Over the course of this week, the Guernsey Disability Alliance has been tackling 'myths' surrounding the island's proposed discrimination law.
The Committee for Employment and Social Security is due to bring plans for the new legislation before the States by April next year.
The GDA has been working with Equality Guernsey, using social media to address some of the statements and concerns made ahead of the debate.
Myth 1: There is no visible discrimination, therefore no need for legislation
With little protection and no current complaint procedure in place, the GDA believes the majority of discrimination goes unreported in Guernsey. It said systemic disability discrimination, which includes the design of infrastructure, transport systems and public services, is widespread but often goes unnoticed by those without a disability.
"If there were no discrimination, the discrimination legislation would not be problematic," a spokesperson for the Alliance said, "merely a guarantee that discrimination could never gain a toehold in Guernsey in the future."
Pictured: Deputies Michelle Le Clerc and Emilie Yerby from ESS.
Myth 2: Legislation will lead to job losses and reduced competitiveness
The GDA said the proposals, which are based on existing legislation from other jurisdictions, will help improve employment for local disabled people, while ensuring employers can hire the best person for the job.
"Concerns about the costs of appropriate adjustments are understandable," the spokesperson continued, "but most adjustments will be small and procedural.
"A UK report suggests only 4% of adjustments entail a cost and, even then, the average is £184. This excludes the management time needed to discuss, consider and implement an adjustment, but most of the time the need for adjustments is obvious and the management time spent will not be significant."
Myth 3: The legislation is gold plated
Despite noting that the proposed legislation, which covers multiple grounds, may seen complicated, the Alliance believes bringing it all in at once will save businesses time and money since they will only have to review and re-train once.
Pictured: The GDA and Equality Guernsey recently held a number of workshops on discrimination.
Myth 4: Legal costs will increase
The GDA is expecting to see legal costs in Guernsey go down - rather than increase - with the new legislation.
"The proposals place a strong emphasis on free informal complaint resolution which is intended to be non-adversarial and non-judgemental," explained the spokesperson. "If that's not successful, complaints can go to a tribunal hearing. Both are designed to be accessible without the need to resort to lawyers."
Myth 5: The proposed definition of disability is too broad and will lead to employees gaming the system
Four independent experts have been employed by the States to speak with the Committee about the dangers of defining disability narrowly.
Some members of the public have even raised concerns that a "lack of talent" would qualify as a disability. However, the GDA does not believe that to be the case: "The proposals include a mechanism, as exists currently, to dismiss trivial complaints before they reach a full tribunal hearing.
"As with most discrimination legislation, employees and service users claiming discrimination will have to provide evidence of less favourable treatment. The treatment must be substantial and logically connectable to one or more protected grounds."
Pictured: ESS launched a public consultation not the proposed legislation.
Myth 6: The UK's reasonable adjustment standard is more sensible
While the Committee's proposals comply with international standards and accepted best practice, the GDA does not believe the island should go down the same route as the UK.
"Guernsey's proposals regarding appropriate adjustments required in the field of employment are not actually dissimilar to those required in the UK," continued the spokesperson. "However, the proposed system for providing guidance and information, plus the focus on informal resolution, is expected to make Guernsey's legislation more effective."
Myth 7: Employers in the UK can ask pre-employment questions about existing and past disabilities
While some members of the public has suggested this to be true, the GDA pointed out that the UK's Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to ask questions about disability and health before a job offer is made. This follows from the example of other jurisdictions including the USA, Canada and Australia.
"The reason for this common provision is based on research showing that when disabled people declare their disability, they are twice as likely not to get to the interview stage, even if that disability would have no effect on their ability to do the job," the spokesperson added.
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