The number of sick days being taken by workers continues to be a major headache for private sector employers.
In addition, two of this island’s top human resources officials are suggesting that the time has come for a “rationalization” of public holidays in Barbados.
Addressing a media conference this week, President of the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC) Marguerite Estwick said a different approach was needed in handling the issue of sick leave.
“When I think about it, it reminds me basically of the problem the USA faces with gun control, where we know basically there are problems, we have identified all of the sectors and all of the stakeholders who have contributed to the problem.
“We continue to recommend to our private sector employers to look at their reward programmes, their incentives programme and modify them to deal with employees who show evidence of abusing the sick leave benefits that employers provide. There are ways of removing periods of time in the mathematical calculation in the rewards at the end of the year where you identify individuals who have not contributed in the same manner to the productivity of the department or to the company, and modify the rewards at the end of the year,” explained Estwick.
In relation to public holidays, the BEC official complained that the country was still operating according to legislation that has been in place more than five decades.
Pointing to the total of 12 public holidays this year, some of which will occur during the week and within days of each other, Estwick said with this happening, they were “disruptive from a productivity perspective”.
There are two instances this year where a number of holidays will fall close to each other – Easter and May Day, and Emancipation and Kadooment Day. There are a total of seven internationally recognized public holidays and five national ones.
“Whether we are the owners of a business or whether we manage teams or whether we are simply a working member of a team, understand the kind of emotional energy that occurs before a public holiday, after a public holiday and in anticipation of a public holiday. It disrupts our mindset, our focus and productivity,” said Estwick.
“I think these are some sensitive things that we need to discuss if we are going to bring order to our society,” she said, adding that “we need to be mature about it”.
She made it clear that the BEC was not prepared to get involved in any political discussions as to what public holidays needed to be “removed or amalagamated.”
“I think there needs to be a national discussion. The country needs to decide whether or not we have too many holidays. The country needs to decide that. What we are saying is that the order in which these holidays fall becomes very disruptive,” explained Estwick.
Pointing out that there were no holidays between August 2 and November 29, she said perhaps Barbados could look at how other countries spread out their holidays throughout the year and how they treat to how people get paid when they worked on those days.
“So there are several things that I think we need to start to look at as we plan a modern society. We can’t continue to hold on to all the vestiges that we had in terms of the historical set ups we have inherited from our colonial past, still holding on to them while we try to plot a space for ourselves,” she insisted.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the BEC Sheena Mayers-Granville said perhaps it was time for a “rationalization” of “bank holidays.
“It poses the question, would national harm be done if May Day for example, fell on the first Monday in May, which allows for a workplace to open then Tuesday to Friday without a break, as oppose to how we saw it happen this month, where it fell on Wednesday causing a disruption in business?”
“Those are some of the things we need to consider, should public holidays fall midweek or should we have them fall Mondays or Fridays only to allow for continuity in terms of the business context. So we are not saying necessarily that you must not have a Heroes Day, but in terms of how we plan and structure these public holidays it is time to revisit those,” she said.