The move to a 24-7 work system simply will not happen overnight.
This assurance today from Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer as she led off debate in the Senate on proposed amendments to the Shops Act to make way for a seven days a week economy, with four compulsory holidays each year.
Dr Byer pointed out that the discussion on the 24-7 workplace was ongoing and that “a lot of things have to happen before you can move wholesale to 24-7”. She did elaborate on the outstanding areas.
She however explained that a reformed Shops Act was intended, “to make better provision with respect to the opening and closing hours of shops, the terms and conditions under which persons are employed in shops and certain other businesses, and with respect to health and safety standards in shops.
“There are a number of operations in Barbados that already do operate 24 hours. We have gas stations for example, and the shops attached to those gas stations, at the hotels and certain shops at the airports . . . in the industrial sector 31:52 we have workers who do work at night,” Dr Byer said.
“What our legislation does now is it establishes new opening hours that a shop may open continuously from seven o’clock on Monday straight through to 10 o’clock on Sunday night.
“That is 159 hours out of the 166 hours that will be 24-7 . . . with a little breathing space Sunday night into Monday morning.”
Regarding non-working days, the Minister said, “Our legislation also speaks to how we treat to closed days, in particular the bank holidays . . . Independence Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday and Christmas Day. Those are the four closed days and they allow for opening on the other days.”
Under the new legislation, she said persons would no longer be required to apply to the Chief Labour Officer for permission to open on the other days.
“It is just those four days that we are considering as closed days,” the Minister said.
She said the aim was to accommodate the new across-the-board employment hours.
“So the legislation focuses in the main on what has to be done for those workers who are working at night.” (GA)