Major change coming to labour code, debate starts today

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In the very near future, employees would be able to choose whether they wish to continue to work with a company after it has been sold. It has been a vexing issue for some employees who continue to work under new owners only because they do not wish to lose their severance, but their hearts are no longer in it because of the change.

Section 44 C of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Code is what will be amended.

This section states, “Severance pay is not payable if the employee’s employment is terminated by an employer who has gone out of business but, without any break in service, he is offered the same employment by a successor-employer:”

The law further states that in such instances it must be done this way, “Provided, however, that his tenure of employment, for subsequent severance purposes, dates from his original hiring by the first of a series of predecessor-employers; in which case the successor employer, in the event of a subsequent termination for redundancy, shall be responsible for the payment of the employee’s severance pay computed on the basis of his full tenure of employment by himself and all predecessor-employers.”

Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin told OBSERVER media the proposed change to this law was made several years ago by the National Labour Board, and recently Justice Albert Redhead, now deceased, advised the government to follow through with the change.

Benjamin, who shared the information in a sitting to reflect on the contributions of Justice Redhead who died on March 4, said he was grateful for the retired judge’s contribution to the Bill in his capacity as advisor to Benjamin as Minister for Legal affairs.

Today, it is Benjamin who would be tabling the Bill in Parliament.

At the sitting, which was broadcast live on the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court website, he said, “This week I shall be leading debates in the House of representatives with respect to redundancy…He, Justice Redhead, was of the view that the law as it stands at the moment – which makes it automatic that successor employer can continue the work of an employee – he said no, the rights of the employee must be protected.”

“He must determine whether or not in those circumstances he wishes to continue employment or to be paid off. That is one of his legacies that will be dealt with this week in the house of parliament on Thursday of this week,” Benjamin said.

Yesterday, Benjamin told OBSERVER media that the Unions are in agreement with the planned change.

“I am told that the Employers’ representatives on the National Labour Board have also concurred. I am pleased that our government saw it fit to address the problems that Act highlights,” he said.

The changes to the law would not have retroactive effect.

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