Paternity being considered under revised labour code

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Antigua & Barbuda is mulling the introduction of paternity leave for men – a recommendation which one of the persons behind the initiative admits may be controversial.

“That stands out because it is not the kind of leave that is very popular in Antigua & Barbuda at this point in time, “said Hesketh Williams, secretary of the National Labour Board.

The recommendation is one of several being proposed to the Antigua & Barbuda Labour Code which is expected to go before Labour Minister Dr Errol Cort next week.

But while Williams, who is also the country’s labour commissioner, did not go into details, he said, soon-to-be fathers will have to meet certain criteria.

He explained, “Qualifying men will be able to get a few days leave at any point of the birth of their child.”

The labour board held its final meeting on the suggested amendments on Wednesday, which the secretary said went “very well” with sufficient members present for a quorum.

Williams said further, “I would think that having received the document which I believe can be presented to the minister by next week. In coming weeks he’d be able to take it to his Cabinet colleagues so they can look at it and see what needs to be done.”

He said the document would also have to be sent to the Ministry of Legal Affairs to ensure the recommendations do not conflict with the Constitution.

The changes are far-reaching and are the “most comprehensive” since the labour code came into effect in 1975, Williams noted.

The only other review was done in the 1980s with the changes taking effect in the mid 1990s.

Another introduction provides legal support for workers who have been constructively dismissed.

“Whereas it is something that we have attempted to look at and practised in the past, it was never a part of the labour code,” Williams said.

“Now, there is a definition and there’s a process in which employers who have valid reasons to believe they are being constructively dismissed, will have some redress with legal backing,” he added.

The labour board is also suggesting that it becomes mandatory for workers who have been laid off or made redundant, to be given first preference for certain positions when the companies are rehiring.

“We want the law to make provision for the person who was made redundant to be given first (right of) refusal if the job is going to be regenerated at the organisation or if a similar job which requires that person’s skills will be regenerated,” Williams said.

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