Employers do not have to pay severance to expatriate employees who must leave the Cayman Islands due to the seven-year term limit.
Director of Employment Relations Walling Whittaker told members of the Cayman Islands Society of Human Resource Professionals recently that if an employment relationship is severed by an action of law, as would be the case with the seven-year term limit in the Immigration Law, employers are not required to pay severance.
Mr. Whittaker, however, said the Department of Employment relations did not agree with the way the law is now.
‘Too many people are being disenfranchised from their rightful benefits, for no fault of their own,’ he said.
Under the provisions of the Labour Law (2001 Revision), employees who have worked for a business for more than one year are generally due severance pay if their employer terminates their employment. Severance pay is calculated at one week of wages for every full year employed, up to a maximum of 12 weeks of pay.
Speaking about the matter again last week, Mr. Whittaker said the DER has had numerous complaints from employees who are reaching their seven-year term limit and are not being paid any severance.
‘I regret they aren’t able to collect any severance,’ Mr. Whittaker said. ‘Someone who was working for an employer for a considerable period of time should be able to.’
Mr. Whittaker confirmed the situation would be the same for a person who did not have their work permit renewed for any reason that was an action of a law, such as if a qualified Caymanian were to apply for a job being done by an expatriate.
Mr. Whittaker said the DER has ‘strongly recommended’ changes to the law.
However, Minister of Employment Alden McLaughlin said he was not aware of such recommendations.
‘I have had no formal representations on that matter,’ he said. ‘We have no plans to change the law.’
New president of the Cayman Islands Society of Human Resource Professionals, Stacey VanDevelde, said her organisation had not formulated any position on the matter.
From a personal point of view, however, she said the problem is probably more pronounced now than it would be in the future.
‘For a lot of people, it came up on them unexpectedly,’ she said. ‘In the future, people should be able to foresee what will happen and plan for it accordingly. But right now, it’s a mess.’
Because the rollover policy is being implemented retroactively, some people who have been in the Cayman Islands for many more than seven years now have to leave. Some who expected two or three months of severance pay are leaving with nothing instead.
While Mrs. VanDevelde has some sympathy for the situation, she believes any solution would have to be considered carefully.
‘It seems unfair to put (any rectification) all on one party,’ she said.