By Elesha George
The Government of Antigua and Barbuda will soon go to parliament to amend the law which recognises Sunday as a holiday.
CAP 354 of the Public Holidays Act observes Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday as common-law holidays. While Christmas Day and Good Friday are globally recognised and result in double-time pay, Sunday is generally deemed as a regular work day in Antigua and Barbuda.
During the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday morning, Information Minister Melford Nicholas said the amendment will make it clear that Sundays are not to be treated like a holiday, thereby removing any uncertainty among employees and employers.
“Work on a public holiday is an automatic double-time situation, so the idea that Sunday would be treated like a public holiday would mean that it would translate automatically into an escalation in the employee cost for any organisation that finds itself in need of operating across the seven days of a work week. So the idea is to bring some clarity to the legislation to ensure that that scenario is not created that would have significant economic cost outcomes,” he told reporters yesterday.
The Labour Code provides for an optimal work week of 40 hours that can be spread over a seven-day work week.
Nicholas said that depending on the operation of the institution, it may be necessary to provide services to the public over those seven days, hence scheduling of employees would require work on a Sunday.
The amendment to the Public Holidays Act is expected to be made during the next session of Parliament. The government has said that it plans to engage other stakeholders, including trade unionists, in discussions about the anticipated change.
The news comes mere weeks after the Deputy General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union, Chester Hughes, called for a national discussion to address the half-century-old law.