Labour Standards in The Bahamas
An Abundance of Skilled LabourThe population of The Bahamas is approximately 273,000, with an annual growth rate of 2 percent. Nearly 67 percent of the people live in New Providence, 15 percent reside on Grand Bahama, and the remainder make their homes on the various Family Islands.
The Bahamian workforce is well-educated, skilled, English-speaking, and amiable. Young Bahamians are increasingly acquiring facility in Spanish, French, and German. The number of Bahamian workers in 1994 was 141,000, up from 136,900 people in 1993, a 3.0% increase. Job growth in 1994 was less than 1%. Unemployment rose slightly in 1994 to 13.3%, from 13.1% in 1993. The current government's goal is an unemployment rate of 2.5 - 3%, and it encourages foreign direct investment, particularly in light manufacturing, technology, agriculture, tourism, and financial services.
Approximately 55,000 of the work force are employed in tourism or tourism-related jobs. The offshore financial services sector, the second largest segment of the economy, employs close to 4,000 people. The remainder work in the retail and wholesale trade, construction, manufacturing, agriculture, fisheries, and public sectors.
The adult literacy rate in The Bahamas is over 95 percent. Education is free and compulsory for those between 5 and 14 years of age. The government offers an extensive primary and secondary school system. There are numerous options for post-secondary education, both locally and abroad, including the College of The Bahamas, which is affiliated with the University of The West Indies. The final two years of UWI's Hotel and Tourism Management degree are offered at its Bahamas campus.
A scholarship programme provides university training abroad in medicine, agriculture, engineering, science, education, and other subjects considered necessary for national development. Local post-secondary education, vocational, and technical training is available in mechanical, electrical, and automotive engineering, television and radio, technology, computer science, electronics, construction, air conditioning and refrigeration, carpentry, secretarial services, bookkeeping, printing, photography, straw craft, and dressmaking.
The government provides special training and retraining for Bahamians to ensure that its labour force remains highly skilled.
National InsuranceThe mandatory government-administered National Insurance Scheme, established under the National Insurance Act, provides retirement, disability, medical, maternity, and funeral insurance to qualifying persons.
Insurance contributions total 8.8 percent of each employee's basic wage. For those who earn less than $60.00 per week, the employer pays 7.1 percent and the employee 1.7 percent; for those earning more than $60.00 per week, the employer pays 5.4 percent, the employee 3.4 percent. The maximum wage on which National Insurance contributions are required is $250.00 per week ($13,000 per year); no additional contribution is required for the portion of a salary that exceeds that amount.
Labour PracticesLabour practices in The Bahamas are governed by the Fair Labour Standards Act (1970), as amended, which establishes standard work hours and vacation with pay for certain employees. Employees should not work more than 8 1/2 hours per day, or 48 hours per week. Hours worked in a week must decrease 8 hours for every public holiday occurring in that week. Employees must have at least one day off per week.
Employees must be paid at least one and a half times their regular rate for working in excess of these hours. Those who work on a public holiday or on their day off must receive at least twice their regular rate.
Employees must receive at least one week of paid vacation for a year of continuous employment; most employers grant two weeks annually.
Employees who resign after working at least 30 days, but less than one year, are entitled to a sum equal to 4 percent of their annual wage, plus any vacation pay owed.
Labour RelationsWage rates and other conditions of employment are established between employer and employees, either on an individual basis or through collective bargaining.
Unions are regulated by the Industrial Relations Act of 1970, as amended. The Act determines the conditions under which a union can be recognized, industrial agreements can be made, and industrial disputes settled.
Contracts entered into by unions are legally binding. There is no legislation that deals with the issue of worker participation in management.
Labour Laws & RegulationsAn investor seeking to do business in The Bahamas must submit to The Bahamas Investment Authority a proposal that includes the projected number of Bahamian and non-Bahamian employees, and the projected number of non-Bahamian key and non-key employees. Non-Bahamians will require work permits.
Businesses may deduct a percentage of their Business License Fee for each full-time Bahamian employee hired in a given year, up to a maximum of ten employees. The deduction varies from 3 percent of the fee per employee to 5 percent, depending on the size and profitability of the business.
Hiring Non-BahamiansWork permits for key non-Bahamian personnel in a business are readily granted, provided such positions cannot be filled by Bahamians. The same is true of work permit applications for foreign specialists and industry-specific managers to meet new business needs. Businesses seeking permits for non-key employees must discuss these requests with The Bahamas Investment Authority in advance.
Fees for work permits vary from $250 for a farm worker to $7,500 for senior professionals and executives. The families of employees are issued permits to reside upon application. Persons desiring to reside permanently in The Bahamas must apply to the Director of Immigration.
WagesThere is no minimum wage legislation in The Bahamas. Wages are set by supply and demand. Wages are currently among the highest in the Caribbean, but lower than in the United States and Puerto Rico. Some standard weekly salaries are as follows:
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