JIS News

A Bill to amend the Employment Agencies Regulation Act of 1957 was passed in the Senate on March 2.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Senator Floyd Morris, who piloted the Bill, said it sought to, among other things, increase the fines and penalties for breaches under the Act, so that they are in keeping with the country’s current economic realities.
“The fines that are currently on the books are woefully inadequate to deal with the current realities that exist in Jamaica today. This particular piece of legislation is designed to increase the fees and penalties where breaches to the law are concerned, and to give the Minister the power to increase the fees from time to time, subject to Parliamentary approval,” he explained.
“Currently a breach of Sub-sections 1 and 2 of Section 4 of the Act allows for offences not to exceed a fine of $400, and a term not exceeding 12 months and also there is a fine of $20 for each day for a continued violation of the offence,” the State Minister informed.
This legislation, he noted, proposes to increase the fine to a sum not exceeding $1 million and a term not exceeding 12 months. “We will dispense with the penalties for the continued violation of the offence and this will be reflected in Sub-section 4 (3) of the Act,” he said.
Senator Morris further noted that the amendment to the Act would provide for a new Section 16, Sub-section 3. “This section makes provision for Regulations made thereunder, that will allow for regulations and fines and penalties in the Resident Magistrate’s Court not exceeding $1 million or 12 months (imprisonment) or both fine and imprisonment,” he explained.
“At present under Sub-section 17 (1), it makes a provision for penalties of offences not exceeding $200 or six months (imprisonment). It is proposed to amend the legislation to increase the fine from $200 to not exceeding $500,000 and the term for imprisonment will remain at not exceeding six months,” he added.
The State Minister noted that a new Section 17, sub-section 3 would also be included in the legislation. This will give the Minister the power to increase, from time to time, the monetary penalties specified under the Act by way of Ministerial Order and Parliamentary Approval.
Mr. Morris said the amendments were also designed to protect job seekers from the operators of illegal employment agencies, as well as to ensure that employment agencies are not an avenue for human trafficking.
“We have been subject to great scrutiny internationally and we cannot allow our good name as a country, to be tarnished because individuals recruit citizens and take them overseas and engage them in illicit activities. I want to warn and caution the public, if you hear of private companies.check with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to find out if these agencies are legitimate and are on the books of the Ministry,” he advised.
Opposition Senator, Dwight Nelson told the Senate that while the amendments were late in coming, the Opposition was in support of the amendments, as they were critical and important to the country. “Employment agencies that flout the law by exploiting job seekers must face stiffer penalties and in this instance, I have no quarrel with the level of increases proposed by this Bill for those who transgress this legislation,” he said.

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