Business Barbados

This section briefly explains the main aspects of employment relationships in Barbados. It is not intended to be a comprehensive analysis of industrial relations practice on the island and does not purport to deal with every situation that may arise. In any case, where a situation arises that is out of the ordinary, the Employer should consult a human resources advisory firm or seek legal advice.

Contract of Employment

The fundamental legal institution of Labour Law is the individual Contract of Employment. It is the basis of the relationship between the Employer and the Employee; it constitutes an agreement between the two parties and sets out their employment rights, responsibilities and duties. All Employees have an employment contract with their Employer and both parties are bound to the employment contract until it ends or until the terms are changed. Employment contracts may be formed through expressed written agreement; expressed oral agreement; and or conduct of the parties. Contract terms can come from a number of different sources which can be grouped under two main headings; voluntary, that is, sources that are determined on the initiative of the prospective parties to the contract or by their representatives, and legal that is, sources which have been established by statute or the common law to regulate the structure of contracts of employment and some aspects of behaviour of the parties who make such contracts. Examples are:

Search & SelectionCommon Law
Work RulesCustom & Practice
Operating ProceduresRecognised at Common Law
Collective AgreementStatutory Regulations

The Employment Rights Act 2012 stipulates that all Employees should be issued with a written statement of employment particulars prior to or on commencement of employment. This statement should include:

  1. The Name of the Employee and the name and address of the Employer;
  2. The Date the Employment begins or began;
  3. The Date on which continuous employment begins/began. Taking into account any previous employment with a previous employer that would count towards this period;
  4. The title of the job the employee is employed to do;
  5. A description of the work for which he/she is employed to do;
  6. Scale or rate of wages, or the method of calculating wages;
  7. The intervals at which wages are paid;
  8. The normal working hours;
  9. The period of probation, if any;
  10. The length of notice which the employee is obliged to give and entitled to receive in respect of termination of his/her contract of employment.
  11. The period for which employment is expected to continue where the employment is not intended to be permanent; or the date the employment is to end, where it is for a fixed period.
  12. The place of work or, where the employee is required or permitted to work at various places, an indication of that and of the address of the employer;
  13. Any collective agreements which directly affect the terms and conditions of the employment including where the employer is not a party, the persons by whom the collective agreements were made;
  14. Any terms and conditions relating to the following:
    1. entitlement to holidays and holiday pay, the particulars given being sufficient to enable the entitlement of the employee, including any entitlement to accrued holiday pay on termination of employment, to be precisely calculated.
    2. incapacity for work owing to sickness or injury, including any provision for sick pay or a health scheme.
    3. pensions and pension schemes.
  15. The expression of “normal working hours”, in relation to an employee, means those hours which are stated in his contract of employment to be his normal working hours.
  16. A statement or note specifying disciplinary rules applicable to the employee, or refers the employee to a document specifying those including, a reference to the Standard Disciplinary Procedures and a description of where an employee can apply where they are dissatisfied with any disciplinary decision.
  17. The person whom they can apply for the purpose of seeking redress on any grievance relating to employment.

Industrial Relations System

Industrial relations are concerned with the interactions among three groups. These are the primary parties (Employers and Employees), the secondary parties which consist of management or management organisations and trade unions, and the third parties comprising state agencies which attempt to mediate between the Employers and Employees and Unions. It is however the interaction between the primary parties (Employer and Employee) and the secondary parties (management and unions) that result in industrial relations practice.

Historically industrial relations in Barbados have relied on a system of voluntarism. It is a system whereby the government permits the employers and the trade unions to conduct labour management affairs and to reach levels of satisfactory relationships through negotiations, discussion and eventual compromise which result in agreements that both parties will enact and respect. Though there is minimum government interference there is a general understanding that the government still has to set down certain minimal standards below which the players will not go, and those minimal standards being as well intended to cover those areas where there is no interface between the trade union and the employers for whatever reason.

Voluntarism acts on the following principles:

  • Unrestricted Search and Selection Process
  • Contract of Services – (Expressed/Implied)
  • Collective Agreement
  • Conciliation/Mediation through the Labour Department
  • Social Partnership by Invitation
  • Principal Legislation.

Trade Unions

Generally, workers in large and medium companies are organised in trade unions, however, it is a constitutional right of all Employees to join a union of their choice. Trade Unions are governed by the Trade Unions Act, Cap. 361 and provides for compulsory registration of all workers’ and employers’ organisations within three months of formation. The Barbados Workers Union is the largest and most prominent trade union in the private sector but also represents workers in the public sector. The second largest union is the National Union of Public Workers which operates exclusively in the public sector. The Barbados Employers’ Confederation is the main private sector trade union representing Employers and its membership is drawn from a wide cross-section of services. It plays a major role in the formulation of the Employers’ position on human resource management, labour relations, and occupational health and safety in Barbados.

The Labour Department provides conciliation services and assists in the resolution of grievances and disputes when the primary and secondary parties fail to reach an agreement at a domestic level. Its mandate is to enforce labour legislation and monitor occupational safety and health standards. The department is governed by the Labour Department Act, Cap.23 which states that the primary statutory functions of the Chief Labour Office are to receive and investigate all representations made to him with a view to the settlement of disputes and grievances and to conciliation. Additionally, his role is to advise the government with regard to the betterment of industrial relations and all labour matters; as well as to ensure the due enforcement of the Acts which he may from time to time be required to enforce. In the Department’s role to enforce labour legislation the Labour Department Act gives Labour Officers the powers of entry which enable them to inspect and examine work premises to ensure that legal provisions are being observed.

The function of the Labour Department is carried out by the three sub-divisions. These are:

  • Industrial Relations with responsibility for labour inspection and industrial relations;
  • Occupational Safety and Health with responsibility for occupational health and safety;
  • The National Employment Bureau with responsibility for the provision of local and overseas employment services.