When considering the costs of having a baby in the Cayman Islands, make sure to factor in your maternity provision.
Cayman Maternity Leave Entitlement
Unfortunately, the Cayman Islands has one of the worst maternity leave policies in the world. At present, the Cayman Islands’ Labour Law (2011 Revision) provides for a minimum maternity leave allowance of 12 calendar weeks in any 12 month period. However, this is only available as an entitlement where the mother concerned has completed a full year of employment with her employer.
Where an employee has not completed 12 months at work, the law prescribes that any maternity leave may be pro-rated.
Currently, an employer is legally required to offer 20 working days leave on full pay, 20 working days leave on half-pay and 20 working days on no pay. For practical purposes this is treated by many businesses as the equivalent of six weeks at full pay, and six weeks at no pay. Maternity leave may generally be taken in whatever portion requested by the employee including both before and after childbirth.
At present there is no provision in the law for paternity leave or for parents who have a child through a surrogate. There is also no provision for mothers who have had miscarriages.
It is, however, worth enquiring with your employer as to their policy regarding maternity leave, as some employers are more flexible than others. There is nothing in the law that prevents an employer from providing maternity benefits in excess of the minimums prescribed.
Why is Maternity Leave Important
Research has proven time and time again how valuable, sufficient maternity leave, with the job security tied to it, promotes bonding between parent and child and is best for the mother’s mental and physical health. Benefits include:
Lower infant and child mortality rates
Increased duration of breastfeeding success
Better mother baby bonding
Smoother postpartum recovery for Moms
Better employee retention long-term
Improved maternal mental health
Maternity Entitlement Around the World
To provide context, here is what some other countries around the world offer:
Statutory maternity leave is 52 weeks. Statutory maternity pay is paid for up to 39 weeks; the first six weeks you get 90 percent of your average weekly earnings (before tax). Then, for the next 33 weeks, you get whichever is lower of £151.97 or 90 percent of your average weekly earnings. Fathers have a right to up to 26 weeks paternity leave. Shared parental leave is also offered.
Parents (i.e. both parents, whatever their gender) in Sweden are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave when a child is born or adopted. Each parent – should there be two – is entitled to 240 of those days. A single parent is entitled to a full 480 days.
In 2019, the Canadian government announced that all new parents (citizens) would be given 40 weeks of parental leave. Out of these 40 weeks, 5 weeks are just for the fathers so that they are able to take time off work and spend time with their newborns. 55% of the employee’s earnings are paid to them during this period up to a maximum of $595 a week.
Campaigning for Change
Two local mums Bethany Ebanks-Pacheco and Lorren Stainton are currently campaigning for an increase to maternity leave and have created a petition calling for an Increase the Maternity Entitlements in the Cayman Islands.
So far in 2022, two organisations have put their heads above the parapet and introduced their own, more progressive maternity and paternity leave.
The law firm Ogier announced they would be offering 18 weeks paid and 34 weeks unpaid maternity leave, with the mother being entitled to this from day one of their employment. Their adoption and surrogacy leave have also been increased to 18 weeks paid and 34 weeks unpaid, and parental/paternity leave benefits have increased to 9 weeks paid and up to 43 weeks unpaid leave.
Scotiabank is now offering 16 weeks full paid maternity leave. Fathers, adoptive parents and appointed legal guardians with a new child, will receive 4 fully paid weeks of parental leave.
It is hoped that with pressure coming from parents and the corporate world, the maternity leave provisions across the Islands will be increased to fall in line with international standards.