Employment & Social Security is hoping to get a head start on new discrimination laws next year, with improvements to some employment-related services and the roll-out of training and support ahead of the legislation coming into effect.
The first phase of legislation is due to come into effect in 2022, but the previous assembly felt that the development of necessary services should take place alongside the drafting process. £545,000 has been set aside in the Committee’s budget for 2021 to support these efforts.
According to the budget document, £245,000 of this is specifically for the expansion of the Employment Relations Service and the Employment and Discrimination Tribunal.
The current ERS provides confidential advice and conciliation for employers and employees, as well as hearing complaints relating to the pre-existing Sex Discrimination laws. ESS is hoping to expand the service with additional staff and training so that it can provide support on the Discrimination Ordinance.
Eventually, the ERS will become the Employment and Equal Opportunities Service, to meet the projected increased demand for complaints handling, allow the ERS to become a more independent body, and provide informal resolutions for staff.
This Tribunal will mostly fulfil the same function as it has since its inception in 2006; namely, to resolve complaints that reach the adjudication stage. This service is to be improved by ensuring that every hearing is chaired by someone with the appropriate legal qualifications, a process which is expected to take 12-14 months.
All of these services will require additional staff, as well as appropriate training for all new and existing staff. The £245,000 set aside for this work is slightly lower than the total £290,000 suggested (£200,000 operating costs for the first year of the EEOS, and a further £90,000 to fund the improvements to the ERS and Tribunal services).
The remaining £300,000 is associated with “project set-up costs and awareness about legislative changes”, according to the 2021 budget.
An ESS Spokesperson confirmed that this will include the creation of a Legislation Implementation Team, who will liaise with businesses and the third sector. It will also include the creation of a survey, to be issued every eight years, to gauge attitudes to prejudice and discrimination within the community. This is estimated to cost £40,000.
Other workstreams to be supported by this funding include investigating how complaints in Education will be heard, broader training, awareness initiatives ahead of implementation, promotion of cultural change in attitudes towards discrimination, and support for businesses and service providers.
Pictured: Former ESS President Michelle Le Clerc, who brought the now-approved Discrimination Ordinance before the States Assembly in July this year.
Such support includes the development of an "access to work" scheme, which will provide support for adjustments that would otherwise not be made, either because they represent a "disproportionate burden" to the employer or business, or because they are simply too costly.
It is currently not clear how much of a budget this would receive, or when it will be implemented. An ESS spokesperson said that the Committee would be reporting on it during the ESS Update Report in Autumn 2021.
Pictured top: some of the people gathered in front of the States building ahead of the debate on the Discrimination Ordinance in July.
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