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Public holidays: custom vs the law


KARA SEALY

Public holidays: custom vs the law

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MANAGING A BUSINESS can be challenging, particularly in the current dynamic Barbadian market. In one generation, businesses have found it prudent to adopt new marketing channels, decide how to invest in and utilise new technologies and compete on a global stage.

Businesses are often faced with uncertainty about the future, having to predict customers’ trends, financial management, monitor performance, and so on. Having said this, and against the backdrop that change is inevitable, it may be perverse to ask businesses to maintain customary practices that to this date, even with an active legislative environment, have not been required under the laws of Barbados.

One such practice that you may want to pay closer attention to is the payment for working public holidays; specifically, for those employees who are not employed within a “shop” as “shop assistants”. 

We often hear people quote the Public Holidays Act, CAP 352 when justifying payment for public holidays. Of note is the contents of this said act and its purpose. The Public Holidays Act is said to have amended and consolidated the acts relating to public holidays and provides guidance on the restrictions to the opening of businesses.

There is no mention of payment for said public holidays. In fact, it has been custom for time immemorial for weekly and monthly paid workers to receive payment for public holidays within their regular wages.

Notably, there is currently one piece of legislation that speaks to payment for public holidays and that is the Shops Act 2015-30. There is no legal requirement to pay people outside of the realm of the Shops Act, who are remunerated based on time worked, for public holidays.

One must be mindful that many collective agreements include clauses that state that once an employee works the day before and the day after the holiday, they should be paid for the public holiday and once this is the case in your company, you should oblige.

This question must be asked, however: how far of a reach does such a premise as “custom and practice” have? Are there any implications to maintaining the minimum standard required by law? While the thought process behind the well established practice is understood, is this something that can be maintained in such harsh times?

As we seek to offer guidance to our member companies and the business community at large, we believe that such questions are timely and warrant careful consideration.

Often the word “custom” makes me reflect on the story of the mother and her daughter in the kitchen of their home about to continue the family tradition of making an infamous dish. The daughter looks to her mother and questions the process or even the recipe and the response from the mother is simply: “This is the way we have always done it.” No justification offered, or no consideration given to any changes
in circumstances.

As the environment becomes more regulated, businesses must be adaptable and flexible in the approaches adopted to manage costs. The Barbados Employers’ Confederation remains steadfast in its commitment to its members and the business community to provide any guidance or information necessary to assist in this regard, for the betterment of businesses and the employment relations climate of this country.

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