A report compiled by a group that has spent the last year studying the implementation of a term limit on residency for non-Caymanian civil servants has now sent its findings to Cayman Islands Governor Stuart Jack.
‘It’ll be (the Governor’s) call from there as to how we take it forward,’ said Deputy Head of the Civil Service Mary Rodrigues, who officially took over that position on Thursday.
Mr. Jack publicly announced his intention to implement the term limit policy a year ago at a Chamber of Commerce event.
Civil service officials have previously said the implementation of a term limit, often called the rollover policy, for civil servants will mirror the policy that is already in place in the private sector.
Foreign workers in Cayman’s private sector can only legally work here up to seven consecutive years unless they are granted key employee status, permanent residence or are married to a Caymanian. After seven years expire, those workers must leave for at least a year before they are eligible to return for employment purposes.
Government workers who do not have Caymanian status are not included in the work permit system. They are given government contracts, which generally last two years.
Mrs. Rodrigues said the impact of a term limit policy on government’s available work force was a key consideration during the review process.
‘We want to make sure that it’s done in a proper way, that we know what the data is, that we ensure that it’s not going…to affect continuity of operations,’ she said.
Mrs. Rodrigues’ predecessor, Peter Gough, said last year that long-time government employees who are subject to the residency term limit will likely have years before they are rolled over.
Figures for the exact number of foreign workers in the civil service have never been officially released. The Caymanian Compass asked Chief Secretary George McCarthy last year what percentage of civil servants in Cayman would be affected by a proposed term limit on residency and he declined to answer stating he ‘didn’t want people to panic.’
Immigration Department figures obtained by the Compass in mid-July showed there were approximately 1,450 people working here on government contracts. The total number of civil servants is estimated at 3,500.
In addition to the estimated 3,500 civil servants, there are thought to be about 1,000 employees of statutory authorities and government companies in Cayman. Most of the non-Caymanian employees of those entities are required to get work permits, however there are a few agencies, such as the Health Services Authority, whose non-Caymanian employees are still required to obtain government contracts rather than work permits.
Particular departments within the civil service will be hit worse than others by the proposed civil servant term limit policy. Mr. Gough has said those include the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, the Education Department, Children and Family Services, the Department of Environmental Health, and the Department of Agriculture.
The police service, with expatriate officers making up more than 40 per cent of the work force, has requested that its officers be exempt from any term limit proposal. Governor Jack has not commented publicly on that and has not said whether any other government departments have made similar requests.
Some private sector groups, such as the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, have complained about the inequality of a policy that forces private businesses to dismiss workers after seven years while government does not have to do so.
‘Even the playing field,’ CITA President Steve Broadbelt said in a recent interview. ‘Make government employees subject to the same rules as the private sector.’
Although they expressed some surprise at the manner in which the Governor announced his intention to pursue a civil servant rollover policy last year, elected ministers have generally agreed with the idea.