Proposed Amendments to Labour Laws raise some concerns

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Cabinet recently passed the first of three readings of a group of proposed amendments to the Belize Labor Laws. Some of the amendments that are noteworthy include the below:

 

 

 

 

Notice Period

The current law labels the required notice period as follows:

  • 2 weeks to 6 months continuous service – 3 days notice pay required (severance)
  • 6 months to 1 year continuous service – 1 week notice pay required
  • 1 to 2 years continuous service – 2 weeks notice pay required
  • More than 2 years continuous service – 4 weeks notice pay required
  • Under the amended law the required notice period are as follows:
  • 2 weeks to 6 months continuous service – 3 days notice pay required (severance)
  • 6 months to 2 years continuous service – 1 month notice pay required
  • More than 2 years continuous service – 2 months notice pay required

The required notice comes in either the form of a notice or days paid in the event an employee is terminated without cause.

The clause for unfair dismissal will be amended to include: an employee becoming or forming a union, a person’s HIV status and political affiliation. These have been added to the unfair grounds for termination.

Sale of a Business or Receivership

In reference to the sale of a Business:

When a new employer wishes to take over the business of a current employer, both parties and workers may agree to take over the claims of the worker concerning the previous employment relationship. If the three parties agree, that is, the workers’ old employer and new employer, then the Recognized Trade Union, if any, and Labour Commissioner would need to be consulted to allow signature by the three parties. If the agreement is breached, only the employer will be liable on summary conviction to a fine not less than $3000 or not more than $5000 or IMPRISONMENT of 1 year or BOTH!

In the event of a sale, employees become redundant, unless the above agreement is reached.

In the event an employer or business plans to change ownership or is in the risk of going into receivership, the new law demands that such individuals inform the labour department of such situations well in advance. This would give the Labour department adequate time to go into the business and assure that all employees’ benefits are covered. The new law will also call for a financial security by employers to be made with the Labour Department to secure employees’ benefits, in the event the abovementioned should occur. Should the employer fail to comply, the labour department has to right to take the employer to court to recover all monies owed to employees in its entirety.

Appropriate Sanitary Facilities

  1. It is the duty of the employer to provide potable water and appropriate sanitary facility to his workers at every work site. Indoor sanitary facilities connected to clean water for every 25 person at a work site. Any employer who contravenes this requirement may be subject to a fine of not less than $1,000.00 but not more than $5,000.00.
  2. Severance and Changes: For an employee who has been continuously employed by any employer for a period of five years to ten years and his employment is terminated by employer, or the worker retires, on or after attaining the age of 60 or on medical grounds, that worker shall be paid a severance pay of one week’s wages in respect of each year of service.
  3. For an employee who has been continuously employed by an employer over ten years, and his employment is terminated by the employer for reasons that do not amount to dismissal or abandonment by the worker, he shall be paid a severance pay equal to two weeks wages in respect of each year of service.
  4. An employee with a minimum of ten years’ continuous service who resigns, his employment shall be eligible for a gratuity equal to a severance pay.
  5. Overtime: Time and a half is paid for the 10 public and bank holidays, excluding Christmas, Good Friday and Easter Monday – which are paid at double time.
  6. In the past, time and a half was calculated in two forms – (a) Regular Hourly Rate plus Half Hourly Rate; and (b) Regular Hourly Rate + One and a Half Hourly Rate. Under the current law, both would be acceptable. However the new amendment will clearly state that time and a half should be calculated as the later.
  7. Module: (a) An individual making $10.00 per hour would receive $15.00 per hour at time and a half. (b) An individual making $10.00 per hour would receive $25.00 per hour at time and a half.
  8. Double time is calculated at Regular Hourly Rate plus two times the Regular Hourly Rate
  9. Module: An individual earning $10.00 per hour would take home $10.00 + (2*$10.00) = $30.00 per hour at double time.

It is important to note that in Belize, the minimum wage is $3.10 an hour. The normal work week is a total of 45 hours. Anything exceeding 45 hours would be considered overtime, and that is paid at time-and-a-half.

The San Pedro Sun hopes that this information will be helpful to our readers. The San Pedro Labour Office is located upstairs the Island Galleria and Labour Officer Mr. George Matus may be reached at 206-2700.

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