Looking after you
The philosophy of the Progressive Labour Party is rooted in ensuring that a hard day’s work is respected and that workers are protected.
As has been reported in the news, the Senate just passed two significant pieces of legislation that will together form Bermuda’s Employment and Labour Code.
By the end of this year, the Employment Amendment Act 2020 and the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 2020 will have come into effect.
That sounds like a lot of parliamentary words. But what does this mean for you?
For starters, workers are now entitled to a 30-minute break for every five hours of work. We all know that hard work requires rest and that well-rested employees are more productive employees. By legislating these breaks, we are increasing the wellbeing of employees and, in turn, increasing the bottom line for employers.
Second, we have made it harder for employers to incorrectly classify employees as independent contractors. While there are pros and cons to being an independent contractor, it is important that we protect persons from being coerced into independent-contractor agreements by companies looking to avoid paying taxes and benefits.
Classifying you rightfully as an employee gives you many more benefits than those that are afforded to independent contractors, and it is a welcome change.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it has been the importance of family. In addition to removing the requirement for persons to work one complete year before being entitled to paid time off to attend antenatal appointments, we have also extended bereavement leave to include grandparents, great-grandparents, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We understand the devastation that may accompany grief and acknowledge that employees may need to take some time to grieve their loved one.
As a government, we had to step in to make sure that employers can no longer withhold final pay for employees. If terminated by your employer, you are to be paid by your next regular payment cycle or within a maximum of seven days, whichever is longer. Employers are legally obligated to pay their employees and we have made the timeline clear.
Finally, we consolidated the various tribunals, arbitration panels and boards into one tribunal that will hear all labour and employment-related disputes. This change will reduce the time it takes for disputes to be resolved.
While we still have more work to do, we are making sure and steady progress to build a fairer, more equitable Bermuda for all.
• Arianna Hodgson is a government senator and the Junior Minister for Community Affairs and Sport and Labour