Guernsey's anti-discrimination legislation was scheduled to be passed into law by the island's government tomorrow - but eleven amendments laid against it could yet derail the progress that some people have spent years campaigning for.
Of the eleven amendments, one has caused more concern for others - with three prominent members of the Guernsey Disability Alliance joining others in urging deputies to vote against it tomorrow.
Amendment 8 will ask the States to exclude small businesses, categorised as those with five or fewer employees, from the first raft of legislation.
It is this amendment that has spawned the hashtags #h8te and #withdrawamendment8.
Have you signed the petition below yet? #WithdrawAmendment8 #H8TEhttps://t.co/A3LHnv2V3o pic.twitter.com/1Xr18emPN0— Liberate HQ (@LiberateHQ) September 26, 2022
The Prevention of Discrimination (Guernsey) Ordinance, 2022, is broken down into various categories which together meet the following definition:
This Ordinance introduces a prohibition on discrimination on the grounds of a person’s disability, race, carer status, sexual orientation or religious belief. The prohibition will apply to employers, those who provide goods and services, schools and education providers, clubs and associations and accommodation providers. The Ordinance also introduces a positive duty on those groups to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled person who is employed or, as the case may be, uses the services they provide.
Initially the legislation will outlaw discrimination on grounds of race, disability, carer status, religious belief, and sexual orientation. This will be the first time legal protection has been offered in these areas.
The second phase will cover further topics, including discrimination on the grounds of age.
Among the penalties for those breaching the legislation and discriminating against others on the grounds of any of the criteria listed there will be penalties, including financial ones up to six months wages and £10,000.
While some people have campaigned for years to see Guernsey bring in anti-discrimination legislation, others are still keen to refine the proposals to make them more palatable to others.
The Confederation of Guernsey industry criticised the proposed legislation on the grounds of the cost to implement it this week. Deputy Peter Roffey, President of the Committee for Employment and Social Security said they were wrong.
Deputy Roffey said there were "many issues with the accuracy of the CGi's statement" and that the business group was "double counting large numbers in several areas".
He also said it was "misleading" of the CGi to claim that impact assessments have not been carried out.
Last week, Deputy Roffey reacted to the eleven amendments lodged against the ani-discrimination legislation by describing them as varying from "harmless to outright destructive".
Amendment number 1 won't be challenged by committee [correcting a typo] and I doubt number 2 will either as it is asking for what the committee first proposed. The other 9 range from harmless to outright destructive. ESS will meet tomorrow to discuss.— Peter John "Rufus" Roffey (@PeterRoffey5) September 20, 2022
Of the eleven amendments, Deputy Roffey thinks the first two will be passed without much, or any, debate.
Amendment one – submitted by His Majesty’s Procurer and His Majesty’s Comptroller – seeks to correct a typing error within the ordinance, while amendment two – proposed by Deputy Yvonne Burford and seconded by Deputy Peter Ferbrache – seeks to bring Guernsey’s proposals in line with the UK Equality Act 2010 where both religious and non-religious beliefs have equal standing.
The remaining nine amendments are likely to face opposition from the proposal-leading committee, with amendment eight in particular receiving loud criticism from outside the Chamber too.
ESS has circulated advice to other deputies, which has been seen by Express, that states the committee will "strongly oppose" amendment 8.
The advisory notes state that: "exempting employers with five or fewer employees from key parts of the Ordinance would significantly undermine the purpose and effectiveness of the legislation and let down disabled islanders and carers who have waited a very long time for this legislation. The States unanimously approved the policy proposals in July 2020 with no exemption for small employers and to add such a major policy shift at this stage of the process, with no consultation with the community, is extremely poor governance."
You can view the ordinance and list of amendments HERE.
Pictured: Amendment 8 can be read in full HERE.
Amendment 8 focuses on small employers - defined for this purpose as having five or fewer members of staff.
Deputy Blin and Deputy de Lisle want to reword the legislation so that those small firms are not legally forbidden from discriminating on the grounds of carer status, disability,
(1) This Ordinance, so far as relating to the protected ground of carer status, does not apply to any employer of five or fewer employees.
(2) No employer of five or fewer employees is under a duty to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled person under section 32 or 33."
Deputies Blin and de Lisle explained this move by saying: "Guernsey has a many locally owned and managed small businesses. This amendment will reduce the financial and management pressures for businesses with 5 employees or less which are too small to absorb the impact of these changes."
Among the voices against this move, and calling on the States to throw out amendment eight are Rob Platts MBE, the Founder of the Guernsey Disability Alliance, Carol Le Page, the GDA's Social Policy Director, and Karen Blanchford, a member of the GDA and Equality Guernsey.
The work that these three people, and others, do as the GDA, has been focused on helping businesses and organisations prepare for the Prevention of Discrimination Legislation to be introduced.
The GDA and Equality Guernsey have been proactively meeting with small businesses, business groups and influencers to better understand their concerns around the Discrimination Legislation and reassure where possible. Here’s a summary. Get in touch if you have concerns. pic.twitter.com/otXc8eR93m— Disability Alliance (@GDA_Disability) September 25, 2022
The Guernsey Employment Trust, which helps to place people in meaningful employment has also criticised amendment 8, saying that "the key word is reasonable", reflecting the wording of the law which will expect businesses to make reasonable adjustments to benefit their employees and to ensure they aren't discriminated against.
Let’s break down some of the misconceptions about what will be expected from employers with regards to workplace adjustments, remembering that the word ‘reasonable’ is the key word. https://t.co/wYbDjwVrVQ #DiscriminationGsy #WithdrawAmendment8— Guernsey Employment Trust (@GsyEmployTrust) September 26, 2022
Other organisations which have decried amendment 8 include Liberate, Health Connections and the Association of Guernsey Charities, which represents hundreds of smaller organisations.
Encouraging anyone with concerns to contact deputies, a spokesperson for the AGC said:
"Please take time to check the potential impact those deputies who may be thinking of supporting Amendment 8 could have on such a large proportion of our community. Ensure that all deputies know your views before voting on Wednesday."
ESS says business group is "double counting" costs of new law
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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