Legislation to extend paid maternity leave by five weeks with paternity leave for fathers will be put before the House of Assembly before the end of the year.

Minister of Labour, Community Affairs and Sports, Lovitta Foggo told MPs that maternity leave would be increased from eight weeks to 13 weeks for women who have been employed for a year or more.

Fathers will be entitled to five days paid paternity leave and five days unpaid.

Speaking in the Lower House on Friday, Ms Foggo noted that some of Bermuda’s labour laws “were prepared and drafted more than 30 years ago and in one instance more than 50 years ago”.

“Bermuda can look forward to legislation that is fit for purpose in the 21st Century with streamlined and simplified processes,” she said.

Just back from the International Labour Organization’s Conference held in Geneva last month, Ms Foggo also said the Government would aim to adopt zero tolerance of violence and harassment in workplaces.

The” proposed consolidation and modernization of Bermuda’s labour legislation”, is “long overdue”, she added.

“This project has been ongoing for some five years and progressing these changes is both a Progressive Labour Party Platform and the Throne Speech initiative.

“These changes are currently being drafted at Attorney General’s Chambers and it is the Government’s intent to bring forward the changes before the end of this year for the consideration of this Honourable House,” said the Minister.

The changes will include:

  • “The reduction from ten arbitration/assessor/tribunals in four Acts to a single Tribunal for all labour and employment matters. This will reduce the administrative costs and streamline the functions of the Tribunals
  • “Provision for increased maternity leave. Currently employees who have been employed for one continuous year, are entitled to 8 weeks paid maternity leave. This will be increased to 13 weeks as promised in our platform and the Throne Speech. Employees who have been employed for less than one continuous year are entitled to 8 weeks unpaid maternity leave. This will likewise be increased to 13 weeks but again remain as unpaid
  • “Provision for paternity leave. There is currently no provision for paternity leave and the amendments will allow for 5 days paid paternity leave for employees who have been employed for one continuous year, per calendar year and provide for 5 days unpaid paternity leave for employees who have been employed for less than one continuous year, per calendar year
  • “Provision for zero tolerance of violence and harassment in the workplace. In keeping with the ILO adoption of the violence and harassment convention, the amendments will also deal with bullying, harassment and in particular sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers will be required to have in place a zero tolerance policy for harassment in the workplace and recourse for employees for any contravention of the policy

Initial reaction has been generally positive, although were concerns expressed that the cost of this benefit will add to the already high cost of doing business in Bermuda.

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