Editorial for 25 July: Common sense approach needed

It may come as a surprise to many who have advocated equal rights and pay based on gender that anyone in Cayman would oppose such a measure, but that has happened with the Gender Equality Bill, 2011, as proposed and approved by Cabinet members.

Organisations like the Cayman Islands Law Society, the Caymanian Bar Association and the Chamber of Commerce have said they do not support the bill in its current form and have asked the government to withdraw it.

Here is an instance where we feel common sense should rule the day.

Cayman should – indeed must – have a fair, balanced and workable Gender Equality Law. We feel everyone can agree on this statement, but some of the issues contained in this proposal are actually not going to help achieve that.

The law society raises the issue that this bill might not allow employers to justify paying different bonuses or incentives based on employee performance without enduring the expensive and time-consuming process of going to a tribunal. They say there should be a “carve out” in the bill for businesses to be able to justify those cases.

That sounds reasonable. However, we have to wonder about the law society’s concerns regarding the burden of proof being placed on the employer to show equal pay. If the employer is not required to show proof, who else will be able to prove such a claim? Certainly not the employee that’s making it.

We would also wonder why government has made its own carve outs in this bill.

Protections under the gender equality bill would not apply to those employed for the purposes of a private household, meaning domestic helpers. Private schools, religious bodies and even certain charitable activities are also exempted from the bill. We understand,
for instance, that a teacher at a private Catholic school would have to be a Catholic. However, one can swiftly see that equality would seem to be a relative term under this proposal.

The business community and government need to use some common sense to come up with fair and workable gender equality legislation.