Thu | Jan 17, 2019

Gov't urged to focus on passing key labour laws in 2019 - Roberts eyes sexual harassment, occupational safety, and paternity leave legislation

Published:Monday | January 14, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Roberts

The Government is being urged to use this year, which marks the centennial celebrations of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the 100th anniversary of the passing of the Trade Union Act, to speed up the passage of legislation on sexual harassment and occupational safety and health.

In a release, Danny Roberts, head of the Hugh Shearer Labour Studies Institute, said that lawmakers should also provide a statutory right to paternity leave for Jamaican men at the workplace.

Paternity leave, defined as a job-protected period of leave for employed men, with income support provided in some cases, is a short period of leave for fathers following childbirth. The Government late last year said it was embarking on a consultation period around the development of a Paternity Leave Act.

In his release, Roberts said that the opportunity should be used this year to review a number of labour laws, including maternity leave legislation, where ILO standards now set the minimum period at 14 weeks, and the Labour Relations Code, to strengthen the procedural measures relevant to disciplinary procedures.

He noted that paternity leave provisions are becoming more common across the globe and reflect evolving views about the importance of fatherhood in a child's development.

According to the trade unionist, enshrining a statutory right to paid paternity leave by way of legislation would signal the value the Government places on the care work of women and men and would help to advance gender equality.

Over the past 20 years, 38 countries have adopted provisions relating to paternity leave.

Roberts said that both sexual harassment and occupational safety and health legislation have been in long periods of gestation, and the need to have the passing of laws and regulations to strengthen the framework for decent work and human dignity would be "a fitting tribute to the early pioneers of the struggles in 1919 to decriminalise trade unions and grant workers the right to freedom of association, and ultimately, the right to collective bargaining".

Roberts added that the key stakeholders in public-sector management must own the transformation process going forward and accelerate the pace of public-sector reform.

He said that the transitional phase of the transformation process is necessary to effectively build on the early achievements in the areas of policy reform, revised procedures and practice, and technological upgrades.

Roberts urged the Government to prioritise the implementation of inclusive legislation and policy frameworks for comprehensive work-family policies, with provision for adequate fiscal space.