The director of a Guernsey equality group fears that "right-wing beliefs" within the States Assembly could block the introduction of new anti-discrimination laws.
The States announced this week that preparations for the implementation of Phase 1 of the new multi-ground Discrimination Ordinance are underway.
But Karen Blanchford, Partnership Director of We All Matter, Eh?, has expressed concern that some members of the House may delay debating a policy letter on equality of sexual orientation and religious belief.
“Phase 1 is really good news, on the whole,” said Mrs Blanchford. “For 13 years or so we’ve been pushing for equality, so this is a really good step up. We met with [Chief Minister] Deputy Peter Ferbrache and he reassured us that as an individual he was supportive of Phase 1.”
However, she fears that some of the more Conservative members of the House may use economic pressure post-Covid and post-Brexit as an excuse to refrain from discussing matters they may find personally disagreeable.
“Sexual orientation and religious belief are still being discussed, and a policy letter is being drafted for debate," said the Guernsey Disability Alliance Partnership Director.
Pictured: Campaigners petitioning States members to support the introduction of new anti-discrimination legislation last year.
"That debate is due in Quarter 2, but we are expecting the right-wingers to delay it. It may be dressed up as economic development – businesses have been hit by Covid and by Brexit, so let's delay – we are half expecting that."
Last July, the States unanimously approved proposals for a new Discrimination Ordinance to be introduced. The first of two phases will cover the grounds of disability, carer status, race, sexual orientation and religious belief.
The Ordinance, which is currently being drafted, will make discrimination unlawful based on any of these grounds in employment; in the provision of goods, services and accommodation; and in the membership of clubs and associations.
A Discrimination Legislation Stakeholder Group including representatives of GDA, Equality, Liberate, carers and religions met for the first time remotely last month. This group will provide feedback to the Committee for Employment & Social Security on the plans for implementing the new laws.
Also involved were representatives from business, private schools, hospitality, employment law, and landlords, as well as representatives of the grounds of protection that will be included in Phase 1 of the Ordinance. The meeting focussed on identifying training and information requirements, which will be provided over the next 18 months or so, ahead of the implementation of legislation later in 2022.
Mrs Blanchford said: “We have been looking at a training needs analysis for businesses, especially small businesses. The stance between us and G4 [business groups] is that the legislation is coming so let's make it happen. So, we are seeing what’s being offered in the various sectors, finding out what’s missing, and then plugging the gaps.
Pictured: Employment & Social Security President Peter Roffey said the anti-discrimination legislation is "a hugely important piece of work."
“The legislation is expected at the end of 2022, so we have plenty enough time for this. It has been prioritised within the States' Work Plan; we are anxious for that to be approved and to move on without delay. We all want to work together to make the implementation of legislation as smooth as possible.”
Phase 1 has been recommended for inclusion within the list of emerging strategic recovery actions in the Government Work Plan, while the legal drafting has also been given high priority status.
Deputy Peter Roffey, President of the Committee for Employment & Social Security, said the Discrimination Ordinance is "a hugely important piece of work."
"As we progress this work, we will continue to engage with the various groups that will have duties under this new legislation, and those that will be protected by it. This first meeting of the Discrimination Legislation Stakeholder Group highlights our ongoing commitment to do so."
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