HAMILTON, Bermuda — The House of Assembly has passed legislation which will implement a minimum wage for employees, set at US$16.40 per hour , from June next year.
The Employment (Minimum Wage Entitlement Bill 2022) introduces provisions to give employees in the island a “right of entitlement” to a statutory minimum wage. Expatriates fill around a quarter of the approximate 35,500 jobs on the island, according to the latest government figures.
The bill outlines procedures to determine if workers who are entitled to the minimum wage are receiving it and regulations that employers have to follow to show that they are complying with their obligations.
Enforcement officers will be able to investigate business records to ensure compliance and employers found to be in default will face financial penalties.
Economy and Labour Minister, Jason Hayward, told Parliament that work on a minimum wage had started in 2019 and that the legislation would have “a positive impact” on Bermuda workers while also giving employers “necessary protections”.
But Jarion Richardson, deputy leader of the opposition One Bermuda Alliance (OBA), questioned the timing of the bill, suggesting it was being pushed through by the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) government for political expediency.
He said that the data which the Minimum Wage Commission had used to calculate the $US16.40 figure was outdated and also asked why an economic impact study had not been compiled.
Pointing out that inflation currently stood at around five per cent, Richardson said there was a risk that a minimum wage could drive prices higher. He agreed that the issue of income inequality existed but questioned if a minimum wage would help those less well off.
“I’m not sure which problem this legislation is trying to fix. It is a blunt instrument and there are more refined ways,” he added.
But the Deputy Speaker of the House, Derrick Burgess, welcomed the bill as being “long overdue” and also expressed concern that runaway inflation could result in the US$16.40 recommendation being out of date before it was introduced next summer.
“It could solve the problem for a couple of weeks or months, but the way the cost of living is going today, that will be wiped out shortly. The cost of living is something we have to tackle and we have to tackle it quickly.”
Earlier this year Hayward said the government needed to get an estimated 8,418 extra people working at a five per cent annual increase, over five years.