Management of Staff and Compliance: Part 1

Staff, regardless of their position, are essential to the operations of the property. They are often described as ‘the eyes and ears’ for the owner; they observe and notice a lot with the time they spend at the property. For those owners who own holiday rental homes, this is even more important when welcoming and hosting guests. 

Our Property Management team, through the support of our Human Resources team, plays an integral role in managing various staff at the properties within our portfolio. The relationship between the property manager and the staff is very important; they depend on each other to ensure that issues, once identified, can be rectified according to the owners wishes.

Vacation Villa, Eden – Property managed by Blue Sky Luxury

There are occasions where, depending on the size and type of property, where engaging staff to work on a permanent basis may not be beneficial and/or needed. It is in these cases that our staffing services benefit the owner. Staffing can be requested on an as needed basis; whether for general operation of the property for specific times of occupancy (owner or guest) or a special event or occasion. 

For homes that rent short-term or have high occupancy, there is a point where employing the staff directly instead of utilizing temporary staff becomes more economical, especially when the staff are required to work four (4) or more days per week (usually around 160 nights per year). Permanent staffing costs at some properties can contribute to more than 50% of operational costs and determining how best the staff should be rostered and all associated costs should be periodically analysed to ensure the correct complement is at the property.

When determining this, it is very important to consider the compliance and due diligence surrounding the recruiting and onboarding process of an employee and then how this must be managed. Blue Sky Luxury has the benefit of our Human Resources Department, to instruct on compliance and the disciplinary process.

In this Q&A series, Tania Nicholls (TN), Human Resources Manager, and Sandra Gibbs (SG), Senior Staffing Services Officer at Blue Sky Luxury, offer expert insights by addressing frequently asked questions in their own words.

Q: By law, how are permanent staff defined? We have owners who correlate hiring staff as a liability.

TN: There is no definition in the law for permanent staff.

The law defines an employee and a contractor.

Practice then tends to define whether it is a permanent employee, temporary employee, permanent part-time employee and other various terms or options.

The difference really is that a permanent employee is a person who has a start date and is assumed to be employed for a continuous period; there is no end date identified.

Whereas a temporary employee will have a fixed term contract; there will be start and a defined finish.

That finish can then be extended, or they could then be made a permanent employee at the end of or at any time during the term

The only real difference between a permanent and a temporary employee is that one has a defined end date while the other does not.

By nature of being the person who is there continuously, which is the permanent employee, they tend to be qualified for more benefits than a temporary employee would; just by nature of how long they are going to be there but that is not something that defines the difference between the two. 

Q: And this start and end date, if applicable, is normally determined in the initial stages of engaging the person?

TN: Yes.

Q: What about this notion that if an owner is giving the employee a certain amount of hours per week, the employee may be determined to be considered a permanent employee?  If an owner, determines in the initial stages, that they want someone to work for them 16 hours per week, no end date agreed on (continuous) could that employee be determined as a permanent employee?

TN: Yes, it can.

For example, an owner may have a permanent employee who has a start date and has been working for a couple of years and they are working 40 hours per week and they can also have a temporary employee who is with the owner for 3 months who is also working 40 hours.  the hours that each works does not define whether an employee is permanent or not.

Q: What are the responsibilities of an owner who has a permanent employee; what are the key things they need to ensure are done the employer?

TN: From a legal standpoint, the responsibilities of the employer are the same for a temporary employee and a permanent employee.

There are certain items that the Employment Rights Act requires: a statement of employment particulars which is what we refer to as a contract (for either a temporary employee or a permanent employee) and the Act will define certain things that need to be in each of these documents.  A contract needs to have specific things as outlined in the Act such as reference to all of the policies relating to the company.  The employer can add additional items if they wish.

A job title & description; this needs to be included, payslips must be issued, and these must have in certain information, gross amount of wages, the amounts of any deductions, net amount of wages paid & date of payment and period being paid.

These responsibilities are required regardless of the status of the employee.

SG: The owner must give the employee a contract/statement of employment particulars for continuous employment.

This statement itemises the name of the employee and employer and address, the commencement date of employment, job title, job description, wages/salaries/method of payment, how it is calculated, working hours, probationary period, notice period for termination, etc.

In the contract/statement of employment particulars, the employer must state the date of continuous employment.

