JIS News

The Senate has approved amendments to the Holidays with Pay Act, which will enable workers to take disputes concerning rights to leave and other holiday pay entitlements to the Resident Magistrate’s Courts.
The amendments were previously approved by the House of Representatives in September, where they were originally tabled by the Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Pearnel Charles.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Senator the Hon. Dorothy Lightbourne, who piloted the Bill in the Senate on Friday (October 2), said that a glaring deficiency in the current Act, identified by the Ministry’s Pay and Conditions of Employment branch, was that there is no specific provision to allow aggrieved workers to take legal action in the RM Court against employers who refuse to pay them their legal entitlements for vacation and sick leave, as well as gratuity benefits.
She said that the Ministry had a number of complaints, annually, against employers in relation to the breaches. However, it has been able to deal with only about one-third of the cases as, in the remaining cases, employers steadfastly refuse to honour their obligations or simply ignored the Ministry’s attempts to resolve the issues.
The amendments include a provision to give the workers right of action in the RM Courts jurisdiction to frontally address the gap in the law.
There also provisions increasing the mandatory fines for breaches of the Act because, according to the Ministry, the fines “do not reflect the current economic realities”.
“A central objective of this Bill therefore is to increase the monetary fines for breaches of its provisions to more realistic levels,” Senator Lightbourne said.
The fines were increased from $250 to a maximum $250,000 for breaches relating to: holiday with pay, sick leave or sick benefits; contractual arrangements; and records.
The Act was also amended to allow the Resident Magistrate Court to hear claims arising from contract breaches covering up to a maximum of $500,000. The Minister will also now be able to vary and amend the fines, with the approval of Parliament.
In his remarks Opposition Senator, Navel Clarke, said that he did not have any problems with the amendments.
“I am not against an increase (in the fines). Where employers abuse or contravene the Act, they should pay heavily as a means of a deterrent,” Senator Clarke said.