By Elesha George
While residents debate whether a move by the government to declare both Saturday, December 26th and Monday, December 28th as Boxing Day as the best decision, Attorney General and Minister of Labour Steadroy Benjamin told Observer that a number of corrective measures will have to be considered to remedy the oversight that caused the dual celebration this year.
Boxing Day is one of 11 named holidays under the law and is celebrated the day after Christmas Day each year. However, while the Public Holidays Act Cap. 354 speaks to what should be done when the holiday falls on a Sunday, it omits to address how it will be treated if it falls on a Saturday.
“This is a matter subject to interpretation and it is the intention of the Attorney General to have this matter clarified two ways. Firstly, by amending the law to make certain that in the future this does not occur and, secondly, to have the Industrial Court interpret the situation,” Benjamin explained.
In the meantime, the Attorney General has advised businesses to compensate employees who work on December 26th and December 28th.
Benjamin shared the two varying views that led to his decision on payment for the additional day.
“Where the Governor General exercises his discretion and, because of inexpediency, appoints another day to celebrate the official holiday, then only that day ought to be recognized by employers for payment. The view of the Labour Department and the Ministry of Labour in particular, is that one cannot derogate from the named holiday and persons who work on that day ought to be paid and the day appointed by the Governor General, that too ought to be paid as well,” he explained.
Last Thursday, Governor General, Sir Rodney Williams declared that it was unsuitable to have a Saturday appointed as a public holiday and, instead, appointed Monday the 28th of December to be the public holiday throughout Antigua and Barbuda.
With the addition of Monday, Boxing Day will be celebrated twice this year.
In light of this change, a number of business owners and employees have asked whether holiday pay is applicable on both days, while others have questioned the efficacy of this decision particularly amidst declining business activity brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.