Employment lawyer expresses discrimination law concerns
AN EMPLOYMENT law expert said discrimination legislation would be a step forward, but that local circumstances needed to be considered.
Draft proposals are currently out to consultation.
Carey Olsen counsel Carly Parrott said compared with other areas of law, Guernsey was currently light touch with discrimination, but that proposed legislation looked to change that in one fell swoop.
‘I think it’s going to result in a lot of hype and a lot of change. But I think there’s a lot of fear of what’s expected as well,’ she said.
Employment & Social Security’s consultation on multi-ground discrimination legislation is open until Monday 30 September.
Its president, Deputy Michelle Le Clerc, has said small, inexpensive adjustments could make a big difference.
But Ms Parrott said employers would be more worried about larger alterations that would need to be in place.
She also had concerns about whether the island has appropriate infrastructure and resources to accommodate what the proposed legislation requires.
‘Tribunals in place are currently made up of lay members – my concern is that for this type of legislation, expertise will be needed. Where will this come from?’ she said.
She said the same applied for the Equality and Rights Organisation that was proposed.
‘With the advice, who’s going to be providing it?’
She said equality laws and better information and education was absolutely what Guernsey should be aspiring towards, but that the appropriate infrastructure needed to be in place.
‘We now have 12 weeks to consult over the summer period when everyone is away. It’s now being rushed to push through.’
Ms Parrott said she did understand a need to get this through quickly because it was legislation that was in great need of update.
She also agreed that there should be financial penalties for businesses breaking the laws.
‘I think having a compensation perspective is appropriate but that there should absolutely be a cap on it.’
She also said there should be a power to impose fines on employers.
Although she liked the idea that the offences would be civil rather than criminal, Ms Parrott believed lawyers would be needed for the settlement of discrimination-related employment tribunals.
‘Employment law from the start was meant to be lawyer-free – free and open to everyone – but you look at discrimination in any other jurisdiction and it is complicated.’
Ms Parrott said in an ideal world issues would be resolved without the help of lawyers, but due to the complicated nature of discrimination legislation she did not think this would be possible.
‘Discrimination law is one of the most complicated laws.
‘One of the beauties of Guernsey is we do have an opportunity to make something unique, we can look at other jurisdictions and cherry pick the best aspects.’
Carly Parrott fact file
She qualified as a lawyer in New South Wales in 2005 and in England and Wales in 2010. She worked at Minter Ellison in Sydney before relocating to Guernsey in 2009 where she worked for another offshore law firm in the role of counsel.
She joined Carey Olsen in 2017.
She has extensive experience in both onshore and offshore jurisdictions and specialises in employment law, dealing with global, multinational and local clients and advising on all aspects of contentious and non-contentious employment law.
She focuses mostly on advising, assisting and supporting employer organisations and high level senior executives.