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The Editor speaks: Draft Labour Bill to digest and provide feedback

colin headLast Wednesday (24) the Minister for Labour, Tara Rivers, presented the Labour Relations Bill 2015. This follows hot on the heels of the Public Consultation on the Education Bill (2015) that Rivers also presented.

She has been a very busy lady.

So are we.

We are also just about to commence the main holiday period. I therefore question the times given to us to provide the feedback they require.

Four weeks was given to us to the Education Bill – that one had 33 pages to digest. The Labour Bill has 77 pages and we have a little longer – 9 weeks. I suppose we can take it on holiday with us.

The significant objectives of the redrafting of the Labour Law (2011 Revision) are:

to align the Labour Relations Bill, 2015 with the Government’s vision as it relates to its awareness of best human resources practices;
to clarify the law for the benefit of all users, employees and employers, and other stakeholders, as well as to protect and enhance the rights of employees and employers where prudent;
to establish clear expectations in dispute resolution as well as timelines for enforcement action;
to institute a more effective deterrent to non-compliance with the legislation by introducing an administrative fine regime and increasing penalties where appropriate;
to ensure that efforts are made to lessen the opportunities or loopholes for structural discrimination against Caymanian employees.

Rivers said much the same thing when she spoke at the press conference last Wednesday but she also said some of the legislative recommendations related to the adoption of a National Minimum Wage contained in the Minimum Wage Advisory Committee’s (MWAC) Report. This has not been included in the Labour Relations Bill, 2015.

Apparently this draft consultation bill was already in its final stages and ‘ready to go’ when the MWAC report was accepted by the government. So as not to delay its publication and public feedback it was decided to go ahead without the necessary further drafting to incorporate the MWAC’s provisions.

All the legislative recommendations of the MWAC will, however be discussed during the public consultation.

Rivers also said one of the areas being addressed in the draft bill was an unemployed Caymanian being refused the job he had applied for on the grounds of ‘over qualification’.

Rivers said, “What the bill seeks to do is to specify that Caymanians that have qualifications in excess of what is required, this will not make them ineligible for hire for any position.”

In the past Employers have not taken their job application seriously because of this.

Looking at the other side of the coin, employers can have legitimate concerns the over employed candidate could get bored very quickly and soon leave and/or demand a higher salary.

There is a new requirement for employers with five workers or more to inform the labour department of planned redundancies. They will have to provide the director of labour full details of how many workers, who is being cut and why. The department will then monitor the situation and check whether the employer attempts to hire work permit holders.

It will also be more difficult for employers to make the working conditions so unpleasant a Caymanian worker will hand in his/her notice of termination because of the introduction of a constructive dismissal clause. There is also a requirement that Caymanians must be given a training period relevant to the skills needed for the job during a probation period.

It is going to be a hard task to enforce this but lazy Caymanians must be smiling now. Speaking from experience I cannot understand why an employer would want to employ a work permit holder over an equally qualified Caymanian anyway. It makes no sense purely on monetary grounds with all the necessary work permit fees and all the other hassles in form filling, advertising and filings an employer has to go to.

The only exceptions are the “jobs for the boys” scenario that I have to admit does go on. And some of the guilty parties are in government.

I hope you do provide feedback within the specified time frame even though there is a lot to feed on and digest.


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