A public consultation of proposed new disability legislation has exposed "pockets of really bad employment practices" in the island.
Employment & Social Security is currently asking for public feedback on its proposals for a multi-ground discrimination law.
The main suggestions are to make discrimination illegal on ten grounds including age, race and trans status, to set up an Equality Rights Organisation tasked with raising awareness, providing advice and training, and to introduce new laws so that an employer or service provider's refusal to accommodate "reasonable" needs becomes a civil offence.
While there are concerns in some quarters that such an approach would over-regulate and disadvantage employers, ESS Committee Member Emilie Yerby said some had misunderstood their proposals.
"Some of the criticism has been based on a great deal of misinformation, and if you look at any of the detail in our proposals, you can see that businesses are not going to be asked to do extraordinary things beyond their resources," she said.
This is a consultation, we are looking for feedback and views. We will take on board that feedback any proposals will be in our Policy paper due in April next year. https://t.co/6P9IEjXLkH— Michelle Le Clerc (@mkleclerc) 19 August 2019
How would ESS' proposals work?
The proposed legislation will mean that if an employer or service provider discriminates against a person, the person could "seek action to put things right or may, in some instances, be awarded compensation."
The committee believes complaints should be handled through the Employment and Discrimination Tribunal, in a similar way to Sex Discrimination complaints.
In the first instance, the concern would need to be raised with the employer or service provider with the aim of resolving the matter internally, with free advice available from the ERO. If this doesn’t work, the person would be able to register a complaint with the Employment and Discrimination Tribunal. Conciliation will be offered to attempt to resolve the matter informally. If no resolution is reached the matter will go to a tribunal hearing.
"Legislation will increase business productivity"
A lot of the focus to date has been on how the legislation would negatively affect businesses and, subsequently, the economy. According to Deputy Yerby, this overlooks the fact that people are being denied fair and equal access to jobs on certain grounds, even though they have skills that would make them an asset.
"There are economic gains to be had from this type of law which could do with more emphasis," she said.
Pictured: ESS announced their draft proposals last month with a three-month consultation window.
"For ten years or more charity groups and organisations have been saying there is a need to address discrimination in the community. They have built up a strong body of evidence that makes the case for discrimination legislation.
"These are laws that pretty much every mature jurisdiction in the world has."
And Deputy Yerby said the consultation process had already brought to light worrying levels of discrimination in the workplace.
"The actual process of developing this legislation and going out to consultation has shown that there are pockets of really bad employment practices that weren't on our radar, and that are worse than we were expecting."
The consultation is open until Monday 30 September and all the draft proposals, surveys and contact details are available online at gov.gg/discriminationconsultation.
Pictured top: Deputy Emilie Yerby.
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