Six years after critical report, minister says pension system finally in compliance

A 2010 report from the Office of the Complaints Commissioner criticized government and the National Pensions Office, calling Cayman’s pension system a “ticking time-bomb,” ignored by many employers and neglected by politicians.

Employment Minister Tara Rivers last week told the Legislative Assembly that the pension system, thanks to a number of legal and regulatory changes, now complies with the recommendations.

The Legislative Assembly this year passed the National Pensions (Amendment) Bill, addressing many of the concerns from the Office of the Complaints Commissioner, and making major structural changes to the way pensions work in the Cayman Islands.

Ms. Rivers, speaking to members of the House, quoted from the report by then-Complaints Commissioner Nicola Williams, in which she wrote: “This Own Motion Investigation was undertaken because it was one of the most pressing and obvious examples of systemic failure of a government entity – the National Pensions Office, and the National Pensions Law that underpins it.”

The employment minister, six years after the report’s release, told the Legislative Assembly, “I therefore would like to assure the Members of this Honourable House that the National Pensions (Amendment) Bill, 2016 that was unanimously passed on May 4, 2016 addressed all of the legislative recommendations contained within the Complaints Commissioner’s report.”

Changes to the pension law increase fines, introduces possible imprisonment for employers who do not give employees pensions and introduces new administrative fines to help enforce pension rules. The new law makes it illegal to discriminate against an employee who makes a complaint to the Department of Labour and Pensions when employers do not comply with the law, and the new pension rules increase public education about pension requirements.

Ms. Rivers told fellow legislators that her ministry wrote to the Office of the Complaints Commissioner in April with an update on the pensions law.

Last month, Acting Complaints Commissioner Bridgette von Gerhardt replied to the ministry, saying the ministry had complied with the 2010 recommendations.

“The Ministry and the Department of Labour and Pensions met with and reported to the Office of the Complaints Commissioner over the years to demonstrate that it had complied with 10 recommendations of the report. However, it was agreed by all parties that the vast majority of the outstanding recommendations were tied to revising the pensions legislation,” Ms. Rivers said.

She continued, “I am therefore proud … that with the passage of the National Pensions (Amendment) Bill, 2016, the Office of the Complaints Commissioner has deemed that the Ministry and Department have now successfully complied with the OCC and this report is now officially closed by their office.”