Government issues minimum wage order

The Progressives-led Cabinet is proceeding with its plans for a $6 per hour minimum wage despite a recent high-profile dispute between Employment Minister Tara Rivers and Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, the territory’s largest business representative organization over sweeping changes to the Labour Law.

Premier Alden McLaughlin announced in mid-January that government had set a March 1 date for implementation of Cayman’s first minimum wage, and that the basic wage could be set regardless of whether the administration had passed other legal changes to the country’s employment rules by that time.

A Cabinet order made Feb. 9 and issued publicly on Friday set out the terms of the minimum wage commencement date and defined the specific categories of workers that could be paid less than the $6 per hour rate, given certain conditions.

The provision for a minimum wage is already contained in the current Labour Law and requires only the establishment and recommendations of a Minimum Wage Advisory Committee, which government received last year, to put in place.

The Labour [National Basic Minimum Wage] Order, 2016, sets a $6 per hour base pay rate for “every hour worked within either the standard work week or the standard work day, depending on the defined pay period.”

Workers who receive gratuities as part of their job, those who work on commission and domestic helpers who receive “in kind” contributions in the form of lodging and/or utilities must be paid a minimum $4.50 per hour, with no more than 25 percent of the $6 per hour minimum wage [$1.50] going toward such “in kind” contributions.

The order further states that employees who earn commission shall receive all commissions earned, not merely the additional $1.50 included as part of the minimum wage.

In addition, no employee in the Cayman Islands will receive less than $6 per hour in the employer’s calculation of sick leave, vacation leave, maternity leave or any other applicable leave from their job, the order states. Employers of domestic workers who live in the employers’ home, can allocate “in kind” benefits for lodging/utilities during the period of leave, the order states.

The future of the Labour Relations Bill, which seeks to repeal and replace the current Labour Law, was not certain as of press time Sunday. Employment Minister Rivers said Sunday that a government press release would be issued Monday regarding the minimum wage. Acting Premier Moses Kirkconnell said the Labour Relations Bill has to follow “the normal consultation process” and would certainly not come before the Legislative Assembly before March 1.

Chamber of Commerce officials said last week that they were awaiting a new draft version of the labor bill. An initial draft of the proposal sought such changes as raising the retirement age from 60 to 65, setting higher payouts in constructive dismissal and wrongful dismissal cases, and giving the Cayman Islands Labour Tribunal more power to decide administrative disputes, rather than taking those matters to a court.

The Chamber does not dispute the proposal with regard to retirement age, but other measures that legal advisers to the organization have warned would increase business operating costs have caused concern among business leaders.

The Chamber Council said last week it was informed that many of its recommendations regarding the Labour Relations Bill will be in the new draft, but the council was “disappointed” with Minister Rivers for issuing a “negative statement” about the Chamber.

Ms. Rivers said earlier this month that she was “surprised and deeply disappointed” regarding comments from former Chamber President Barry Bodden about what the Chamber said was a lack of communication from government about the new labor bill. She said the Chamber was asked to attend meetings to discuss the new bill last June, but did not do so.

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