Clarifying Leave Issues

05 Aug

By: CEC Newsroom

CEC News / Newsroom

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Written by Mrs. Sheena Mayers-Granville
Executive Director, Barbados Employers’ Confederation

Human resources practitioners have been challenged to explore questions that commonly arise on various types of leave. Does paternity leave exist? How does compassionate leave work? How many days are allowed for National Leave? These are some common questions that Barbadians, both employers and employees, have on leave entitlement.

Let me first begin by stating that there are only two (2) instances where labour legislation requires that employers compensate employees for time away from work: holiday and jury duty. In the absence of legislation, on issues of leave, reference will usually have to be made to: Contract of employment or Employee handbook and/or Collective Agreement – these instruments give guidance on leave issues. However, in this article I will address some common and emerging issues surrounding leave.

Paternity Leave

Very often persons ask if fathers get paternity leave and how much. While paternity leave is not legislated in Barbados, it does exist in some organisations. If you want to find out about Paternity Leave in your organisation, you should refer to the collective agreement and/or the company handbook. Typically, paternity leave is for 3-5 days and is applicable where the employee’s spouse (as defined by family law) is the mother and usually must be taken within 1 month of the child’s birth. The BEC has a draft policy on paternity leave which is available to interested parties.

Maternity Leave

Barbados does however have legislation establishing maternity leave. The Employment of Women Act provides expectant and new mothers with 12 weeks maternity leave. The Act offers Protection from termination due to pregnancy in addition to seniority rights on her return from leave. However, it should be noted that a pregnant employee may be terminated for reasons unrelated to pregnancy such as misconduct or redundancy. Written by Mrs. Sheena Mayers-Granville Executive Director Barbados Employers’ Confederation

Compassionate/Bereavement Leave

Another area of silence in labour law is compassionate leave. While the law may not provide compassionate leave most employers will allow an employee time off when faced with the death of a family member. Usually the death of a spouse or parent will be viewed as priority and consequently in such instances employees will be granted the most time, averaging 3-5 days. Typically compassionate leave is only offered to close relatives which may include siblings and grandparents. While many Barbadians may request an entire day to attend funerals of other relatives, e.g. cousins this is granted at the discretion of management.

National Leave

Section 30 of the Employment Rights Act defines National Service and covers areas such as voluntary service in emergency management, selection to participate in a national sporting team or service in the Barbados Defence Force Reserve. While the Employment Rights Acts makes it unfair to dismiss an employee if they are absent from work due to the performance of national duty, the Act does not speak to matters of pay for National Duty. As a consequence, employers may, and have, established policies to cover such leave. Examples include allowing employees a maximum number of days with pay per calendar year for national leave, any leave in excess of the threshold is given as unpaid time. Alternatively, some employers have established a matching system where they will match the number of vacation days with the number of days granted with pay. Jury Duty is considered a form of national service; however, the Juries Act clearly states that employees shall receive their basic pay while on jury duty. Additionally, when not empanelled, employees shall report for work. When considering matters of leave, employees are often not cognizant of how much time off they request. Between PTA meetings, time off to attend funerals, sick days, doctor’s appointments and road tax renewals, employees can end up spending a significant amount of time away from work. Employees should appreciate that every request for time off may not be accommodated. Conversely, employers will also need to recognise that employees have a need for family life balance and where possible, they can seek to accommodate employee requests, of course giving due consideration to the organisational impact and co-worker concerns.

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