Whereas the Holidays (Public General) Act of 1895, last amended in 1999, specifically provides that National Labour Day shall be celebrated on the following Monday if it falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it states that New Year's Day, Emancipation Day, Independence Day, and Christmas Day shall be celebrated on the actual day of the week on which they fall, unless those holidays fall on a Sunday, in which case they are observed the following Monday.
In the schedule of the Act, Boxing Day should be celebrated on December 26, regardless of the day of the week on which it falls, except for when Christmas Day falls on a Sunday and is celebrated the following Monday, the 26th, Boxing Day would then move to the 27th. However, we saw recently that the Ministry of Labour provided guidance on the observance of Boxing Day this year, indicating that it would be observed on the Monday, even though Christmas Day fell on and was observed on the Saturday.
The Act should be amended to simply provide that any public holiday falling on a Saturday should be observed the preceding Friday, and any falling on a Sunday should be observed the following Monday or provide for any falling on a Saturday or Sunday to be observed on the Monday immediately following.
National Labour Day should not be given any special treatment in that regard. Moreover, as is the case with National Heroes' Day, which is celebrated on the third Monday in October, National Labour Day should be observed on the third Monday in May rather than the fixed date of May 23.
Emancipation Day should be changed to be observed on the weekday immediately preceding Independence Day, which should remain fixed on August 6. This way we would have a back-to-back Emancipation and Independence holiday celebration as obtained with Good Friday and Easter Monday and with Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
It should be noted that not all territories or countries in the Caribbean as former British colonies celebrate Emancipation Day on August 1. Dominica, Grenada, and the British Virgin Islands, for instance, celebrate Emancipation Day as the first Monday in August.
These proposed amendments would not only simplify the rules governing holiday observations, but also prevent the Ministry of Labour from having to periodically put out press releases to clarify when a particular holiday is to be observed. They would also give employees actual traditional work days as holidays and not a Saturday, which traditionally forms part of the weekend when most people, even with the advent of flexi-work, would usually be off work.
Kevin KO Sangster