Government of Trinidad and

Letter to the Editor - Students write sexual harassment handbook

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago - Tuesday 05 February 2019

Dear Ms. Raymond,

Reference is made to an article by Rachael Espinet published on Section B Page 1-2 of your newspaper on Thursday January 17, 2019; the title of which is the subject of this letter.

The Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development would like to extend commendation to the students on their efforts for being able to successfully publish the sexual harassment handbook.  Having realised such an accomplishment is by no means an easy feat. However, within the article, the statements made by Mr. Ansar Mohammed, a student of the Hugh Wooding Law School, on the Draft National Policy on Sexual Harassment by this Ministry that “The book notes that in June 2018…….but Mohammed said it is not legally binding” are inaccurate. I therefore thank you for the opportunity to share information and to bring clarity to this matter.

The Ministry embarked on a very important journey in dealing with this significant workplace issue on June 1, 2018 in Trinidad, when we held a National Consultation on a Draft National Policy on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.  A similar approach was held on June 22, 2018 in Tobago, where the Ministry would have held a consultation to garner the views of our Stakeholders on the sister isle.  These Consultations were held to discuss and gather feedback from our key Stakeholders on the Proposed Policy developed by the Ministry.  This Policy which is still a Draft and which was never officially published, has been amended to include the comments and suggestions from our Tripartite Partners who were present at the said Consultations and is currently being finalised to be taken to Cabinet for approval.  The process from Policy to Parliament takes into account four main stages: - Policy, Drafting Legislation, Parliamentary Review and Approval and then Implementation.  These stages incorporate the review from the following personnel:- Public through consultations, the Line Ministry responsible for the policy formulation, the Cabinet, the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, the Legislative Review Committee, and the Parliament. 

As you can note, the process is a lengthy one but necessary to ensure that the proclaimed piece of legislation would have taken into account the views of all Stakeholders involved.

It is, therefore, neither correct nor factual for Mr. Mohammed and his fellow Hugh Wooding Law School students to imply that the Government does not have Sexual Harassment Legislation on its Agenda.   I give you the assurance that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago through the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development stands ready to debate and enact legislation in Parliament outlawing sexual harassment in the workplace and to establish Protocols for employers and employees to implement.  The process from Policy to Parliament is a lengthy one, but it is the right approach to ensure that what the Ministry proposes would have taken into consideration the majority of persons which the law may affect.  

I invite Mr. Mohammed and any member of the public to contact the Ministry’s Chief Labour Relations Officer at the Conciliation Unit to enquire into the Draft National Policy on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace and to seek advice on how to address any other workplace issue they may be experiencing.

I thank you, Ms. Raymond for your consideration of this clarification and look forward to its publication.

Yours Faithfully,

Natalie Willis
Permanent Secretary (Ag.)
Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development 

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