The ‘nanny state’: For Cayman’s caregivers, exemptions, not equality

They prepare our food. They wash our clothes. They watch our young children and other vulnerable relatives.

We entrust our families and our households into their care. Without them, many of us presumably could not “manage to get by.”

Domestic workers – nannies, housekeepers, helpers – are indeed special people. But that doesn’t mean they should continue to be treated as a “special class” of people in the Cayman Islands. No one should.

We believe we understand lawmakers’ intentions (and they’re good ones) in proposing to re-establish the “Certificate for Specialist Caregivers,” allowing non-Caymanian nurses or domestics who help care for elderly, infirm or disabled people to stay for up to 19 years in Cayman without being “rolled over” under the Immigration Law. Created in 2010, the caregivers provision was not included when the law was overhauled in 2013.

Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush, who filed a private member’s motion last year to revive the certificate, said, “It’s the right thing to do.”
He said, “The provision was put in the law to help our senior citizens who are in need of those caregivers.

“They don’t adjust well to new faces or a new routine. They are very difficult to handle, and it’s best when they are satisfied with someone to leave that person in place.”

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Appearing to concord with Mr. Bush’s main point, Premier Alden McLaughlin said, “The great struggle is to reconcile the desire to have this person long term, with the concerns about how those people will fit into the immigration regime that we have,” he said. “These caregivers are generally some of the lower paid persons in employment in the Cayman Islands, and the chances of them being able to meet their permanent residence requirements … are quite slim in most instances.”

In other words, the government’s dilemma is this: Many people need these caregivers to stay beyond the nine years granted by Cayman’s work permit regime, but the vast majority of caregivers would not qualify for PR according to the current standards.

The government’s proposed solution is to enact an exemption – another in the patchwork of legal loopholes and provisos that “excuse” domestic workers from all manner of standards and protections that apply across other industries (for example, mandatory pensions, recruitment provisions in the Gender Equality Law or salary requirements under contemplated minimum wage legislation.)

The caregivers certificate is the “quick and dirty” way of avoiding what amounts to an immigration inconvenience for Caymanians, but it does nothing to address the underlying problem – i.e., that Cayman’s immigration system fails to meet the needs of our country’s employers and does not allow for the fair, equitable and transparent treatment of all foreign workers.

Rather than enacting a measure that enables certain caregivers to stay in Cayman longer without needing to obtain permanent residence, lawmakers should construct an immigration regime that accurately takes into account the value being provided by those caregivers, and all workers in general.

“Class distinction,” after all, is just another term for “class discrimination.”

And that’s never the right thing to do. 

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  1. My thoughts are that when this law was passed it was not for the benefit of all; to either assist the Nanny Caregiver or the employer. Someone who was very influential in our society needed a long time extension Nanny Care, either for their children or themselves. So in order to personally have this longtime exempt approval, it was realized, that what went for the Goose was going to have to be for the Gander. Meaning what went for you, went for me too. So the Nanny Caregiver was founded.
    It is however not a bad thing, but I do believe in the long run it would benefit them greatly if they were to pay pension and insurance. That is their Passport to success. Meaning at the end of the day when the 19 years is completed they would have money to take back home with them from the pension, and of course the insurance would be mandatory. Just a thought.

  2. Twyla.
    Good points mostly.
    However they would not have a pension to take home with them.
    To my understanding the pension system sits on the money for 2 years after the person has left these islands for good. Then they have to apply for it.

    It does seem sad though that this home care worker could have lived here 19 years of their life. Made a life and friends here. Done a job that many would find distasteful, feeding and changing diapers for an adult. And then told to leave.

    I understand the logic, but it does seem sad nonetheless.

  3. I do believe many of the care givers are at least 40 years of age or more, then if they do 19 years, that would put them on the brink of 60 years or over retiring time. At that age they themselves need caregivers.
    I do not see any reason why after spending that much time and reaching 60 years that they should not have the opportunity to begin enjoying their pension. Beside that when a person reaches 60 years of age, they would have already been there, and done that. I believe the Golden years begin at 60 when they should retire and enjoy the balance of years given to them.
    Concerning them being granted PR, That should be considered only on the merit of what they did with investing in the 19 years. If they can show investment and stability of living here without leaning on the government shoulder, then nothing wrong with them getting PR. Meaning they should have full coverage of insurance for their life time, a home, pension received monthly, and some change in the bank. If this is not done then surely we all will pay to support them one way or the other. I do not want to pay more vehicle license, passport or drivers license taxes so that DCFS can be allowed to support this growing problem. We may not like some decisions the Immigration make but, if we spend a few moments to watch the scale, and be honest, we will in the long run see that they are doing the best to protect the Island. You really have to see someone’s else back yard to really appreciate your own.

  4. It certainly is logical to let people work hard for you doing nasty jobs for minimal wages, wages that would never provide enough to invest in expensive real estate, and then kick them out.

    But I just don’t think this is the kind thing to do.
    If of retirement age themselves and have a pension could they not be allowed to retire and spend that pension money here?