For some persons that will be the same as their date of hire and for others it will be different.  The date of continuous employment reflects where a person was hired on a previous contract which was separated by a 2nd stint of employment by less than 42 days.

Policies of the company/business must be included and itemised – holiday, sickness, disciplinary and grievance procedures and an itemised pay statement/pay slip must be given to the employee.

Q: What are the various responsibilities and duties of the Labour Department of Barbados (besides investigating complaints and conducting audits)? 

TN: To really manage the employment relationship.

They would be the caretakers of the legislation as it relates to employment law.

So, employees can make complaints, they will do investigations, they will do audits, they conduct training seminars to educate both the employees and the employers on what is required, they also help

setup infrastructures for individuals and companies, they also work with individuals and companies to help setup health and safety policies as it relates to the Act. The Labour Office also investigates and manages complaints made by employers against employees or colleagues vs other colleagues.

They also house the Employment Rights Tribunal where cases are heard, typically termination cases, so that is their main responsibility.

Q: What are the repercussions should an employer not adhere to these stipulations; the employer disregards it or does not follow it to the ‘letter’?

TN: Depending on the infraction and a complaint to the Labour Office, whether by the employee or by some other employee/someone in the environment.

If an owner does not give the employee a contract and the employee is not put off by this and continues to work, what the owner has done is still wrong however there are no repercussions for the owner unless the employee, for example, makes a complaint to the Labour Office.
The Labour Office will investigate this and based on their findings, they will give the owner a period to have the infraction corrected or the owner may have to pay a fine.

The act specifically speaks to making a decision or an award in respect of payment of a sum of money and the Tribunal’s exercise of its powers under this act is final.

Other circumstances where those penalties can come about, apart from an employee making a compliant, is if the Labour Office randomly selects an entity for an audit and finds non-compliance with the Act that is not remedied after recommendations from the Labour Office.

SG: The Act is very clear that owners must adhere to all aspects as outlined. 

It is not that you, the owner, want to make the employee feel restricted.  These things are required by law and the owner must comply.

If you do not comply, this is how an owner/employer can get into trouble by not following what the Act has outlined in terms of dealing with grievances, and disciplinary procedures.  These procedures in terms of dealing with each one of these things is set out in the Act.

For example, if an owner makes a change to their employee(s)’ wages, it is important to document this change in a letter/addendum to them and included in the employee’s file.  Documentation of changes such as this, must be recorded and this process is outlined in the Act, and we have to ensure it is adhered to.

Q: What are some common mistakes that are made when drafting employment contracts?

TN: What you find with the unique and intimate setting of a villa, for example, is sometimes owners look at the staff as more than an employee; they want to create a relationship with the employee and they do not want to insult the employee by issuing them, what they may deem as a ridged, documented contract.

This is a mistake because of the employment laws in Barbados.

You need to have this contract/statement of employment particulars for your (the owner) protection as well as for the protection of the employee.

You can still issue a contract and have a great relationship with your employee.

The other challenge that presents itself is that there may be a great relationship right now, however, should something go wrong at some point in the future, and there is nothing in place to protect you (the owner) and set the parameters of what should and should not happen at the property.

Q: What would you say to an owner/individual who may argue that the Act is heavily skewed towards the employee?

TN: I would view it the same way.

The Labour Office will argue that the Act is for both parties.  They will also tell you that the law seeks to cover and protect what is identified as ‘the most vulnerable’ and employees are seen as more vulnerable in most cases than the employer. 

There is a lot of work that is being done by the Barbados Employers Confederation and some other collaborations to try to get some amendments to the law to make it ‘less skewed’ and we wait to see the outcome.

There are some aspects of the law where, while I understand the intent, it can be very laborious for smaller companies and individuals to be able to comply with some of the administration for example.

Q: You mentioned the Barbados Employers Confederation (BEC); what is their role?

TN: It is a similar concept of a union for workers, the BEC can be considered to be the union for employers.

It is this an entity that provides training, and different services such as if a company is not able to engage or employ their own Human Resources professional, they are able to provide some of those services, they are the voice for employers at the ILO and national conciliation level, they will represent companies during labour negotiations with unions.

The unions are the other party in the tri-party setup as facilitators of employment relationship and enacting the law.

You can find Part 2 and Part 3 of this Q&A series at the links directly below.

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