. There is currently no provision for paternity leave and the amendments will allow for 5 days paid paternity leave for employees who have been employed for one continuous year, per calendar year and provide for 5 days unpaid paternity leave for employees who have been employed for less than one continuous year, per calendar year.
  • “Provision for zero tolerance of violence and harassment in the workplace. In keeping with the ILO adoption of the violence and harassment convention, the amendments will also deal with bullying, harassment and in particular sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers will be required to have in place a zero tolerance policy for harassment in the workplace and recourse for employees for any contravention of the policy.

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to provide to the Members of this Honourable House with an update on my attendance at the International Labour Organizations Conference in Geneva last month as well as the proposed consolidation and modernization of Bermuda’s labour legislation which is long overdue.

Mr. Speaker, the International Labour Organization or ILO for short brings together Governments, employers and workers of 187 member States, to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.

Mr. Speaker, It is the only tripartite U.N. agency. The unique tripartite structure of the ILO gives an equal voice to workers, employers and Governments to ensure that the views of the social partners are closely reflected in labour standards and in shaping policies and programmes.

Mr. Speaker, The main aims of the ILO are to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues.

Mr. Speaker, It was a pleasure to attend the 108th Session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva in June on behalf of the Government of Bermuda. The International Labour Conference is the ILO’s highest decision making body. It meets annually, bringing together the tripartite delegations from the Organization’s 187 member States and a number of observers from other international actors to consider a series of topics placed on its agenda by the Governing Body of the ILO. The Conference is composed of a plenary and a number of committees set up to consider the standing items on the Conference agenda, and technical committees to deal with technical items.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that at the conference was the historic adoption of the Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019, and Violence and Harassment Recommendation, 2019. The new Convention and accompanying recommendation to combat violence and harassment in the world of work were overwhelmingly approved by many ILO member States.

The Convention outlines and reminds member States that they have a responsibility to promote a general environment of zero tolerance or harassment of all kinds. The new international labour standards aim to protect workers and employees, regardless of their contractual status. The resolution includes persons in training, interns and apprentices, workers whose employment has been terminated, volunteers, job seekers and job applicants.

The Convention meanwhile also recognizes that individuals exercising the authority, duties or responsibilities of an employer can also be subjected to violence and harassment. The ILO indicated that this is the first new Convention agreed by the International Labour Conference since 2011, when the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 [No. 189] was adopted. The Ministry will keep a watching brief as the ILO develops a comprehensive strategy for the ratification and implementation of the convention.

Mr. Speaker, I also wish to provide an update on the consolidation and modernization of the labour legislation. This project has been ongoing for some five years and progressing these changes is both a Progressive Labour Party Platform and the Throne Speech initiative.

Mr. Speaker, to provide a brief history, the Labour Law Reform Committee, a subcommittee of the Labour Advisory Council, was created in 2014 to review all of the existing labour legislation in Bermuda, and to recommend changes that they thought were appropriate.

This subcommittee consisted of union representatives, employer representatives, independent representatives and ex-officio members of the Bermuda Government.

Mr. Speaker, following extensive consultation with key stakeholders a report was prepared with numerous recommendations on legislative changes.

Mr. Speaker, the proposed changes include the consolidation and modernization of most of the labour legislation, however, the intention is for the Employment Act to remain, albeit with amendments. These changes are currently being drafted at Attorney General’s Chambers and it is the Government’s intent to bring forward the changes before the end of this year for the consideration of this Honourable House.

Mr. Speaker, the changes will include:

  • The reduction from ten arbitration/assessor/tribunals in four Acts to a single Tribunal for all labour and employment matters. This will reduce the administrative costs and streamline the functions of the Tribunals.
  • Provision for increased maternity leave. Currently employees who have been employed for one continuous year, are entitled to eight [8] weeks paid maternity leave. This will be increased to thirteen [13] weeks as promised in our platform and the Throne Speech. Employees who have been employed for less than one continuous year are entitled to eight [8] weeks unpaid maternity leave. This will likewise be increased to thirteen [13] weeks but again remain as unpaid.
  • Provision for paternity leave. There is currently no provision for paternity leave and the amendments will allow for five [5] days paid paternity leave for employees who have been employed for one continuous year, per calendar year and provide for five [5] days unpaid paternity leave for employees who have been employed for less than one continuous year, per calendar year.
  • Provision for zero tolerance of violence and harassment in the workplace. In keeping with the ILO adoption of the violence and harassment convention, the amendments will also deal with bullying, harassment and in particular sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers will be required to have in place a zero tolerance policy for harassment in the workplace and recourse for employees for any contravention of the policy.

Mr. Speaker, as some of the labour laws were prepared and drafted more than 30 years ago and in one instance more than 50 years ago, Bermuda can look forward to legislation that is fit for purpose in the 21st Century with streamlined and simplified processes.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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Comments (5)

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  1. Trending says:

    The maternity leave is a good idea and I would argue that it should be longer!

    However, this could not come at a worse time for retailers. I’m sure we all appreciate that most retail staff are women – except maybe in electronics and a few niche areas. This will obviously have a greater affect on that sector at a time when employers are already at their breaking point. The timing is unfortunate but long overdue.

  2. Joe Bloggs says:

    And up goes the cost of doing business in Bermuda. This additional cost will be felt more by small local businesses than by large exempt companies.

  3. Digit says:

    Cost of doing business with money most businesses don’t have just went up. In most EU countries, Government pays for maternity leave which spreads the pain more evenly though taxes ultimately go up – but makes it easier for small businesses, which most Bermudian owned firms are.

  4. Ringmaster says:

    Yet more costs to be be borne by the private sector to keep the public sector in the land of milk and honey.

  5. Triangle Drifter says:

    Ah yes, another highly qualified Minister with years of experience running a business getting set to get a lucrative bonus for signing off on a report.

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