Aug. 28, 2015 – Striking a fair balance between employers and employees in Cayman Islands labor legislation has been an elusive goal for more than 27 years.
Many people contend the current Labour Law, 2011 Revision, which was substantively enacted in 1987, is not adequate for today’s Cayman and has led to some problems, including the exploitation of some employees, unsafe working conditions for others, and situations where the legal resolution to an employment-related conflict is not reflected in the law.
George Ebanks argues for the bill: I am in favour of the proposed legislation because I think it is forward thinking; makes provisions for future dynamics within the workforce while at the same time putting in place progressive reforms coupled with various clarifications of the current Labour Law, with a view of better benefiting both the employee and the employer.
James Bergstrom presents the arguments against: The inclusive approach being taken by the minister provides a sense of optimism that the actual bill presented to the Legislative Assembly will be significantly improved, having taken consideration of what is likely to be substantial private sector feedback. Here are some of the material concerns in the Bill.
Minister Tara Rivers says Labor reform in the Cayman Islands is a priority for the coalition government.
The Ministry of Education, Employment & Gender Affairs and the Department of Labour and Pensions invite the public to review the Labour Relations Bill, 2015 and provide feedback by via email at email@example.com by August 31, 2015. Read the full bill and summary notes at the
When Executive Council member Norman Bodden introduced Cayman’s first Labour Bill to the Legislative Assembly in December 1987, he noted that Cayman was already familiar with many of the concepts contained in the proposed law. Because the Cayman Islands had been a dependency of, or administered by, Jamaica until the latter became independent of the United Kingdom in 1962, several of the labor-related laws passed in Jamaica applied to the Cayman Islands, Mr. Bodden explained. Among those laws were the Masters and Servants Law of 1842; the Truck Law of 1944; and the Minimum Wage Law of 1946. Mr. Bodden said the older laws had served the Cayman Islands well in the days for which they were intended to serve. However, he also said it could not be conscientiously denied that the working class as well as Cayman’s employers deserved a better legal framework than was then in place.
The Labour Tribunal sided with disgruntled employees in the majority of unfair dismissal claims brought during a 12-month period reviewed by the Cayman Compass. The 24 tribunal decisions released to the Compass through a Freedom of Information request show that the tribunal ordered payouts to 13 employees who complained they had been unfairly dismissed. On eight occasions, the tribunal decided the employer had made a fair decision. In three cases the tribunal found the workers were not unfairly dismissed but were owed additional severance pay. Payouts ranged from a few hundred dollars to, in one case, more than $40,000.
Explore the changes proposed in the new Labour Relations Bill, including severance, workplace safety and new whistleblower protections.
The proposed Labour Relations Bill includes many changes to the process for dismissing or terminating an employee. While these changes are designed to offer more protection to employees, some employers are concerned they will be too onerous to comply with and will negatively affect their businesses.
The old adage “if you’re not breaking the law, you have nothing to fear from the police” applies to the new Labour Relations Bill, 2015, according to Ministry of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs representatives. “As long as employers use best efforts and comply with the law, they should not fear incurring any penalties or added short-term administrative burden,” the ministry noted in a three-page response to Cayman Compass questions on the subject of enforcement of and compliance with the newly redrafted law.
The current draft of the Labour Relations Bill, 2015 does not include minimum wage. However, Employment Minister Tara Rivers has said that recommendations from the Minimum Wage Advisory Committee will be added to the bill once the public consultation period on the draft is completed.
The Labour Tribunal is a statutory body established for the purpose of hearing complaints from employees, including unfair dismissal claims.