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Working Hours and Overtime Regulations

Understand the laws governing work hours and overtime in Barbados

Standard working hours

In Barbados, standard working hours are not explicitly outlined in a single source, but two primary pieces of legislation provide guidance: The Employment Rights Act, 2014 (Act No. 12 of 2014) and The Shops Act, Cap. 344.

Key points regarding standard working hours include:

General Working Week:

There's no explicit mention of a standard workweek in the Employment Rights Act.

Maximum Weekly Hours:

The Shops Act indirectly sets a guideline by limiting shop assistants' working hours to 48 hours per week, averaged over a four-month period. This can be extended to a maximum of 150 hours per year.

Common Industry Practices:

In practice, a standard workweek in Barbados typically falls within a range of 40 to 45 hours, with eight hours per day for five days or nine hours per day for five days.


In Barbados, the regulations surrounding overtime work are established by two key pieces of legislation: The Employment Rights Act, 2014 (Act No. 12 of 2014) and The Shops Act, Cap. 344.

The Employment Rights Act doesn't explicitly define when overtime work can be requested. However, employers generally cannot compel employees to work overtime. There's no mandated limit on the total number of overtime hours an employee can work per week or year under the Employment Rights Act.

The Shops Act indirectly sets a guideline for shop assistants by limiting their overtime work to an average of eight hours per week over a four-month period. This translates to a maximum of 32 overtime hours every four months.

The Employment Rights Act doesn't specify a minimum overtime pay rate. However, several sources indicate that Barbadian employers typically compensate overtime work at a rate of one and a half times the employee's regular wage.

The Shops Act offers a clearer guideline for overtime compensation on public holidays. Shop assistants working on a public holiday are entitled to double their usual pay rate.

In the absence of specific legal requirements, it's advisable for employers to establish clear policies outlining overtime expectations and compensation through employment contracts and company policies. These written agreements should ensure fair treatment of employees and meet or exceed any minimum industry standards.

Rest periods and breaks

In Barbados, the right to rest periods and breaks for workers is established by the Employment Rights Act, 2014 (Act No. 12 of 2014). This legislation focuses on preventing excessively long work hours and guaranteeing minimum rest periods. It mandates that an employee cannot be compelled to work for more than 12 consecutive hours without a break of at least two hours. This break can be a paid meal break or unpaid personal time.

The Shops Act, while not directly applicable to all workers, provides some insight into common practices. While it doesn't explicitly mandate meal breaks, it limits shop assistants' working hours, indirectly implying meal breaks are expected.

The Employment Rights Act sets a minimum standard, and employers can offer more frequent or longer breaks as part of their employee benefits package. The nature of the work can influence break schedules. For instance, jobs requiring sustained concentration might benefit from shorter, more frequent breaks.

Night shift and weekend regulations

In Barbados, there are specific regulations in place to safeguard the rights of workers who are engaged in night shifts and weekend work.

Night work is defined by the Employment Shops Act, Chapter 33, as the period between 10:00 pm and 5:00 am. However, there are exceptions for certain categories of employees. These exceptions include managerial or technical positions with supervisory duties, workers in health and welfare services, family-run businesses, and the sugar industry.

For industrial undertakings, employers are required to obtain a certificate from the Chief Labour Officer to employ workers during the night. This is to ensure adherence to safety regulations and to maintain proper working conditions for night shift employees.

The act also stipulates that night workers who are exposed to high risks or significant physical or mental strain should not work more than 8 hours within a 24-hour period. It is the responsibility of the employers to determine an appropriate schedule that complies with this regulation.

As for weekend work, the Employment Shops Act does not outline specific regulations pertaining to working hours. However, the act does mandate a standard 40-hour workweek, which can be spread across weekdays and weekends depending on the employment contract and industry norms.

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