Ex-pats fear reprisal

Some non-Caymanians on work permits are afraid to report their employers for not effecting or maintaining health insurance for them because they are afraid they will lose their jobs.

During the Cayman Islands Insurance Association’s 2007 Health Insurance Seminar last week, Acting Senior Crown Counsel Trevor Ward of the Cayman Islands Legal Department was asked if employees who had claims against their employers for failure to effect and maintain health insurance could do something about it at sometime in the future rather than now so they didn’t anger their employers.

Mr. Ward acknowledged the problem.

‘Some people are afraid if they complain, they will lose their jobs,’ he said. ‘For survival reasons, people do not feel they can squeal on their employers because it’s their bread and butter.’

Mr. Ward said people’s fear in these cases emboldens employers because they realise they ‘have you in a vice grip’.

Still, some brave employees have come forward and filed complaints, he added.

Health Insurance Commission Board Member Geoff Scholefield said there were ways of protecting the employees.

‘Any complaint that comes to the Health Insurance Commission initially is done in a confidential manner,’ he said.

The Health Insurance Commission office can, under the Health Insurance Regulations, make random checks on businesses to see if they are compliant with the law.

‘The HIC office can go in on a general ‘we’d like to check your records’ basis; they don’t have to go in for a specific complaint,’ he said.

Earlier this month, Superintendent of Health Insurance Mervyn Conolly also acknowledged that sometimes expatriate workers are afraid to come forward with complaints because of fear they will lose their jobs. But Mr. Conolly urged them to do so anyway.

‘I’m not going to tell you some employers might not be vindictive, but we would certainly want the employee to stand up for their rights,’ he said, adding that he hoped that the Immigration Department would look at the circumstances if there were a dismissal by an employer in such cases.

Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson confirmed that section 50 of the Immigration Law can offer victimised employees some safety.

‘The law allows in special circumstances like victimisation, which would include something like the non-payment of pensions or insurance, for employees to be able to change jobs during the currency of their permit,’ he said.

If employees do not make a formal complaint against their employee, they might lose the right to file a civil action if they wait too long, Mr. Ward said at the health insurance seminar.

‘In a civil case, a limitation period does apply,’ he said.

However, there are no limitations on criminal cases, Mr. Ward pointed out, and under certain sections of the Health Insurance Law, employees might be able to recover damages like medical expenses that would have been covered had a Standard Health Insurance Contract been in place.