Business Barbados

Employer/Employee Relations

Employer/employee relations are governed by the common law and by several pieces of legislation. The primary pieces of legislation are as follows:

  1. National Insurance and Social Security Act
  2. Factories Act
  3. Holidays with Pay Act
  4. Employment Exchanges Act
  5. Severance Payments Act
  6. Shops Act
  7. Trade Unions Act
  8. Wages Council Act
  9. Sugar Workers (Minimum Wage and Guaranteed Employment) Act
  10. Public Holidays Act
  11. Domestic Employees (Hour of Duty) Act
  12. Occupational Training Act
  13. Employment of Women (Maternity Leave) Act
  14. Income Tax Act
  15. Employment Rights Act, 2012
  16. Safety and Health at Work Act, 2005

There is an obligation to train employees under the Safety and Health at Work Act, 2005 which is aimed at ensuring the health and safety of all employees.

Employment Contracts

An employment contract is not essential for the investor to work in Barbados, but it may assist in making a work permit application. However, with the recent introduction of the Employment Rights Act, 2012, an employer must now provide all employees with a written statement of particulars of the employment. The information necessary for the statement of particulars is expressly stated in the Act. Failure to provide a statement of particulars could result in penalties to the employer.

When an application for a work permit is made, the Immigration Department will want to know how long the applicant wants to remain in Barbados and the position in which he will be employed. An employment contract assists in providing this information.

The contract need not be with a Barbados resident, but companies carrying on business in Barbados are required to be registered in Barbados as external companies.

Labour and Employment Issues

Generally, an employee in Barbados cannot waive or release himself from his legislative rights, whether or not the employee has entered into a binding contract stating that the employee will be waiving those legislative rights.

Within Barbados, no protected categories beyond Title VII in the United States exist. Specifically, Barbados’ constitution prohibits discrimination on the “grounds of race, place of origin, political opinions, colour or creed.”

Minimum wage and overtime rules analogous to the FLSA in the United States, exist. Formally, the relevant Minister can prescribe the hours and wages for three sets of workers in Barbados as he sees fit, pursuant to various legislation – Domestic Employees, through the “Domestic Employees (Rate of Pay and Hours of Duty) Act,” Shop Assistants, through the “Shops Act,” and workers within the sugar industry, through the “Sugar Workers (Minimum Wage and Guaranteed Employment) Act.” For example, within the sugar industry, the Cabinet of Barbados can prescribe minimum wages for employees within the sugar industry if the Cabinet deems that the workers’ current wages are “unreasonably low.”

The employment-at-will doctrine exists, with significant modifications. Specifically, the Model Harmonization Act regarding Termination of Employment (“Model Act”), which was adopted in 1995 by the Standing Committee of Ministers responsible for Labour, and has been used in Barbados to draft pending Bills relating to the termination of employment, states that an employer can terminate an employee only for cause. Thus, while Barbados may allow employment without a contract per se, a criterion of employment-at-will, Barbados still requires that the employer have a reason for terminating the employee, unlike the traditional employee-at-will doctrine.

In accordance with the Employment Rights Act, 2012 an employer must now provide an employee with reasons for dismissal on request of the employee. Additionally, the Employment Rights Act, 2012 states that in determining whether the dismissal of an employee is fair or unfair, it is for the employer to show the reason for the dismissal and that is for a reason within the scope of the Employment Rights Act, 2012.

If an employer lays off an employee, then the employer must follow the requirements of the Severance Payments Act. If, however, the employer terminates an employee because of the employee’s conduct, the employer is not obliged to do anything upon termination. For example, the employer is not required to give notice to the employee before the employee’s termination or provide the employee with a severance payment if the employee is terminated because of his conduct.

Within Barbados, the equivalent of the FMLA in the United States, is the Employment of Women (Maternity Leave) Act, which provides for twelve weeks of maternity leave to female employees and for the protection of the employment of those employees during maternity leave.

Similar to the FMLA, the leave granted by the Employment of Women (Maternity Leave) Act is in addition to paid time off to which the employee is entitled. In order to qualify for a grant of maternity leave, the employee must be employed for at least twelve months by the employer from whom she requests maternity leave. Additionally, unlike the FMLA, the female employee is not entitled to maternity leave by the same employer on more than three occasions. Finally, no employer can “give notice of dismissal” to an employee during the period between her grant of maternity leave and while she is on maternity leave, unless the employee has done something which constitutes gross negligence on the part of the employee or the employer goes out of business.

There is no law requiring employers to give employees access to, or a copy of, their personnel records. Personnel records are the property of the employer. Accordingly, an organization generally has discretion over whether to give employees access to their personnel files. However, the Employment Rights Act, 2012 gives the employee a right to a certificate of employment record on termination of employment.

Barbados does not outlaw or restrict drug tests, alcohol tests, genetic tests or any other kind of testing.

Barbados does not have any special rules on the payment of sales commissions to employees.

In Barbados, non-competes and related agreements are enforced in the same manner as standard contracts entered into between two consenting parties.

Labour Availability

Barbados, as a result of its high standard of education, has a very skilled and well educated work force. Unskilled workers are also easily trained. The labour force is estimated at 147,100.

Unions

Unions are recognized in Barbados pursuant to the Trade Unions Act, Chapter 361 of the laws of Barbados.

There are four (4) major unions in Barbados:

  • The Barbados Workers Union
  • The National Union of Public Workers
  • Congress of Trade Unions & Staff Associations of Barbados
  • Barbados Union of Teachers

There is no obligation on the part of the employer to organize unions.