Public sector agencies change job application forms

Two Cayman Islands public sector agencies have pledged to change application forms for future recruitment efforts following revelations that a number of government entities were asking questions about applicants’ “nationality at birth.”

Some statutory authority and government company forms ask job applicants for their nationality at birth and at present. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY
Some statutory authority and government company forms ask job applicants for their nationality at birth and at present. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY

The Tourism Attraction Board, which advertised for two positions recently, one in 2015 and another early this year, asked applicants for their “nationality at birth” and “nationality now” in an apparent attempt to differentiate between applicants who were born in Cayman and those were born elsewhere but obtained Caymanian status.

Tourism Attraction Board Chief Executive Gilbert Connolly was asked Tuesday whether there was another possible reason for putting such a question on a job application form.

“That’s a good point,” Mr. Connolly said. “We intend to change that.”

He said the application form the agency posted came from an old central government template that had been in circulation many years ago but is no longer in use.

In any case, the nationality “at birth” question did not affect the person hired for the post during last year’s application process. The person who was hired is a non-Caymanian permanent resident.

The Health Services Authority also pulled its application form that asked for the applicant’s nationality “at birth” in connection with a position it is currently advertising.

That form has been replaced, said Chief Executive Officer Lizzette Yearwood, who noted that the prior form was used by mistake.

The Cayman Compass found other examples of public authorities in the Cayman Islands asking for applicants’ “birthplace” and marital status and requesting a photograph – all questions that could be considered unlawful discrimination in the U.K.

According to the U.K. government, British law sets out certain “protected characteristics” of a person, including age, race, sex, sexual preference, disability or religion against which employers are not allowed to discriminate.

The Cayman Islands Constitution Order (2009) allows for discriminatory practices in employment but only when it involves the preference of hiring Caymanians over non-Caymanians. The constitution makes no distinction between someone who is born Caymanian and someone who received that status through an immigration application process.

The central government service in Cayman uses a standard application template that does not request information such as nationality at birth and marital status. It does ask for a worker’s current nationality if they are employed here as a work permit holder.

However, outside authorities – like the HSA, or the Tourism Attraction Board – are not subject to civil service employment law, known as the Public Service Management Law.

This can create some differences regarding employment practice.

One of the aims of the long-discussed Public Authorities Bill, which is expected to go to the Progressives-led government caucus in April, is to bring hiring practices for all government entities in line.