Civil service considering a clampdown on ‘job hopping’

The Cayman Islands government is reviewing employment rules for non-Caymanian workers that often do not strictly prevent those employees from switching jobs in the midst of a contract.

According to legislators, the issue is of particular concern in the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, where foreign officers are brought in on fixed-term contracts. In some instances, lawmakers said those officers can work long enough to make contacts in the local market and then take up employment elsewhere in the islands.

Unlike work permits given to non-Caymanian employees in the private sector, government contracts often will not specify that the individual must work for a particular department or agency.

“If you’re recruited to do a particular job, that’s what you should do,” East End MLA Arden McLean said during a meeting of the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee this week. “This issue permeates the whole civil service. We see it more prominently, or visibly, in the police department.

“We’re constantly … having problems with retention of contracted police officers, but it’s not only there.”

There have been a number of high-profile departures from the RCIPS in recent years, most notably those of Caymanian superintendents Robert Scotland and Angelique Howell, as well as Marine Unit Inspector Leo Anglin. Those officers were all Caymanians and were not restricted in their employment options.

However, Mr. McLean noted issues in the past where foreign nationals have initially come to work in the police service, stayed long enough to get permanent residence, then leave the RCIPS to study law or some other field with more lucrative pay. Mr. McLean said those officers often take advantage of the training the police service provides to up-skill themselves before leaving the department’s employ.

Mr. McLean asked whether certain conditions should be put on non-Caymanian officers’ employment, such as “you cannot leave the police force.”

Chief Officer of the Portfolio of the Civil Service Gloria McField-Nixon said there had been discussions this week between government human resources managers and RCIPS brass regarding the issue.

“They have been looking at contract terms,” Ms. McField-Nixon said, particularly involving officers who “break” their current contracts to take up other local employment.

The Cayman Islands Civil Service Association, which represents all local government workers, noted Wednesday that it “supports the ability of all our members to advance their careers within the public service.”

“If we wish to have a world-class public service, we need to recruit and retain and promote the best employees,” said the association’s president, John Bothwell. “Since Caymanians can and have shown themselves to be as good as anyone else in the world in their chosen fields, competition between permanent and contracted civil servants for internal promotions should not be a problem.”

If there is a difficulty, Mr. Bothwell said, it is in the area of advancing qualified employees to take roles being vacated by retiring workers or those moving on to other careers.

“What is badly needed is an effective and transparent civil service succession planning policy, including the advancement of staff between agencies,” Mr. Bothwell said. “Succession planning would give permanent staff much greater confidence in their career progression and remove any doubt as to what skills … are needed to advance through the civil service.”

Deputy Governor Franz Manderson acknowledged that succession planning is an area where civil service managers need greater focus. Mr. Manderson said senior managers often do not get much time to focus on future planning amid the day-to-day job demands.