Boasting the combination of an English-speaking society and Caribbean sunshine, the island state of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is an attractive destination for expats looking to enjoy working life overseas. We take a look at the employment options.
Trinidad and Tobago have an official combined workforce of just under 650,000 people. The unemployment rate in recent years has been comfortably under five percent, performing better than the US for many years and very well against some European countries.As long as you satisfy immigration conditions, you can work in Trinidad and Tobago for a maximum of 30 days in any 12-month period. Only those receiving legal permission to work for more than 30 days may do so, by obtaining a work permit from the government.
In 2017, the parliament of Trinidad and Tobago was concerned to hear that more than 10,000 illegal workers were estimated to be in the country. Given the levels of exploitation these workers may be subject to, the undercutting of the pay and conditions to which local employees are legally entitled, as well as the avoidance of tax payments which sustain the infrastructure of life for local people, scrutiny of this issue will not be avoided.
Application forms for a work permit can be found online via the ministry of national security’s official website. This form must be completed by the prospective employer if you will be based in Trinidad and Tobago, or by a lawyer or other business based in the state if not. Copies of various documents will need to be submitted with the application form.
The work permit system aims to restrict the inflow of migrant workers except where a shortage of local skills, qualifications or expertise means an employer cannot find staff from within the existing community. As such, each work permit specifies the employer and length of employment which is permitted. They normally expire within three years.
There is a fee for filing the application for the work permit, and for each month that the work permit is valid. The cashier’s unit is open from 8am to 2.30pm, Monday to Friday. It will take between four and six weeks for an official decision to be made, assuming no delays occur whilst further information is sought.
If you are a self-employed person hoping to do business in Trinidad and Tobago, you must apply for a work permit and pay a lawyer based there to submit and manage the application.
The main areas of employment for expats in Trinidad and Tobago are liquified natural gas (LGP), petrochemicals and steel. As the leading Caribbean producer of oil and gas, the nation’s economy depends heavily on this sector, and oil prices have an impact on export income. However, the manufacture of goods such as foods, beverages and cement also bring in revenue. Other areas of industry include finance and tourism.
Skilled professionals are in demand for a range of work. These include chemical companies such as Caribbean Chemicals and Advance Foam Products, the Water and Sewerage Authority, tech companies such as Huawei, and a range of international food companies. The financial industry includes many players such as the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, First Citizens Bank and CL Financial. Telecommunications firm Digicel, established in 2001, is said to have a good reputation as an employer and has an easy to search jobs page. All these businesses need technical skills and qualifications unique to their industry, but will also need accountants, lawyers, IT managers, marketing experts and other workers who drive a business forward.
Take a look at online recruitment portal Caribbean Jobs for different roles across the different local industries.
In Trinidad and Tobago, employees are entitled to a national minimum wage. Under the minimum wages act, anyone being paid a lower, illegal rate can report their employer. Trade unions can also provide support with this.
Employees cannot be asked to work excessive hours. Generally, people work eight hours a day for five days a week. Holidays should be set out in the terms and conditions. Payments for holidays, sick leave and maternity leave are also legal entitlements.
National Insurance must be paid by employees and employers when earnings thresholds are reached. These entitle the worker to benefits and pension payments when they are eligible and need them.
The occupational health and safety act means that both public and private employers have to provide a safe working environment for their employees. This covers a variety of aspects including training, protective clothing, equipment and a safe environment with appropriate supervision.
The Equal Opportunity Commission receives complaints where employers breach the equal opportunity act. Discrimination cannot happen within the workplace on the basis of sex or marital status, race or ethnicity, disability, religion, or origin. However, LGBT+ workers are sadly not protected from discrimination at work under the law in Trinidad and Tobago, and unfortunately these people may find this society a difficult one in which to live.
Claims for unfair dismissal can be pursued through the courts.
If a serious accident happens at work because of negligence or a wrongful act on the part of the employer, injured employees, or the relatives of employees who died at work, can bring a claim under the workmen’s compensation act.
If you are offered work in someone’s home, be aware that you will not have the protection of employment law. There are at least 10,000 full time domestic workers in Trinidad and Tobago, and the sustained exploitation they continue to suffer has led to political campaigning.
The US and UK are amongst many governments advising their citizens to exercise caution in Trinidad and Tobago. Murder, sexual assault and robberies are common crimes and the UK’s foreign and commonwealth office openly warns its citizens about the inefficiency of the police force in Trinidad and Tobago even when dealing with the most serious crimes.
Bribery is illegal in Trinidad and Tobago, but despite this, the practice is widespread and acknowledged openly at all levels of society. Public sector workers have a reputation for arriving late, taking long lunch breaks and leaving early, whilst doing little in between. Phil Noonan wrote the blog ‘Trinidad and Tobago Warning’ after suffering bewildering levels of incompetence and corruption from public officials including the police and courts. It is important for expats to bear in mind that Trinidad and Tobago can be a frustrating place to do business in before accepting work there.
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