Ask Akilah, Attorney-At-Law
As employees we’re faced with situations at work that we really want to get some legal advice on, but don’t know where to begin or who to turn to. In most instances we perceive the cost of consulting with a lawyer to be something quite expensive. SalariesTT wants to help employees find the answers to these questions. We launched a Q&A session where members submitted questions on employee law. We’re super excited to have teamed up with Akilah Phillip and the LTIP team, to answer your questions.
Akilah Phillip is an Attorney At Law with more than 11 years experience in practice. She has worked in various aspects of the legal field from Corporate, Criminal to Intellectual Property.
Ms. Phillip has engaged in extensive contract negotiation throughout her legal career and worked closely with many Human Resource Departments. She has conducted several internal tribunal hearings and is intimately familiar with the procedure for settling employee disputes.
Ms. Phillip is currently in private practice where she specialises in Entertainment Law and Intellectual Property, however she continues to assist clients with other grievances based on her wide range of legal expertise. She is also the founder and CEO of LTIP.
Can you return to a job after being dismissed?
Yes, you can return to a job after being dismissed. This is within your employer’s discretion what new terms and conditions they may seek to re-employ you under.
Can an employer promote an employee making $6000.00 to three levels and only increase their pay to $7500.00. Then hire a new employee to the same position with salary of $12000.00?
The employer can certainly employ someone in a similar position with a new salary after having another employee in that position. Promotions and compensations are discretionary within the company. The payment figure used for employees is often based on industry standards, experience and qualifications. The facts do not reveal what experience or qualifications the new employee will be bringing to the work environment which may justify an increased salary raise. Those factors will have to be evaluated equitably to determine if there is discrimination.
I’m a supervisor at the company I work for. The HR policy says that supervisors are not entitled to overtime pay. I was promoted to this position and aware of the HR policy when I accepted the position. However, I am chastised by my employer whenever I refuse to work overtime. Can my employer insist that I work the extra hours?
An employee cannot be forced to work outside of the stipulated mandatory working hours as provided for in the the Minimum Wages Act Chap 88:04. The employer can have an HR policy for how overtime will be paid and the company’s provisions that give further clarification.
However, the company ought not to compel the employee to work outside of the stipulated period where the employee has indicated their unwillingness to do so. This must be taken in context where in some situations for example security personnel may agree to work hours that extend beyond the stipulated times. In these circumstances they are paid the overtime rate.
An employee should document all grievances in writing and forward it to the employer. Following this correspondence the employee can refer the matter to the Ministry of Labour.
When seeking to develop policies for an organisation such as Sexual Harassment, what are the critical things to consider?
A company will have to clearly define what amounts to sexual harassment.
This can be done by reviewing employees’ job descriptions and identifying situations that employees may be required to work closely that will not amount to a violation of the company’s policy.
The company should identify how each report of sexual harassment will be dealt with. This may involve an investigation period; this time period should be explicitly stated. The policy should also indicate how the investigation will be conducted and who the report will be submitted to.
The company can also decide to hold an internal hearing to allow the accused person a due form of natural justice. This allows the employee to gather their own evidence and possibly have persons testify on their behalf.
The company should identify the procedure to follow thereafter once they are satisfied that a violation has occurred e.g. (payment of outstanding benefits, delivery of the company’s finding with sufficient time for acknowledgement etc.)
I’ve been trying to land a job in Trinidad for the last year. My question is this. Is there a law in Trinidad that prevents employers from employing non-Trinidadian persons who are not residing in the country unless there are no local personnel to fill the position?
There is no law that prevents an employer from hiring non-Trinidadian persons. Employers have on many occasions hired persons outside of Trinidad and Tobago. Additionally the Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME) Certificate allows free movement of services within the Caribbean region. You should consider if you reside in one of the CSME countries.
Citizens of CSME states who meet certain criteria can apply for a Certificate of Recognition of CARICOM Skills Qualification that allows them to work in any CSME member state. Do you fall within the category of skilled workers?
