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The 3 different strata of workplace compliance

Within every organization, there are specific guidelines that have been crafted to influence good behaviour, deter, prohibit or sanction poor behaviour, and to create an overall culture of accountability, transparency, efficiency and positive productivity among employees, as well as between employees and management, and the public. They are generally known as workplace policies, procedures and protocols, and are often the result of direct dialogue between employees and management, or, employees through their employee representative (i.e. trade union) and representatives of the employment company.

Examples of workplace policies include those to govern: (i) applications for sick leave; (ii) applications for vacation and/or casual leave; and (iii) applications for compassionate leave (i.e. the death of an immediate family member), as well as sexual harassment policies, inclusion/zero-discrimination policies and HIV/AIDS in the Workplace policies. Depending on who and what they are intended to affect, they can form part of a registered collective agreement, or, they can be enacted for a significantly shorter time e.g. a month.

Next we have the laws that govern the operations of the workplace. In Trinidad and Tobago, there are five (5) laws (inclusive of any amendments) that generally apply to the corporate environment, namely: (i) the Industrial Relations Act, Chap 88:01; (ii) the Maternity Protection Act, Chap 45:57; (iii) The Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act, Chap 88:13; (iv) The Minimum Wages (Amendment) Act, Chap 88:04; and (v) The Occupational Safety and Health Act, Chap 88:08.

These laws provide the absolute minimum standard that must be adhered to by both entities in the public and private sectors-whether micro, small, medium or large, whether locally-owned and operated, or foreign-owned and operated. For example, if a present law states that (sic), “every female employee who is medically confirmed to be pregnant is entitled to 14 weeks paid maternity leave after the completion of not less than twelve consecutive months of employment with the same employer”, then, that employee must be afforded her paid maternity leave by her employer, without any attached conditions, as well as any fear of victimisation or dismissal from employ. One particular significance of laws, is that where laws and workplace policies ‘clash’, the laws prevail.

Yet, even such laws must give deference to the supreme law of the land, i.e. the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Chap 1:01, which preserves and protects the entrenched rights of every single person who exists within that jurisdiction. Such rights are considered so inviolable and sacrosanct, that, to alter them usually required a three-fifths majority support of members of the joint Houses of Parliament. Examples of such rights include: the right of an individual to equality before the law, the right to enjoyment of property, and the right to not be deprived thereof, except by due process of the law.

Therefore, policies, laws and the Constitution are all important tools to keep turning the local wheels of production. Individually, as well as collectively, they are meant to support a more equitable and equal workplace.

Keywords: LinkedIn Caribbean Local, workplace, policies, laws, Constitution

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