Civil servants have month to weigh ‘separation’

It’s not an early retirement policy, but a civil service proposal to allow for “voluntary separations” of non-contract employees appears to be targeted at the older public sector workers’ crowd.

According to a policy issued by the deputy governor’s office, voluntary separations of Caymanian or permanent resident civil servants who are not on fixed-term contracts will be considered based on business cases submitted by the departments in which they work. Non-Caymanian government contract holders, Caymanians above age 60 who are working in the civil service on fixed-term contracts and individuals working on other fixed-term agreements would not qualify for voluntary separation.

“These contracts already have a pre-determined end date which provides the employer an opportunity to choose not to renew a contract without the need for additional compensation,” the policy states.

Both the employee and the government would have to agree to separate from the worker’s employment. In cases that are approved by civil service chief officers, a compensation package not exceeding twice the applicant’s annual salary can be offered to the departing employee.

Awards of compensation to successful applicants are based on the number of consecutive, continuous years of employment the worker has in the civil service.

“The reasons why a civil servant might voluntarily ask their ministry or department to end their employment through voluntary separation will inevitably vary,” the policy states. “An example might be where an employee [who could not otherwise have afforded to resign or retire] wishes to consider voluntary separation in order to change their work direction, start a business, spend more time with their family, develop personally through travel or furthering their training or education.”

The deadline for any voluntary separation application under the policy is set as Oct. 31, 2013.

Several examples are given in the policy of what might be offered to a civil servant who agreed to separate from their work. An applicant who is age 50 to 59 with 10 or more years of service in government, would be eligible for three weeks of pay for every year worked, three months in lump sum of their salary, the ability to begin drawing their pension immediately and receive retirement health benefits.

Younger workers [under 50] with six or more full years of consecutive service might be offered three weeks of pay for each year, or three months in a lump sum for their salary. The workers will also be offered six months of free government health care coverage.

Any workers who agree to accept voluntary separation from the government service will not be eligible to return to work as a civil servant for at least five years, and even then rehiring of ex-government workers would only be done in “exceptional cases.”

The policy states that the voluntary separation proposal may assist in Deputy Governor Franz Manderson’s goal of reducing the number of civil service employees by 360 by the government’s 2016/17 financial year – four years from now.

It is possible that voluntary separation payouts could cost the government a bit more in the short term, but the aim is to get them out of the way early to “maximize the value of accrued savings” over the four year time frame.

Not retirement

Although it will be difficult for voluntarily separated civil service workers to return to government, the policy differentiates between early retirement options for civil servants – which can only be taken upon a government worker reaching 50 years of age and attaining 10 years of service.

The normal retirement age for Cayman Islands civil servants is 60.

According to the government, where a worker’s agreement is amicably discharged in such a way: “Such separations do not amount to a dismissal, redundancy, disability retirement or retirement under special circumstances.”

The civil service officer responsible may decide to make the voluntarily separated employee’s post redundant after their departure.