Labor reform in the Cayman Islands is a priority for this coalition government. The last attempt at a comprehensive review of our labor legislation took place over a decade ago; however, that review resulted in a law (i.e. the Employment Law, 2004) that was never fully brought into force by the government of the day.
Therefore, the operative Labour Law which governs private sector labor relations in the Cayman Islands today is almost 30 years old. The Labour Law was first enacted in 1987 and has had a number of discrete amendments since then, resulting in the current Labour Law (2011 Revision).
Unfortunately, as we all know, there are currently many labor issues faced by both employers and employees in the Cayman Islands. For example, the Department of Labour & Pensions, as well as other government entities and elected officials alike, hear of many cases of unfair treatment of employees in the workforce, employers disregarding the Labour Law, and employees suffering as a result of unfair dismissals, to name a few.
On the other hand, due to the ambiguous or incomplete nature of several provisions in the Labour Law or the complete absence of other provisions generally, employers and employees are often left wondering what is required in order to be in compliance with the law, and the Department of Labour & Pensions is unable to give a clear steer in such instances.
As a result, this government aims to address these issues and improve labor relations through reform, starting with the legislation as the foundation. If we do not have improved legislation that better addresses the needs of the current labor market, which takes into account the concerns of employees and employers, and which aligns with international best practice, then all other efforts to improve labor relations in the Cayman Islands will be fruitless. We must also have a strong enforcement mechanism to assist with this reform process, of which the legislation plays a vital role.
The public consultation draft of the Labour Relations Bill, 2015 was therefore developed in an attempt to address these concerns. The proposed changes in the Bill seek to, among other things: align the legislation with the government’s vision of best human resources practices; clarify the law for the benefit of all; protect and enhance the rights of employees and employers; and establish clear expectations in dispute resolution as well as time lines for enforcement action.
In the true spirit of participatory democracy, an extensive public consultation process that facilitates the public’s participation in the legislative process was launched on June 24, 2015 and ends on Aug. 31, 2015. My team and I have hosted public meetings in every district in Grand Cayman and in Cayman Brac, attended stakeholder group meetings with numerous organizations, as well as attended various radio and television shows to present the major changes and obtain feedback on the proposals. Allowing for more than 60 days of public consultation on the draft bill, we want to give the community an opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed changes so that the bill, when refined and finalized, would be well informed and comprehensive.
We are very appreciative of the constructive feedback received to date, and the public is encouraged to send any additional feedback by Aug. 31 via email to [email protected] The government’s aim is to ensure that the law is sufficiently robust and that it will serve its purpose for many years to come. We believe it’s time to address the long-standing labor issues and to substantially build upon the foundation laid nearly three decades ago, for the benefit of both employees and employers alike, and the economy as a whole.