The Labour legislation, which were enacted during the beginning of this year are having a negative impact on the overall economy, according to a survey conducted by a coalition of private sector organizations.
The survey found that the legislation added to business operating costs, consequently increasing the overall cost of doing business in the Bahamas as well as adding to the cost of living for consumers.
Members of the coalition include the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce, The Bahamas Employers Confederation and the Nassau Tourism & Development Board.
The labour legislation reduced the standard hours of work from 48 hours per week to 44 hours per week on February 1 this year. It calls for a further reduction of 40 hours per week in February of 2003.
The report said that 41 percent of businesses are affected by the reduction in work hours, with 12 percent of the total respondents employing additional staff to reduce overtime costs. Twenty percent of those surveyed reported that employees are earning less pay as a result of reduced hours.
It further found that businesses that are impacted by the reduced hours are seeing increases in labour costs that average 10.2 percent. These increased costs are being passed on to the consumers by 9 percent of those businesses and 18 percent have passed on to consumers part of the increased costs, according to the survey.
Thirty-eight percent of the respondents said that the labour legislation is having a negative impact on employee moral and productivity, stating that employee morale and productivity has decreased since the new laws came into effect.
However, the survey found that 5 percent of businesses have seen an increase in employee morale and productivity since the legislation was enacted.
The payment of sick leave is legislated for the first time in the Employment Act, 2001, providing one week of sick leave with pay per year. Forty-one percent of businesses are affected by this new provision and consequently are experiencing increased costs, the surveyﾒs results said.
Thirty-nine percent of employers reported abuse of the sick leave provision by their employees. A similar survey conducted in August of last year reported abuse of sick leave by 55 percent of employers, however at that time payment of sick leave was not a statutory requirement and was not universally practiced by all businesses.
The report also indicated that 25 percent of businesses have been affected by the implementation of minimum wages. The Minimum Wages Act provides three categories of wage types: hourly wages at $4 per hour; daily wages at $30 per day; and weekly wages at $150 per week.
The survey concluded that, "Overall, the impact of the labour legislation is having a negative effect on our economy according to 71 percent of businesses surveyed. Twenty-two percent of businesses report that the negative impact is significant.