A long-established, although perhaps unspoken practice, of Cayman businesses which employ foreign workers that allows the companies to “test out” employees before bringing them in on full work permits has been green-lighted by Premier Alden McLaughlin.

Premier McLaughlin told members of the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee this week that his government would not object to businesses bringing in non-Caymanian workers on temporary three- or six-month permits before granting them full-year or multiyear permits.

Any non-Caymanian worker who is hired by a Caymanian company must first obtain a valid permit before taking up employment here. According to Immigration Law, that worker may only be hired if a suitably qualified Caymanian or permanent resident cannot be found for the position.

Cayman has more than 24,000 non-Caymanians working in the territory on permits or government contracts, according to the latest Immigration Department figures.

“There is no question that a number of companies do use the temporary work permit provision as a means of probation,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “I don’t see anything at all wrong with that.”

Mr. McLaughlin said a three- or six-month trial run for an employee might be advisable before a company “invests huge sums of money” in a multiyear permit for that person.

The premier also acknowledged that some companies use temporary permits to fill positions that they know are “not temporary,” bringing in some workers for a brief period and then sending them back home “before they are required to pay pension.”

Cayman’s National Pensions Law requires companies to pay all workers they employ a pension based on a percentage of annual earnings once those employees have been at the business for six months.

Bodden Town West MLA Chris Saunders opined that he did not believe those uses for the temporary permits were what was intended by the Immigration Law framers.

“[The temporary permits] are used in a number of ways which, perhaps, were not contemplated when the provisions were actually passed … none of which I see as particularly objectionable,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller said the “barrier” to obtain a temporary work permit is less than what is required for a full-year or multiyear permit, in terms of the documentation submitted to the Immigration Department for approval. The concern is that an employer could keep renewing a temporary permit every three or six months, continuing to hire the same worker without going through the full range of checks against whether a Caymanian could take the job.

Mr. McLaughlin said government was looking into that issue and could direct that any extension of an initial temporary permit be subjected to the same requirements as a full-year work permit would be.

Also, he noted the Immigration and Human Resources Ministry was currently drawing up plans for a new department that would coordinate the listing and publication of all jobs available in Cayman. Mr. McLaughlin said this would eventually allow immigration and other government officials to see whether Caymanians had applied for a particular position and who ultimately received the job.

Ministry Chief Officer Wesley Howell said the creation of the human resources department was under way, but would likely constitute a two-year process.