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Protection of employment

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Many families today are dependent on income from employment in regular jobs. Many individuals start off in the job market at about the age of eighteen years. If one goes off to a university immediately after A’levels, then a permanent job is delayed until about age 22 years to about 25 years. The number of graduates is steadily increasing but the majority of school leavers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines start their first job after secondary school. Earlier in the last century, the employer had the upper hand in bargaining but with the advent of trade unions the bargaining powers of workers has steadily increased. More importantly, the lawmakers have understood the need to offer some degree of protection to workers who could be at the mercy of employers without it.{{more}}

In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Protection of Employment Act, No 20 of 2003 (the Act), claims as its objective that of supporting “successful employment relationships by promoting confidence in employment relationships.”

Monthly Paid

If you are being paid on a monthly basis your employer has the duty to provide you with the terms and conditions of your employment within seven days of the date of your employment. The Act requires the employer to provide the same for workers who were employed before the commencement of the Act. It required this within four weeks of the commencement of the Act.

The terms and condition of employment must be in writing and it is a document you would want to keep in a safe place. It must give the date of the commencement of your employment and it must have your name and address as well as that of your employer. Other details prescribed by the Act include the rate of pay, the overtime rate if any and the pay period; the probationary period if any; the hours of work including time off and rest period if any; the rate of vacation, sick and maternity leave if applicable and the duties to be performed.

Penalty

The employer who fails to comply with the above requirements of the law commits an offence and would be liable on conviction to a fine of not more than one thousand dollars.

Unfair termination

The most important feature of this act is that it makes provision to prevent unfair “termination of employment without good cause.” To terminate the services of an employee, an employer must have good cause to do so. The conduct must be of such a nature that it would be “unreasonable to expect the employment relationship to continue.” These are given in Section 9 of the Act. These are where the employee has been found guilty of misconduct in relation to his employment that it would be unreasonable for any employer to keep him; where the employee is guilty of repeated misconduct or is not performing satisfactorily; where the employee is found guilty of a criminal offence and where he does not have the capability or qualification to perform the work of the kind he was employed to do.

An employer cannot terminate a worker for reason related to conduct and performance without giving him an opportunity to defend himself except where the employer cannot reasonably do so.

Disciplinary action

Instead of dismissal for misconduct an employer may take disciplinary action which could be in the form of a verbal warning, a written warning, suspension or demotion.

• Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.

E-mail address is: [email protected]

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