Sexual Harassment Bill to be enacted

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados: Barbados will soon have a Sexual Harassment Bill on its statute books.

Minister of Labour and Social Security, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, said her ministry is working hard on getting the “revolutionary piece of legislation” enacted shortly.

“That Bill has gone to the Governance Committee of Cabinet so we can have approval on the drafting instruction, so that very soon we should have the draft legislation that Cabinet can approve,” she said last week while delivering the feature address at the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados’ Mid-Term Delegates’ Conference.

Dr. Byer Suckoo said the labour ministry had received the comments it requested from its stakeholders on earlier policies, as well as the 2004 draft legislation, and noted that the information would inform the drafting of the legislation adding that the legislation is “gender neutral” and would provide protection for men and women in the workplace against various acts of sexual harassment.

“We don’t have to move to protect only our women in Barbados. By and large, the women are the ones who come to the fore as being victims of sexual harassment. But more and more we are hearing of men and young boys who are sexually harassed in the work place, so we need to protect all of our workers,” she said.

Byer Suckoo noted that her ministry was working closely with its stakeholders to review and amend several pieces of legislation.

“Thus far, we have received formal comments to assist us in finalizing amendments to the Shops Act and we are working to complete the consultative process with respect to the proposed amendments to the Holidays with Pay Act and, of course, the Employment Rights Bill is ready,” she said.

“Work is also ongoing on the development of legislation on Minimum Wages, regulation of employment agencies, recognition of trade unions and anti-discrimination in the workplace.”

According to Byer Suckoo, legislation pertaining to domestic workers which came out of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers is also currently being reviewed by her ministry.

She said that Barbados was hoping to be one of the early countries to ratify that Convention and added that an examination of the legislation had started.

The labour minister also revealed that Cabinet had recently approved the implementation of a Decent Work Country Program for Barbados and it would be launched next month.

The Decent Work concept is built on four key pillars – social dialogue, social protection, employment creation and respect for rights. It promotes the notion that all members of the workforce are entitled to jobs, equal and fair compensation for their work, healthy working conditions, systems which support them in the event of reduction or loss of income, the right to be heard and the right to appeal.

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