Can my boss prevent me from becoming a member of a trade union and even fire me?

Every employee has the constitutional right to be part of a trade union. This right is also protected by section K 3 of the Labour Code which states:

“Employees shall have the right to associate with each trade union; to form, join, or assist trade unions; to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing; and to engage in other concerted activities for mutual aid or protection; and they shall also have the right to refrain from any and all such activities except as such right is limited by a union security arrangement as may be imposed by section J 13.”

If I am not part of a trade union, do I have to pay union dues?

Once an employee become a member of a trade union they are subjected to pay a weekly fee knows as dues. It is also important to note that when a union represent a group of employees better known as a bargaining unit each employee has to pay a representative fee. This representative for union members would be their dues however the non-unionized members of the bargaining unit would pay a fee identical to the union dues as a negotiation fee. It is also important to note that failure to remit this negotiation fee can result in a civil matter at the court. The negotiation fee is explained in Section J 13 (2) of the Labour Code:

“Every employee in the involved bargaining unit shall have the right to benefit from any collective agreement negotiated in terms of subsection (1) less a negotiating fee:

Provided that where an employee becomes or having become remains a member in good standing of the certified trade union no such fee shall be paid to the certified trade union.

The negotiation fee referred to in paragraph (2) (a) shall in the case of a worker who is not a union member, be equal to the membership dues of the certified trade union.”

The negotiating fee shall be payable by the employer in respect of each benefitting employee who does not satisfy the conditions in the provisio to paragraph 2 (a) and, if not paid within thirty days shall be recoverable as a civil debt from the employer.

The negotiating fee refered to in this section shall be paid to the certified sole bargaining agent in respect of each collective agreement negotiated by it.

“Benefiting employee” for the purpose of this subsection means any person who was a member of the sole bargaining unit on the date when the collective agreement was made.”

What should I get from my employer when I start working?

It is imperative that when an employee starts a new job, that he/she ensures that you not only know your salary and payment dates but your hours of work, rest period, responsibilities and studies, leave privileges if any, and period of probation. Failure to consult your employer to provide you with the necessary information under the law will result in misunderstanding and conflict on the Job.
Therefore you must be aware that Section C 5 (1) and (2) of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Code seeks to protect the worker and mandates that:

5 (1) “Every person who employs another shall, within ten days of such employment, furnish said employee with a written statement which shall set forth:

  • (a) the general responsibilities and related duties for which the employee is being employed;
  • (b) the regular hours of work, and rest periods;
  • (c) the starting pay, and method of computing same;
  • (d) the term of employment, if other than indefinite;
  • (e) the period of probation if any;
  • (f) the employee’s leave and vacation leave privileges; and
  • (g) his obligations if any, imposed under section J 13.

(2) With respect to persons currently employed on the effective date of this provision, each employer shall, within ten days after such effective date, furnish each of the said persons with a written statement shall set forth:

  • (a) the general responsibilities and related duties for which the employee is currently employed
  • (b) the regular hours of work, and rest periods;
  • (c) the current pay, and method of computing same;
  • (d) the remaining term of employment, if other than indefinite
  • (e) the remaining period of probation if any; and
  • (f) the employee’s leave and vacation privileges.”

How long should my probation be and can my employer extend it?

When starting a new job, it is customary for employees to undergo a probation or review period before being confirmed in the position. During this period, the employee shall be given an update on their performance and should their performance be subpar the employer has the latitude to terminate their service. Section C8 (1), (2) and (3) of the Labour Code outline the legally requirements of a probation period:

(1) “A new employee’s probation period may not exceed 3 month duration, unless there is provision for a greater period in a collective agreement between an employer and a registered trade union acting as the sole bargaining agent for all employees in an appropriate bargaining unit.

(2) During his probation period, an employee shall be given reasonable training in the duties of the position for which he was hired, and shall be kept informed of his progress.

(3) During his probation period, an employee’s employment may be terminated without any reason being given except an infringement of his self-organizational rights as set forth in Part 1 of Division K.”

If I am scheduled to work a holiday, should I be paid if I don’t go to work? If I do go to work how much should I be paid?

It is important to know that based on your employment conditions you may be scheduled to work on public holidays. Section C 14 (1) & (2) and C15 (1), (2) & (3) of the Labour Code addresses the conditions for holiday pay in Antigua and Barbuda

(1) “Subject to subsection (2) no employee shall be obliged to work on a public holiday except in emergency situations.

(2) The Minister may, by Order published in the Gazette, exempt certain industries and enterprises or certain parts thereof, from the requirements of subsection (1) on such terms and conditions as he may think fit.”

15 (1) “If an employee does not work on a public holiday he shall suffer no loss of pay, that is, he shall be paid the basic wage he would have received for work performed on that day had it not been a public holiday, provided he has worked his scheduled work day immediately before and his scheduled work day immediately after the said public holiday.

