In employing workers there are certain standards which employers are bound by law to follow. These are called labour standards or, better yet, workers' rights. They are set out in three main statutes, namely, the Labour Standards Act, the Protection of Employment Act, and the Trade Union Act. As to the Labour Standards Act, the most important of these standards and rights are the following.

  • A minimum wage is not the rate of wages which your employer is duty bound to pay you but, in fact, the lowest rate of wages which he/she is bound under law to pay you. You may be paid more than the minimum wage.

  • If you are a handicapped person, your employer may employ you at a rate lower than the minimum rate, on the authority of the Labour Commissioner, if the Commissioner's opinion is that it is in your best interest to be so employed.

  • Your employer has no right to employ you for more than 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week unless you agree to be so employed.

  • In any working day you are entitled to not less than half an hour off for lunch.

  • You are entitled to full pay for a public holiday on which you did not work only if you reported for work on the last working day before the commencement of that holiday and on the first working day after the end of that holiday.

  • Where you are required or permitted by your employer to work for more than your standard hours, you must be paid overtime at a rate of wages not less than one and a half times your normal rate of wages.

  • Your employer must set up his/her schedule of work so as to enable you to have at least one full day of rest in the week, normally Sunday.

  • You are entitled to at least 2 week's vacation leave with pay for each year of your employment where you have been continuously employed for less than 5 years, and to at least 3 weeks where you have been continuously employed for 5 years or more.

  • Where a holiday for which you would normally be paid (although you did not work) falls during the period of your vacation leave, your leave will increase by one day without any loss of pay.

  • If you are employed for less than 1,760 hours in a year, your employer must either pay you at the end of the employment year 4% of the wages you earned during that year or grant you vacation leave with pay.

  • Where your employer terminates your employment he/she must pay you for any vacation leave still due to you.

  • Where you have worked for your employer continuously for 12 months or more, and become pregnant, your employer must grant you maternity leave not less than 3 weeks prior to the estimated date of confinement and not more than 9 weeks commencing on the actual date of confinement.

  • Your employer must pay you at a rate of not less than one-half of your normal rate of wages for a period of 4 weeks following the date on which your maternity leave commences.

  • So long as the men and women work under the same conditions and the work requires similar skill, effort and responsibility your employer does not have a right to pay men and women according to their sex different rates of pay for doing the same or similar work.

  • But your employer has a right to pay different rates of wages to men and women if the difference is based on a factor of factors other than sex.

  • Your employer must grant, if you so request, 2 days' leave of absence with pay to attend to the burial of persons in your immediate family, namely, your father, mother, sister, brother, husband, wife, child or relative of your immediate household.

  • Your employer has a right to require you to dress on the job in a manner befitting your duties and the policy of the business.

  • Your employer also has a right to require you at any time to undergo at his/her expense a medical examination by a qualified doctor chosen by your employer.

  • Where you have become ill as a result of the type of work you perform or because of any injury sustained during the course of your employment, you are entitled to full pay for a maximum period of 26 weeks minus the amount that you have recovered from the Social Security Scheme.

The above mentioned rights you have under the Labour Standards Act are the minimum, that is to say, the lowest to which you are entitled. And, where any law, custom, contract or arrangement offers you more rights and benefits than those provided under the Labour Standards Act, you are entitled to those greater rights and benefits.

Further, you are not entitled to rights or benefits provided under the Labour Contracts Act in the following cases: (a) if you are a member of a trade union representing your employer's workers; or (b) if you work less than 21 hours per week; or (c) if you are hired for a period of 2 weeks or less; or (d) if you work as a home assistant or agricultural labourer; or (e) if you are the father, mother, husband, wife, brother, sister, son or daughter of your employer.

Copyright © William Para Riviere, May 2014

(Dr. William Para Riviere is an Attorney-at-Law)