Jeff Cumberbatch, deputy dean of the Faculty of Law, UWI Cave Hill. (FP)
There should be no misunderstanding in allowing employees time to vote today, as employers have been notified that by law, they must allow their staff enough time to vote and cannot deduct any money from their pay for doing so.
If they do differently, they can be fined and jailed.
The Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC) informed its membership on the law – the Election Offences and Controversies Act, Section 20 – not once, but twice since Prime Minister Freundel Stuart announced the date for today’s General Election on April 26.
The BEC sent a circular entitled Guidance Note: Time Allowance For Employees To Vote, to nearly 2 000 BEC email subscribers, including about 300 companies, on April 30 and May 18, reminding them of the law and their responsibility to their employees.
Word of this comes as a few employees have been informed that their company intends to maintain their working hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. In one case, when a manager of a company was asked about the staff’s right to vote, he reportedly said they should forego their lunch hour to have an additional hour in the evening.
Hour to vote
A WhatsApp writer to Starcom Network’s Down To Brasstacks radio call-in programme also reported that his company was closing at 5 p.m. and as he lived in St Lucy, this was insufficient time to get back home to vote.
However, Jeff Cumberbatch, deputy dean of the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies Cave Hill, said yesterday the law could be interpreted to say, essentially, that employees should be given no less than an hour, or a bit more time if it was reasonable, to be allowed to exercise their franchise.
He said that after all these years there should be no confusion over this.
In its attempt to further assist employers with the execution of smooth business operations on Election Day, the BEC also reminded that:
1) No monies should be deducted from an employee’s wages/salary for time spent in voting on Election Day. Custom and practice has in the past allowed for payment of wages/salary to those persons performing duties authorised by the Electoral and Boundaries Commission. Your organisation is, however, under no obligation to compensate employees who are voluntarily participating in election campaigning and/or Election Day activities, such as transporting persons to polling stations and so on.
2) Communicate with employees as early as possible to establish what time is required and the most suitable allotment for you both. Where possible, a roster should be implemented.
3) A contingency plan should be implemented to minimise any disruptions in customer service.
4) Staff should not be penalised if additional time is utilised in the voting process. However, employees should be urged to communicate any unexpected delays they may experience.
5) To those to whom it applies, please be guided accordingly by the Election Offences and Controversies Act, Section 12. This states: “No intoxicating liquor shall, at any time between the opening and the closing of the polls on polling day, be sold, offered or exposed for sale or given away at any premises situate in any constituency for which an election is being held, to which a licence has been issued under the Liquor Licences Act, Cap. 182.” (SP)