The Minimum Wage Act of Jamaica was passed in 1938 after much upheaval about the inequities that existed in our post-colonial society, especially in a time when labour unions were helping to set the national agenda. It was created to provide for the payment of wages above or equal to, but not below a statutory level for certain types of work. Among other things, the Act provides for the fixing of a minimum wage, the establishment of a Minimum Wage Advisory Commission, and the appointment of officers to inspect records to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Act.
Who Sets the Minimum Wage?
3. (I) The Minister may by order published in the Gazette fix mininum rates of wages for any occupation in the Island, either generally or in any specified area, place or district in any case in which he is satisfied that the wages being paid to any persons employed in any such occupation are unreasonably low, and may, if he is satisfied that it is desirable so to do, fix a national minimum wage applicable, subject to the provisions of this section, to occupations generally.
(2) An order under, this section may contain such ancillary provisions as the Minister thinks fit and, without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing-
(a) may regulate hours of work and other terms and conditions of employment or service in relation to any minimum rates of wages;
(b) may fix different minimum rates of wages for workers employed in different categories of establishments engaged in the same occupation;
(c) may, notwithstanding that the order fixes a national minimum wage, provide that the national minimum wage shall not apply to any category of workers, or to workers in any area, specified therein or shall apply to such workers subject to such conditions or modifications as may be specified therein.
(3) The Minister may by order vary or cancel a minimum wage.
(4) Any minimum wage fixed as aforesaid or the cancellation or variation of any such wage shall become effective as from the date specified in that behalf in the order.
(5) Any order under this section in relation to a national minimum wage shall be subject to affirmative resolution of the House of Representatives.
What is the Minimum Wage Advisory Council?
4A. The functions of the Advisory Commission shall be:
(a) to consider and, to advise the Minister on all matters relating to national minimum wages and any other minimum wages ‘which may be fixed under this Act;
(b) to obtain and record information in relation to wages and other remuneration, terms and conditions of work and all other factors affecting the circumstances of employment and remuneration of the various categories of workers, to keep such information under continuous review and advise the Minister from time to time as respects the categories of workers in relation to which a minimum wage should be fixed, the wage to be fixed and other matters related thereto;
(c) to keep under review all minimum wages fixed by the Minister and the terms and conditions in relation thereto, and to make recommendations to the Minister as respects any variation thereof.
4B.-(1) The Advisory Commission shall have power, for the purpose of the performance of its functions under this Act-
(a) by summons signed by the chairman or by the secretary of the Advisory Commission, to summon and enforce the attendance of witnesses and parties concerned, and to compel the production of books or other documents by the same means and, so far as may be, in the same manner as provided in the Witnesses Expenses Act in the case of any legal proceedings before a court; and
(b) to examine witnesses and parties concerned on oath (which oath the chairman or secretary of the Advisory Commission is hereby empowered to administer) so as to elicit all such. information as the Advisory Commission may consider necessary and relevant to its deliberations.
Penalty for Not Paying Wages
5.-(1) Where any minimum wage has been fixed by the Minister under this Act an employer shall in cases to which the minimum wage is applicable pay wages to the person employed
at not less than the minimum wage and if he fails so to do shall be liable on summary conviction before a Resident Magistrate in respect of each offence to a penalty not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars.
(2) On the conviction of an employer under the provisions of subsection (I) the court may by the conviction adjudge the employer convicted to pay in addition to any penalty such sum as appears to the court to be due to the person employed on account of wages, calculated on the basis of the minimum wage:
Provided that the power to order the payment of wages under this subsection shall not be in derogation of any right of the person employed to recover wages by any other proceedings.
Dig further: See our article detailing the history of minimum wage in Jamaica
– Downloadable PDF: Minimum Wage Act
– The Jamaica Information Service
– The Jamaica Gleaner Archives