Small businesses may struggle with immigration points

| 22/03/2009

(CNS): Embarking on a series of public meetings to explain the proposed changes to the immigration system, Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson says it is important that small business take time to score themselves using the proposed guidelines andmake their feelings known to the department during the crucial consultation period. “There are a lot of legitimate questions surrounding how this will impact small businesses and we need them to look at their potential scores in this system to measure the possible impact.”

Although Manderson and his immigration team have met with stakeholders in a number of specific industry sectors. the focus is now with small business owners as there are legitimate concerns that it may be harder for them to achieve the higher tier levels. The problem for smaller businesses is that in order to be allowed to apply for any key employees they must reach level two, which goes well beyond compliance which the law.

“There is a legitimate question here regarding compliance,” said Manderson. “If an employer is in full compliance with the law, why should he not be able to apply for key status, something which is currently available to all employers?”

The proposals at present suggest that all businesses, regardless of the number of employees, will need to be compliant with the system. Evidence of compliance with all the legal requirements expected of an employer, such as health and pension payments, the necessary operating licences, evidence of a viable business and employment contracts will equal 350 points and give the employer tier one status. This will only allow an employer to apply for renewals or new work permits, it will not allow any key employee status applications.

In order to gain that benefit and other benefits, such as fast track applications, employers will need to accumulate points to climb through the tiers. As noted by some business owners present at the meeting, small business are as likely tohave just as much need for key employees as the larger companies, if not greater. Losing a crucial member of staff from a company of five or six people will have far more of a negative impact on that business than one employing hundreds of employees. Under this new system, however, it may be very difficult for a small business to reach the 500 points which will be required to get a key employee.

Once compliant with the law, access to greater points comes from a wide range of possible areas, such as the level of a company’s participation in the community and sponsorships, the percentage of Caymanian workers and managers, the promotion of Caymanians, profit sharing schemes for Caymanians, training and scholarship programmes, employment practices such as health and safety and disaster preparedness among many others.

It is apparent that the system could be prejudicial to small businesses that are less likely to have the resources to get them to the top or fourth tier. However, Manderson said it was not impossible as there may be ways of creating a point structure that was beneficial to small business and he said it was important that the small business community offered its contribution and ideas for things which could go some way to preventing a possible imbalance.

Manderson made it clear that the primary focus of the system was to address unscrupulous employers and ensure in the first instance that all businesses are compliant with the law. He said the changes would speed up the process of work permit applicants. “This system will eliminate doubt about employers, for the first time we will know from the evidence supplied that they are compliant with the necessary laws and what they are doing to encourage Caymanian employment,” he added. “It is geared toward holding business owners accountable and rewarding best practices; advancing Caymanians in the workforce; and preventing the work-related abuse of non-Caymanians workers.”

Manderson also said there were still a number of considerations to be made and things were not finalised. He said the consultation period would allow the department to re-examine suggestions and consider changes. He said for example, that the question of whether employers would still need to do a business staffing plan on top of submitting their accreditation was still unanswered and that was something he hoped the consultation period could help finalise.

So far only a small number of small business owners have turned up for the two meetings in George Town and West Bay but Manderson said he was hoping Monday (23 March) evening’s meeting in Bodden Town would see a greater number of people in attendance.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Good idea, I’m consern as to how will impact the small business and the commitment to insure that this is handel properly.