(CMR) The Commissioner of Police has been ordered to pay the Police Association's costs for legal proceedings after the Grand Court found that the Commissioner's decision to change shift patterns, which cut vacation leave, was unlawful.
Last year the Cayman Islands Police Association filed a lawsuit against the Commissioner after he changed the policy on shift patterns for uniformed officers, resulting in them losing vacation time. The lawsuit said the decision to change the leave calculation was illegal, irrational, and in breach of a legitimate expectation.
However, Justice Kristy-Ann Gunn ruled in a judgment delivered earlier this year that the annual leave calculation was only illegal as it relates to officers employed before 1 January 2021.
“The decision to change the formula, thereby reducing leave entitlement, is, therefore, an abuse of power and in breach of Article 19 in respect of all officers employed before 1 January 2021. The decision must be quashed and the previous policy reinstated with respect to all officers employed prior to 1 January 2021,” she stated.
Justice Gunn said she found the very fact that the leave entitlement is expressed in hours rather than days to be significant as the legislature clearly intended a per hour leave calculation to be adopted and left it open for the Commissioner to determine how that would be applied.
“If the legislature had intended to maintain the 22 days plus 4 weekends entitlement, then there would have been no need to express leave entitlement in hours. The fact that they do so is an acknowledgment that leave should be directly linked to the number of hours worked,” she said in her judgment.
“In this case, I find that a practice developed over more than 15 years to use a factor of 7.5 to calculate annual leave does give rise to a reasonable expectation and that the officers did rely on that expectation throughout their employment,” the judge continued.
Justice Gunn stated that “the Commissioner's actions of recalculating the leave entitlement did breach Senior Constables Miller and Evans' legitimate expectation without justification and that the result, although well-intended, is ultimately unfair. However, the issue does not end with those two officers. The legitimate expectation that 22 days annual leave would be afforded extends to any shift officer employed prior to 1 January 2021 as they became beneficiaries of this long-standing policy upon joining the RCIPS. “
While not all aspects of the lawsuit against the Commissioner were agreed on, the court found the Police Association to be the successful party and, as such, should be awarded their costs.
The Attorney General has appealed the ruling with the Court of Appeal, and a hearing is expected in September.