Gov’t will see if employers have been naughty or nice
In the latest round of employment regulations to come from the People’s Progressive Movement government, companies that employ work permit holders will soon be required to become accredited by the Cayman Islands Immigration Department.
Government officials could not give a precise time frame for when the new rules would come into effect, but hoped a final plan would be presented to Cabinet for approval in March or early April.
The Immigration Accreditation System, as it is called, will also create separate tiers of rankings for businesses, from those that are least compliant with the country’s Immigration regime to those that are most active in the community and do the best job at training and promoting Caymanians.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts, who admitted he was initially sceptical about the proposal, said there would be extensive consultation with the business community. Cabinet did approve an outline of the new regime on Tuesday.
‘This is only approval in principle,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘Input will be taken from the private sector. It is possible that our private sector partners will object to one or more of the proposals.’
Under the initial plan, all businesses in Cayman that hold Trade and Business Licenses and that employ at least one work permit holder will have to fill out a form that will be available on the Immigration Department website. The form will judge the business on six separate criteria, which include: compliance with Cayman’s licensing regulations, talent development programmes, employment practices, support for community programmes, Caymanian business ownership, and the company’s activity in creating new job opportunities.
Based on the information provided, and research by Immigration Department officials, the companies will then either be accredited or not. If they are granted accreditation, they will then be ranked in one of six tiers by Immigration.
If companies are not accredited they will not be able to get new work permits, or have any current work permits renewed. Higher-ranked employers will be given certain benefits under the islands’ Immigration regime. The ranking will be based on a points system.
The rankings in the tier system are as follows:
Probationary accreditation: This accreditation level is the lowest one, which confirms a company is meeting all legal requirements to operate in Cayman, including providing adequate health care and pension benefits to all its employees. These companies can receive work permit renewals only; they cannot apply for new permits.
Tier 1: All legal requirements have been met, and the company has a viable business operation including contracts for services. These companies can apply for new work permits and renewals but not key employee status for any of their workers.
Tier 2: These companies have met all requirements in Tier 1, but the company also has shown evidence of talent development programmes, community programmes, and good employment practices. These firms can make key employee applications.
Tiers 3 and 4: The businesses are awarded additional points in the scoring system for more active participation in talent development and community programmes. They are also awarded points for full Caymanian ownership and increasing job opportunities in the islands. These companies will have work permit decisions made by Immigration within three days in most cases, and can also have a dedicated accounts manager within the Immigration Department. Applications for key employee status and business staffing plans are also expedited.
Tier 5: The highest ranking for accredited businesses will also be given a dedicated Immigration accounts manager, and work permit applications are guaranteed to be handled within three days. Other applications will be dealt with on an expedited basis without payment of an added fee.
The accreditation application process will be handled separately from business staffing plan approvals and any other Immigration matters.
Mr. Tibbetts said the requirement for accreditation of companies will be phased in. For more compliant companies, accreditation will be required within six months of the time the law takes effect. For those who may have more difficultly, accreditation requirements are extended to nine months.
Some 4,000 companies in the Cayman Islands will be affected by this system, according to Mr. Tibbetts.
Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson said the idea of the Immigration Accreditation System is to kill two birds with one stone. First, it will help weed out unscrupulous employers that are abusing their workers and not playing by the rules. Second, he said it would reward companies that are good community partners.
‘There’s a delay now for those persons who are doing everything right,’ Mr. Manderson said. ‘They will say to us; ‘I’m doing everything you asked me and more…and I’m treated just like everyone else.”
‘The innocent will not suffer for the guilty in the whole process,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.
Companies that do not employ any work permit holders and individual households that employ people like domestic helpers or cooks will not need to apply for accreditation.
Mr. Tibbetts said this process would also allow agencies like the National Pensions Office and the Health Insurance Commission to focus on companies that employ a 100 per cent Caymanian work force and who are dodging their responsibilities.
‘Immigration is not taking on the job of the other agencies,’ he said.