Walkers launches employment practice

Offshore
law firm Walkers has officially launched a dedicated employment group.

The
firm said it has noted a sharp upswing in enquiries regarding the impact of
corporate restructurings on employees in the current economic climate.

While
the employment group was in fact soft-launched late
last year Walkers has always done this type of work and provided employment
advice.

However, the newly organised
dedicated group will
ensure that clients are fully aware of the range of expertise within the firm
and increase the accessibility of services, the firm said.

This encompasses not just advice on
redundancies but the entire life cycle of employment relations from immigration issues and the
drafting of employment contracts and employee handbooks to dealing with
disciplinary problems, employee complaints and Labour Tribunal disputes.

“Over
the past year, perhaps unsurprisingly, we have assisted numerous clients who
have been looking to restructure their workforces due to economic
circumstances,” said Diarmad Murray, managing partner of Walkers’ Cayman
Islands office and head of the employment group.

“Although
the situation in Cayman is not as complicated as in other jurisdictions, it is
important for employers to tread carefully. Certain steps must be taken to
ensure compliance with the Labour Law and related legislation and we usually
recommend liaising with the Department of Employment Relations.

“Additionally
there may be work permit and Business Staffing Plan issues, as well as working
out redundancy packages and dealing with any disputes arising,” Mr. Murray
added.

“Employers
would be wise to seek early advice in relation to any potential issues with
employees, particularly where disciplinary action is being considered.”

Another
important field of work for the employment group is employee benefits.

The requirements under the Labour Law, the National
Pensions Law and the Health Insurance Law often come to the fore when employees
leave employment or are transferred, for example as a result of an acquisition.

“These
laws present a potential minefield for employers,” commented Lindsay
Luttermann, attorney with Walkers and a member of the employment group.

“For
example, some employers do not appreciate that they are required to maintain an
employee’s health insurance for three months after they leave, unless the
employee commences new employment during that time, although the employer can
charge the employee for this coverage. Similarly, tricky issues can arise in
relation to calculating the amount of pension contributions to be made upon
redundancy.”

Walkers’
employment group also advises clients when employees, or former employees,
threaten proceedings before the Labour Tribunal.

“In
our experience it usually pays for employers not to be too aggressive and to
approach these situations from a commercial perspective,” commented Nick
Dunne, attorney with Walkers and a member of the employment group.

“Tribunal
awards are not excessive as there is a statutory maximum and the ideal solution
for both parties is to ensure there is a water-tight agreement. We are able to
assist with the negotiations to attempt to achieve a mutually satisfactory
outcome.” 

The
employment group is also engaged in due diligence on corporate acquisitions and
mergers, which necessitate the termination of employment agreements or transfer
of employees.

“Purchasers
need to understand the risks and requirements involved in taking on staff
employed in an existing business,” Mrs. Luttermann said.

“There
are likely to be differing contractual obligations towards existing and new
employees, and employers need specialist advice to ensure that they comply with
the law while ensuring a smooth transition.”