Triton survey comments: Crew weigh in on severance pay

Jan 14, 2014 by Guest Writer

Read entire Triton Survey here.

A policy manual is not a legal employment agreement. I always work with an employment contract and I make sure that all of the crew have the same. It is a legal document that I had a maritime lawyer draft for me with all of the legal mumbo-jumbo including statements about severance pay and holiday pay, etc. It gets signed by both parties and initialed on each page.

It has clauses in it that protect the crew member as well as the owner and will stand up in a court of law if there is a breach of the contract, ie. non payment of severance as per the contract. So often in the past I have come across yacht owners that never have used employment agreements with their crew so I had one drafted that could be customized for each yacht I work on and that is what I use when I come across an owner who does not have a previously drafted agreement.

Why in the world would any crew take a job without an employment agreement? Don’t let any owner or his lawyers tell you that it is OK to be employed without a legal agreement. There is a reason why they don’t want to do this and it is more than likely not in your best interest but theirs. I have always received my severance and wages due. When the MLC finally gets ratified, now supposedly in early 2013, it will be required for all yacht owners to have employment agreements with their crew. 

— Captain, 100-120 feet, less than a year aboard


Some more comments from captains and crew about severance pay:


Even if you leave not of your will you should get severance especially after four years of service.


If someone turns in notice, then they really don’t deserve severance. If someone is let go out of blue and they have been there for some time, they deserve severance equivalent to the time on board.


In this business, I only expect a day’s pay for a day’s work.


The last crew walked off so the owner wanted a promise that the new crew wouldn’t do the same so we agreed to a 90-day warning of departure, and he agreed to 90-days pay if he ends our position. Seemed fair.


Severance should be at least 2 weeks per year onboard, if the yacht gets sold.


I really don’t feel that severance should be paid unless your job is terminated for some reason, such as the death of the owner or if the boat sells. If you quit to go to another job, they should not be expected to pay severance. 

On the other hand, if you have been a loyal employee for several years and you quit due to an unusual life circumstance or illness, I definitely think it would be proper for them to repay your loyalty and to offer severance.


Severance pay is just one part of the employment package process. Pay me more in one area and I’m happy to take less in another.


This is one more example that employees today (at sea and ashore) feel that they are entitled.


Unfortunately, in my experience, severance is a major bonus. I have found that normally a couple of weeks notice is about as much as one can expect. Forget holiday pay, etc. Remember, this is a rich man’s hobby, not his business, which is a completely different ball game.


In my experience the owners always find a reason to avoid paying severance or a bonus, even for helping to sell a yacht.  


In the past, if the yacht was sold, I received a bonus for years worked on the boat. Crew members received one month’s wages if they were let go without cause; nothing for cause but the month’s balance and a plane ticket home. 


The yacht I have been on for three years is for sale. The owner has agreed to one month severance per year but at this writing has not agreed to pay for accrued vacation. 


When the 47m motor yacht I had been working on for two years sold, I received one month’s pay for each year worked. Everyone on board did. The owner asked the captain what would be appropriate. The captain suggested the 1/1 and the owner did it. Even though the capt had been there more than five years, the total payout would have been less than half a percent of the sales price. The broker definitely took home several times more than all the crew combined. 


It is a subject that is not normally brought up during the hiring process, but should be. I have nine years with this particular owner and we have worked out a settlement for when the vessel sells.


If you have a signed employment contract stating a severance will be paid, generally if certain conditions are met, upon fulfillment of the conditions there is legally no choice for the owner, he must pay. The condition of the economy has no bearing on a contract, unless one was foolish enough to agree to such a stipulation at the time of the signing of the contract.


Owner offered 1 year severance without any request on my part. My employment ended three months earlier than discussed and the owner then fabricated fantasies as an excuse for not paying any severance.


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