Staffing plans ‘just about up-to-date’

A backlog of business staffing
plans filed with the Immigration Department by Cayman companies that once
reached nearly 200 applications is now ‘just about up-to-date’, according to
the chairman of the board that handles those applications.

“We inherited the problem last year
when we took over, but I didn’t want it to linger because eventually it would
become my problem,” said Danny Scott, chairman of the Business Staffing Plan
Board.

All companies in Cayman that employ
15 or more non-Caymanians on work permits are required to file a staffing plan,
which details, among other things, how many people the company employs, the
number of Caymanian and non-Caymanian employees, how long work permit holders
have been in a particular post, whether there are plans to replace them with
Caymanians and how many exempted or “key” employees work at the business.

Companies that employ fewer than 15
non-Caymanian employees on work permits can file a business staffing plan, but
they are not required to do so under the law.

According to an internal government
audit completed in September 2008, there were 168 applications for business
staffing plan approvals outstanding at the time, some of which were received in
mid-2007. The initial deadline for the business staffing plans under the
Immigration Law was 31 March, 2007.

Immigration Department budget
documents at the time indicated that business staffing plans would typically be
processed within 30 days of the application.

“However, we were advised by the
secretary to the Business Staffing Plan Board that there were delays in
processing business staffing plans applications,” the Internal Audit Unit
report stated.

There are still some companies that
have not received final approval of their plans from the board. But Mr. Scott said
that situation will be rectified shortly.

“Over the past two months we have
broken the back of it,” he said. “Part of my job, as I saw it, was to clear the
backlog.”

Mr. Scott said the board began by
taking a look at all the applications that were essentially complete and
passing those quickly through the process.

“Let’s say you start with 200
applications and 170 of those are really no problem,” he said. “You get past
those and deal with the difficult ones.”

The Business Staffing Plan Board
has been meeting once per week on Wednesdays from 11am to 6pm to get through
the job.

“We’re just about up to date,” Mr.
Scott said. “We don’t have a big backlog.”

Getting accredited

With the backlog of business
staffing plans now under control, it’s possible the government could be
changing the whole scheme.

A final decision hasn’t been made,
but Immigration Review Team Chairperson Sherri Bodden-Cowan said earlier this
year that the group would look at removing the business staffing plan requirement.

However, that is contingent upon
the successful creation and implementation of the employer accreditation
system, proposed more than a year ago by former Chief Immigration Officer Franz
Manderson.

Under the system, private companies
would be evaluated according to a set of criteria, which basically seek to
determine if the business is a good corporate citizen. The plan has been
implemented on a trial basis with some finance industry firms.

Accreditation criteria includes
evaluating whether the company has a high standard of business ethics; if it
has talent development and community programmes; and if the business promotes
or participates in industries that are underdeveloped on the Islands. The
accreditation system will also look at a business’s employment practices.

Based on their evaluation,
companies would be placed into one of four tiers or levels depending on how
they comply with certain criteria. Tier One is the lowest level of compliance
and Tier Four is the highest.

The higher the tier, the more
services immigration would provide to a business. For instance, a Tier Four
company would have a specific immigration officer assigned to deal with their
work permit applications and would have those applications handled within a
guaranteed number of days.

Tier One employers, who meet the
minimum legal requirements to carry on business in Cayman, would only be able
to apply for work permit renewals.

Accreditation would have to be
obtained every two years under the plan being floated by government.

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