Be vigilant about pay-cut arrangements, workers told

By Barbados Today,

Barbadians who are fortunate to have retained their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic are being urged not to enter pay-cut arrangements, with no specific end-date, with their bosses.

The caution has come from two leading human resource and labour management specialists Brittany Brathwaite and Sheena Mayers-Granville as they addressed a recent discussion on Labour Relations In the Caribbean, hosted by the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business at the University of the West Indies.

Brathwaite, who also advises a number of regional clients, was responding to a question from participants who queried the decision by some leading organisations to institute pay cuts in response to the downturn in business caused by COVID-19.

She cautioned: “The advice that I am providing to clients across the region is that you avoid those indefinite types of situations because COVID-19 is for a period for which we are all experiencing challenges. It is always best when you are treating to a contractual obligation such as paying a person their salary and you are bound to pay that salary, if you are going to make a change to that legal obligation then you provide a time-frame as to how long that change will apply.”

According to the consultant: “When you are going to make a change to a person’s salary and you are leaving it open-ended, I really do not advise that in any case for an employer. If you have to apply it for say six months, I would say to the person … to provide an end date or a date for further discussion.”

Brathwaite, a former labour management adviser at the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC), added: “When you leave those open-ended salary change discussions, these things have to be mutually agreed and therefore employers need to be cognizant as to how they are going about doing this to ensure they don’t run themselves into legal trouble post-COVID-19.”

In her contribution, Mayers-Granville, who is also the executive director of the BEC, said it was possible that some employers may not have deliberately intended for the salary cuts to be open-ended. “It might not have been the intention to make it indefinite but in the conversation [between employer and employee] a review date never came up. So I would suggest that persons have a discussion around a date for review … of what will happen in terms of any restoration.”

Responding to another question from the audience on paid vacation when working remotely, Brathwaite made it clear that even though employees may be working remotely from home, they are still accruing vacation time and were still entitled to a paid holiday. (IMC1)

Photo: Brittany Brathwaite

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