An employee’s rights were first protected in the law of contract.
However, because employment relationships are most often between persons of unequal bargaining power, the Legislature provided a statutory regime, primarily directed at employees perceived to be in a less advantageous position to bargain/negotiate a fair contract. This happened in 1999, by the Employment Act (the Act) and the Labour Relations Act.
The Act deals with most issues related to your terms and conditions of employment. It can be found on the government’s website, at laws.gov.gd or just Google search, and you can easily download a copy from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) website.
Some general protections for employees under the Act:
- The first protection provided by the Act is that the protections of the Act applies, without qualification to all persons who are hired to provide services under a contract of employment, except the police, the armed forces, prison guards and or prison officers (but not those employed in a civilian capacity). The key take away from this is that your contract must be one whereby you are performing a contract of employment;
- The fact that the Act applies is its second protection because an employer cannot lawfully offer terms to an employee which are worse than what the Act prescribes as a minimum;
- Protection against forced labour, which is not just work without a basic salary, but also working extra time or duties without extra pay;
- Protection against discrimination on many grounds set out in the Act including political persuasion, age, marital status, family responsibilities, training, social origin or national extraction;
- Because of the importance of gender equality, the Act contains a separate provision, guaranteeing equal pay for equal work; and
- Child labour is also forbidden. The Act makes it clear that except for holiday employment, job training, or a training programme supervised by Government, a child under age 16 belongs in school and not in the workplace.
Remedies/Penalties for non-compliance with the protections set out above:
- If an employer violates the prohibitions against forced labour or discrimination, he/she/it can be charged with a criminal offence, and fined up to $10,000 and or 3 years in prison;
- Where possible, an employee, whose rights set out above are violated, can lodge a complaint to the Labour Commissioner for investigation and resolution facilitation. Failing successful resolution through the Labour Commissioner, conciliation by the Minister for Labour can be requested, and upon compliance with the Minister’s recommendations, a request can be made for the Minister to convene an arbitration tribunal to render a binding decision in the matter; and
- Where it is not possible to invoke the steps outlined above, an action might be filed with the High Court for a judge to make appropriate declarations and or orders, including orders for reinstatement of an employee, restoration to him or a benefit or advantage, or a payment of compensation.
Grenada Bar Association