(2) If an employee does work on a public holiday he shall be paid, in addition to any wage he would have received in respect of the public holiday, an hourlyTh rate of not less than 150 per centum of his basic per hour worked.

(3) Should an employer cause an employee to work on a public holiday in conformity with any order made under section C14 (2) he shall pay said employee such amount as prescribed by such Order and in such manner as may be therein prescribed.”

How many sick days do I have and are my certified and uncertified leave calculated separately?

This has always been a contentious matter between employees and employers. In the absence of a collective bargaining agreement, an employee is entitled to twelve sick days whether certified or uncertified. Section C 17 of the Labour Code states

“Each employee, for at least the first twelve days of sick leave taken during any twelve consecutive months, calculated from the date of commencement of employment and any anniversary date thereof, shall be entitled to that basic wage, and the employer shall give him that basic wage, which he would have received had he worked on those days.”

When am I entitled to vacation? If I get sick during my vacation do I get back the time?

Your vacation entitlement is one that should always be explained when you start working from a company. It is your legal right to have this leave upon completion of your first twelve months of employment. The vacation leave is mutually agreed by both the employer and employee and can also be taken prior to your anniversary date with the company. While on vacation, should you receive sick leave, your vacation leave is suspended and your certified sick leave takes precedence. Upon the completion of the sick leave, arrangements should be made with the employer as to if your vacation time would resume or if your outstanding vacation days can be rescheduled to a later date. Section C 18 outlines the legally parameters of vacation leave:

18 (1) Each employee who has successfully passed his probationary period shall be entitled to, and each employer shall give him, vacation leave without loss of at least the basic wage including the cash equivalent of payments in kind, he would have received had he not taken the leave, in an amount of at least one day per month of employment.

(2) Said vacation leave shall be above and beyond and shall not include any public holiday leave as covered by section C14 and C15, any sick leave as covered by sections C 16 and C17 or any daily or weekly non-work periods as covered by section C24.

(3) The dates of the taking of earned vacation leave shall be fixed by agreement between employer and employee.

(4) By mutual agreement the employer may advance leave not yet earned.

(5) By mutual agreement earned vacation leave exceeding six days need not be taken in an unbroken time period.

(6) An employer shall not compel an employee to forego the taking of earned leave even though he pay, in lieu thereof, the wage the employee would have received had he taken the leave.

(7) Any person whose employment is terminated for any reason shall thereupon receive in respect of every day of vacation leave due him the remuneration for each such day as provided in subsection (1).

How long should my work day be?

The hours of work for each employee should be outlined in their employment letter and should not extend past eight hours in each day. Section C 24 (1) and (2) states:

24 (1) “Except where otherwise provided by a collective agreement, every employer shall permit each of his employees to enjoy in every period of seven consecutive days a period of rest comprising at least twenty-four consecutive hours.

(2) The standard work day shall not be more than eight hours and the standard work week not more than forty-eight hours.”

Do I have to always receive my pay slip with my wage?

Yes it is important that you receive a pay slip from the first wage and/or salary received. This pay slip should show the amount of hours worked, your hourly rate and all deductions from your salary. This slip is also important as it shows the deduction from your salary to the various statutory entities, in the event your employer does not remit payments on your behalf. Section C 31 of the Labour Code state:

“Whenever an employer makes any deduction from employee’s wages, he shall, simultaneously with the payment made, furnish the employee with an accurate statement of wages earned and describe the deduction made.”

Am I entitled to severance pay when I resign and how is it calculated.

An employee’s primary entitlement to severance results when he or she is terminated for reasons of redundancy. In calculating one’s severance the minimum payment is one days pay for each month or part thereof that an employee works. Sections C 40,41, 42 & 43 of the Labour Code provide an extensive explanation on how severance pay is administered

40 “Every employee whose term of employment with an employer and his predecessors has in aggregate exceeded one year is entitled to severance pay upon termination of employment by employer for reasons of redundancy.

41 Severance pay shall consist of at least one day’s pay, at the employee’s latest basic wage, for each month or major fraction thereof of his term of employment with is employer and any predecessor-employer.

42 (1) Subject to the other provisions of this section simultaneously upon the termination of employment of any employee entitled to severance pay under section C 40, the employer shall remit to that employee severance pay computed in accordance with C 41.

(2) If the termination be stated as temporary, no severance pay need be remitted to the terminated employee at the time of termination
Provided however that

  • (a) where the date of recall, if one given at the time of termination, be six months or more in the future, severance shall be payable on the date of the original termination;
  • (b) if no date of recall is given at the time of termination, severance pay shall be payable when and if, after three months from the termination, the employee shall not have been recalled;

In which case, the interest at the rate of ten per cent per annum on the amount of severance pay shall be payable for the interval between the original termination date and the date of actual payment.

(3) After such payment with interest has been made, if the employee is recalled to his past or substantially equivalent employment, or is again hired by the same employer, he shall be considered to be newly hired and his term of employment, for subsequent severance pay purposes, shall be considered to have commenced on the date of recall or rehire.”