While the enforcement of employment contracts is still not uniform across the board, they are increasing as crew become more aware of their rights, and the industry adopts more professional employment processes. The topic of notice periods, however, is not something that can be generalised. “The typical notice period on the majority of yachts we are involved with regarding the employment of crew is four weeks,” says Lucy Medd, crew manager for the Burgess fleet of managed yachts. “However, we are involved with some yachts where the notice period is as short as seven days and as long as three months.”
Agreeing that a four-week notice period is the average on board most yachts, one chief officer of a 49m motoryacht (who wishes to remain anonymous) feels that even if that time frame is adhered to, it throws up issues. “It works fine for junior crewmembers but it simply is not enough time for senior crew,” he explains. “Our chief engineer left recently and from the day of his notice being handed in we began looking for his replacement. By the time we had contacted agencies, carried out interviews and selected a candidate, it only allowed us a 10-day handover. This, coupled with a busy five-year survey and shipyard period, left a pressurised time frame for the winter works and the new engineer.”
- Chief officer, 49m motoryacht
In this case, it was fortunate that the crewmember in question gave sufficient notice and worked to the end of his contracted time. But Medd comments that there is often a problem in the industry with crew who do not work their notice. “They wait for pay day and then leave, giving little or no notice,” she explains, and adds that the length of their notice period doesn’t necessarily have a bearing on the decision.
While there is obvious disagreement over whether set notice periods influence a crewmember’s decision to jump ship, there is another side of the story to consider. “All too often we see crew being thrown off the yacht with their bags in some obscure part of the world,” admits the chief officer. “On more than one occasion, I have helped crewmembers to be made aware of their rights for repatriation and pay should they be dismissed. It still seems that if a particular crewmember is disliked or hands in his or her notice, he or she gets let go without the appropriate notice period.”
Find the full article in the Monaco Yacht Show issue of The Crew Report (Issue 75), coming soon.