The Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries (Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2021 was passed in the Senate on Wednesday, although some members of the Upper House expressed reservations about some of its provisions.
Introducing the Bill, Acting Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Kay McConney, noted that the law did not previously make any allowances for members of the legislature, including the Prime Minister and Governor General, to take vacation or sick leave.
The Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries (Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2021, the Governor General (Condition of Service) Amendment Bill, 2021, and the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2021 seek to address that.
“We have taken certain practices for granted over the years. For example, we would think that the Governor General, Prime Ministers and other Ministers would be entitled to sick leave, but it was not so in the law. Presently, it is done on an ad hoc basis, so the Prime Minister can get leave after consulting with the Governor General, while Parliamentary Secretaries and Ministers would ask the Prime Minister for time off,” she noted.
“These Bills seek to establish the right of the Governor General, Prime Minister and other members of Cabinet and the Senate to four weeks’ vacation per year, 21 days uncertified sick leave, and the right to appoint someone to act on their behalf while they are out of office.”
However, Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn suggested that the new legislation was not really necessary, and that changes had to be made to other laws, such as the National Insurance Act, for it to make sense.
“Under the National Insurance Social Security Classification Regulations, the Governor General, the Speaker of the House, Ministers and Senators are considered selfemployed people, so they are not entitled to paid vacation leave. Therefore, this aspect of the NIS rules must be updated for this change to become effective,” he contended.
“The easier solution to this dilemma would be to revoke the Minister’s appointment for the time they will not be at work but are still on the island, and then reinstate them when they return; this practice worked in the past.”
Although saying that at first glance the bill was a “decent proposal”, Senator Kevin Boyce said the conditions of service pertaining to the Governor General had been changed 16 times since 1971.
Against that background, he said: “We need to look at these changes and see what they mean for Barbados going forward. We must not only focus on our present needs but prepare for any eventualities.”
Boyce added that detractors might question why it was necessary to pass laws relating to the Governor General when that post is expected to be obsolete by year end, when Barbados moves to a Parliamentary Republic on November 30.
The question also arose as to whether vacation periods should vary based on the level of responsibility certain Ministers held, and it was also suggested that one part of the legislation, which stated that “Ministers are entitled to four weeks’ paid vacation leave for every completed year of service” was unclear.