The Cayman Islands deputy governor will be allowed to transfer or even assign lower pay grades to civil service employees in circumstances where a Caymanian job-seeker has applied for what is considered to be a “key” position, according to proposed legislation made public this week.
A cache of revisions to Cayman’s Public Service Management Law and Public Service Pensions Law, expected to be considered by the Legislative Assembly during its next meeting, seek to change a number of employment rules that apply to more than 4,000 public sector workers in the territory.
Among those changes is a proposed increase to the government’s long-standing retirement age, from 60 to 65.
The bill also seeks to facilitate the transfer of workers within the civil service – at the deputy governor’s discretion – for specific reasons.
One such reason, as stated in the Public Service Management (Amendment) Bill, is: “In order to promote the advancement of a Caymanian to a key managerial or technical position in any part of the civil service, the head of the civil service [deputy governor] may transfer a staff member who is in that position in a civil service entity to a position in the same or a lower remuneration band [pay scale].”
The transfer would have to be done in accordance with current government personnel rules, but would not have to adhere to provisions in the law that require proof of the employee’s qualifications and/or experience or references to support the new candidate’s job application, according to the bill.
Civil service leaders said Wednesday that they did not consider the transfers “demotions” as the employees involved are protected by the law. Proposed amendments to the Public Service Management Law provide that the employee “shall continue to be an uninterrupted employee of the government and the tenure and terms and conditions of the civil servant’s employment shall be unaffected by the transfer of that civil servant.”
In most cases, managers said the provision would be used for succession planning purposes, to replace an expatriate worker or a Caymanian who is already at or near retirement age.
Another section of the amended law would allow the deputy governor to transfer any employee “in order to ensure the best operation of the civil service as a whole.” Those transfers can only be effected if the transferred worker stays within the same pay scale, the bill states.
The proposed change in the “normal retirement age” for civil servants, long planned by the Progressives-led government administration, will also have significant impact on older civil servants’ working rules, if the two bills are approved by a majority of legislators.
According to the changes, the civil service manager responsible for appointments in a department can reappoint an employee who has reached age 65. They can also, if the staffer requests, reappoint that person who has reached the early retirement age (somewhere between 50-64, depending on how long the person has been in the government service) to another job at lower pay.
Individuals who are retired and then rehired are allowed to either continue contributing to their post-retirement pension or receive a salary and a pension simultaneously, depending on how much they earn.
“Where a retired participant is re-employed at the same salary grade or higher, the retired participant is deemed to elect to have [their] pension suspended and to have additional benefits [accrue to their pension],” the bill states. “Where a participant eligible for early retirement opts for phased retirement, the retired participant receives the pension, but no further benefits are accrued.”
For older civil service workers who are under the “defined benefit” portion of the retirement plan, which pays a monthly pension for the remainder of their lives, their maximum eligibility for a pension under that plan is reached at age 65. After that, if the person keeps working and accruing pension benefits, they would make additional pension contributions into the defined contribution plan – which operates like a retirement savings account.
The definition of the “early retirement” age in the amendments to the civil service Public Service Pensions (Amendment) Bill is complicated.
For any civil servant who was employed prior to the effective date of the law, once it is passed, early retirement can be between 50 and 59 years old, if that person has at least 10 years of service with the government. Any age between 60 and 64 is also considered the early retirement date.
For anyone employed in the civil service after the law is passed and implemented, early retirement is between ages 55 and 64, as long as the person has at least ten years of service with government.
The normal retirement age will be increased to 65, but there are conditions in which those workers can continue on with the civil service. The age of 65 is not necessarily considered to be a “forced” date of retirement.
Currently, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said the civil service is allowing workers over age 60 to continue with the civil service if they so desire. However, in past years, that age has been treated as the point at which most workers must leave the government service.