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ESS says business group is "double counting" costs of new law

ESS says business group is

Monday 26 September 2022

ESS says business group is "double counting" costs of new law

Monday 26 September 2022


The Committee taking a draft anti-discrimination law to the States this week has said the costs of the law would be "nowhere near the level" claimed by the Confederation of Guernsey Industry (CGi).

The business group estimated that it would cost the States £1.24million to set up the anti-discrimination law and £850,000 a year to run it from year three onwards.

But the President of the Committee for Employment & Social Security, Deputy Peter Roffey, dismissed the accuracy of the CGi's figures and said "the actual annual costs will be less than £400,000 a year".

The States' Assembly will debate the draft law at its meeting which starts on Wednesday. The proposition to approve the law faces 11 amendments.

Among the amendments is one proposed by Deputy Chris Blin, which recommends that businesses with five staff or fewer should not be required to comply with substantial sections of the law. The CGi said it "fully supported" Deputy Blin's amendment. 

Deputy Chris Blin

Pictured: Deputy Chris Blin wants to exempt smaller businesses from much of the proposed law.

The CGi is standing apart from the island's other main business representative groups by opposing the draft law. The Chamber of Commerce, Institute of Directors and Guernsey International Business Association have all come out publicly in favour of the Committee's proposals. 

Ahead of the States' debate, the CGi repeated criticism of the Committee for what it considers a "lack of transparency over the costs and impact of the new anti-discrimination legislation". 

"The CGi has recently discovered from sources within government that no impact assessment has ever been carried out, there are no figures regarding the level of discrimination being currently evidenced in the Bailiwick and the costs are far higher than admitted," said the business group's Chairman, Dave Newman.

"We don't believe it is unreasonable to ask the States to confirm how the law will affect the civil service as the island's largest employer and also for the costs. Up to now, Deputy Roffey has publicly dismissed our estimate of £850,000 per year but not provided any proof as to what the figure actually is nor has he responded to our submissions to the Committee. 

"It is now clear that no impact analysis has been conducted and our own investigations, gleaned from the States' website itself, is that it will, in fact, cost £1.24m to set up and run and the £850,000 only applies from year three. So we would now publicly like to ask Deputy Roffey, can he confirm which is the correct figure? The CGi is also mindful that these costs only cover the first part of the proposed law and the second part could see an even higher financial impact."

Mr Newman also said he had met "a number of stakeholders who have a vested interest in the proposed legislation and none of them has been able to answer these simple questions".

1David-Newman-CGi.jpg

Pictured: The Chairman of the CGi, Dave Newman, who said the Committee for Employment & Social Security is not being transparent and is under-estimating the costs of its proposed anti-discrimination law.

Deputy Roffey said today that "there are many issues with the accuracy of the CGi's statement" and that the business group was "double counting large numbers in several areas".

He said it was "misleading" of the CGi to claim that impact assessments have not been carried out. He pointed to work commissioned in 2017 "to undertake a series of audits of States' service areas to assess the level of preparedness of its employment practices, buildings and services", which he said resulted in "short-, medium- and long-term recommendations which were then reviewed by service areas and are in the process of being implemented".

"The Committee has looked at the impact assessment carried out in the UK in 2009 ahead of the UK’s Equality Act 2010 coming into force. This kind of impact assessment would be a specialist consultancy task, which would be costly and time consuming," said Deputy Roffey.

"I would seriously question what value this would have. If the case has been made that this legislation is necessary, then it is necessary.  Not at any cost of course, but similar assessments elsewhere have suggested the economic impact of the legislation is likely to be roughly neutral and may even be positive.

"The study in the UK suggested the overall impact could range from a miniscule negative impact to a significant positive impact. There is no reason to believe Guernsey would be significantly different but the cost of duplicating such research would be very large indeed."

Discrimination_Employment_and_Social_Security.jpg

Pictured: The Committee for Employment & Social Security hit back at the CGi's claims about transparency and cost and said it would strongly oppose most of the 11 amendments submitted to its draft law.

"The suggestion that small businesses should be exempt would take out of the [law] the duty to remove or reduce barriers for people with disabilities from nearly two-thirds of businesses in Guernsey," said Deputy Roffey.

"It, therefore, substantially weakens the protection for disabled people that the [law] was intended to achieve and which the States have given a commitment to provide since November 2013. The Committee believes that would be an unacceptable watering down of the law and do a disservice to disabled islanders who have long waited for this protection.

"In all other comparable jurisdictions, including Jersey, the Isle of Man, England, Scotland, Wales [and] the Republic of Ireland, no business or employer is exempt from these types of duties because of size, but the expectations that apply to large and small businesses are different. The Guernsey legislation is based on exactly the same principles.

"When it comes to the duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled persons, the duty is limited by the concept of disproportionate burden. A disproportionate burden could be a financial or other burden on the duty bearer. Therefore, this duty is sensitive to the needs of businesses and organisations. So, for example, the States would be required to provide more in terms of reasonable adjustment than any small, private business."

READ MORE...

Raft of amendments to anti-discrimination legislation

Anti-discrimination law published and submitted to the States 

PODCAST: "Guernsey people are not discriminatory people"

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