If you are working for a flat gross salary of $15000.00 per month, how much money is deducted for PAYE and how is it calculated to arrive at that figure
The first $6000.00 you earn is nontaxable. It’s your personal allowance. That leaves you with $9,000.00. Your income tax rate is 25%. 25% of $9,000.00 leaves you with a P.A.Y.E of $2250.00.
Can your employer prohibit you from joining a trade union?
An employer cannot prevent an employee from joining a trade union. This is guaranteed by Section 71 of the Industrial Relations Act 1972:
Every worker as between himself, his employer and co-workers shall have the following rights, that is to say:
a) The right to be a member of any trade union or any number of trade unions of his choice;
b) The right not to be a member of any trade union or other organisation of workers or to refuse to be a member of any particular trade union or other organisations of workers;
c) Where he a member of a trade union, the right, subject to this Act, to take part in activities of trade union (including any activities as or with a view to becoming an official of trade union) and (if appointed or elected) to hold office as such an official.
My staff views sick leave as an entitlement and they all aim to use all 14 days with most of them exceeding the limit by mid year. Can I issue warning letters for excessive sick leave without any repercussion especially since it is a unionised organization?
If the employee exceeds the sick leave by mid-year and therefore has no more sick leave remaining the employer is within their rightful authority to issue a warning letter for absentia.
However, if the employee is abusing the sick leave and taking more than the permitted two days sick leave on a weekly basis or the sick leave frequently coincides around a long weekend and exceeds the two days, the employer can issue a warning letter.
The employer will have to document the fact that no medical certificate was submitted or that one was falsely tendered. The Employer can also lodge a complaint with the Medical Board where there is suspicion of a false certificate and request an independent evaluation.
A warning letter should only be issued where the employer can prove that the employee has abused the entitlement to sick days and has provided no documentary evidence. Prematurely issuing a warning letter can expose the company to liability.
My company regularly fires staff effective immediately for poor performance, however they do this without any prior notice or warnings given to to the employee. The company will also offer them a severance payment upon their dismissal. Is it legal for an employer to fire an employee without prior notice/warning? Also, how is severance pay determined?
Yes, an employee shall have the right to answer any allegations made against him and respond to such charges. The legal principle of natural justice dictates that the proper steps and procedures are taken before an employee is terminated.
In some companies tribunal hearings occur and the employee is afforded the right of representation of his choice. This can take the form of a Union representative or an Attorney. There should be proper documentation presented to the employee of all facts related to the matter that they are being accused of. Employees can also visit the Conciliation Unit of the Ministry of Labour where they can obtain advice about their employer’s actions. All matters after internal review are then referred to the Ministry; therefore an employee can opt to get guidance prior to undergoing the process.
Severance is determined by the employee first being classified as a “worker” the employee must meet the worker standard to be considered for severance benefits. According to the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act 1985 as amended 45 days noticed is required for the severance package. Section 18 of the Act lays out the provisions for the package and consideration of whether there is a Collective Agreement are factors to be determined. The calculation is done on a pro rata basis for the period of the employee’s service.
Is it legal for a Borough Corporation to acquire a facility and keep all the staff of the facility and have them all on continuous contract employment since 2013 with no break in service (only twice they broke service in 2014). Persons have been working for the same salary since 2007. The previous management had the facility since 2007. The Borough Corporation acquire the facility in October 2013
An employee can continue with contract employment with no break in service legally. This will not convert the employee’s status to permanent. However, where employed by the State there are guidelines from the Chief Personnel Officer and Director of Personnel Administration which provides that after a year of continuous contract employment an employee can be entitled to sick leave, vacation and gratuity retroactively.
What situation did you have to dealt with at your job? How was it handled? Tell us in the comments below. If you like this article or you like what we’re doing share with your friends and colleagues.
Salaries TT Team