When you dismiss an employee in The Bahamas, there are many considerations from both a legal and a practical perspective. For example, you must determine the reasons for the dismissal, calculate the notice period and pay, and protect yourself from claims of unfair dismissal.
Reasons to Dismiss an Employee
You can either summarily dismiss an employee for cause or terminate the employee with notice or pay in lieu of notice. If you have cause and decide to summarily dismiss the employee, you only have to pay the employee for accrued vacation not taken and for any time actually worked. According to the Employment Act, you can summarily dismissal an employee “without pay or notice when the employee has committed a fundamental breach of his contract of employment or has acted in a manner repugnant to the fundamental interests of the employer”. A fundamental breach might occur if the employee steals or is dishonest.
If you terminate the employee with notice, you must compensate him or her pursuant to his contract of employment or the Employment Act. The minimum notice period depends on the position of the employee and the length of employment. When an employee has worked for you for six months or more but less than twelve months, you need to give one week's notice or one week's basic pay in lieu of notice. Also, you need to pay an additional amount depending on how long the person worked for you. If an employee worked for you for more than a year, you would need to give two weeks to a month of notice, with corresponding pay based on his or her position and length of employment.
Are Any Employees Protected Against Dismissal?
Yes, Bahamian law protects employees from dismissal if the employer's reason for ending the employment was that the employee “was or proposed to become a member of an independent trade union”, that the employee was redundant under some circumstances, that the employee was pregnant, or that the employee was taking part in industrial action (such as a strike or lockout).
What to Do Before You Dismiss an Employee
No matter the reason that you decide to dismiss an employee, it is prudent to document the dismissal well. Have any performance evaluations or poor behaviour complaints in writing. You may want to give the employee warnings or writeups leading up to the dismissal. If your employee falls in any of the categories protected from unlawful dismissal, you may should seek legal advice to protect yourself against a legal claim – even if you have perfectly legitimate, documented reasons for the dismissal unrelated to a protected class.
To find out more about dismissal from employment in The Bahamas, visit Gonsalves-Sabola Chambers online or call the office at +1 242 326 6400.
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