Labour Law in layman’s terms

Staff and employers who find wading through the legal intricacies of the Labour Law now have a simpler option available to them.

A new book that ‘translates’ the legalese language of the legislation is on sale at book stores and supermarkets, and available at public libraries and schools.

Written by local lawyer Kimbert S. Solomon, ‘Employee Guide, Labour Law of the Cayman Islands’, the book appeared on shelves in June and has been selling about 100 a month since then.

‘I believe that it is important for everyone to understand the law, and the problem with laws is that they are written in a very technical and formal language. Someone has to act as a sort of translator,’ said Mr. Solomon, who works as an in-house counsel for a trust company.

Taking each section of the law as a separate chapter, he addresses it in layman’s terms, explaining the rights and obligations of both employers and employees.

To try to reach as wide an audience as possible, Mr. Solomon said he had donated copies to public libraries, public schools, prisons and ICCI community college. ‘I’ve done that because I believe it’s important for people to have access to it,’ he said.

In the book, he addresses little-known elements of the law, including the right of a female employee to nine weeks’ leave if she adopts a child; that wages may be paid in kind, for example in the form of food or accommodation; or terms of compassionate leave.

‘In my research for the book, one of the things I discovered is expats believe the Labour Law is for Caymanians and not for expats, but only one section refers to specifically to Caymanians in the Labour Law,’ he said.

He said hoped the book would save money for people who might otherwise seek out and pay a lawyer to explain certain sections of the law to them, but he warned that in some circumstances, individuals may still want to seek legal advice.

‘There’s a difference between legal information and legal advice. The book gives you legal information. Legal advice is based on a person’s specific circumstances,’ he said.

‘The Labour Law does not set the maximum employment standard, but the minimum one. It is there as a safety net,’ he said.

‘The law protects the employee but it protects the employer as well. It doesn’t make sense to have rights if you don’t know what they are,’ he added.

Another issue he covers in the book is the right of a worker to complain to the director of labour and the obligation the director is under to inform the employer of the complaint. The law stipulates that a complaint can only be lodged if it relates to just two issues – severance pay or unfair dismissal.

‘Therefore unless the matter that the employee is seeking resolution on, or complaining about, relates to severance pay or unfair dismissal, the director is not under a legal obligation to inform the employer and it may actually be a breach of confidence for him to do so,’ said Mr. Solomon.

He also tackles the thorny subject of public servants not being protected by the Labour Law, pointing out that while Section 3 of the legislation stipulates that it does not apply to the public service, the general orders and regulations of the public service allow that its staff cannot be employed on standards lower than the Labour Law, so it does technically apply.

Among the other issues covered in the book, which costs between $19 and $25, are illegal salary deductions, minimum wage, discrimination, overtime pay, maternity leave, severance pay, unfair dismissal, gratuities, and the Director of Labour’s powers and obligations.

A fluent Spanish-speaker, Mr. Solomon, who has an honours degree in law from University of Liverpool, said he was considering putting out a Spanish-language version of the book to cater for the 7,000-plus native Spanish speakers in Cayman, as well as writing other similar books that tackle other laws of the land that widely affect individuals, but are not widely understood.