Historic proxy voting decision to help deputies with babies

PROXY voting for parental leave will be introduced in the States, despite concerns that it was a ‘slippery slope’ and that it could be abused.

Deputy Emilie McSwiggan. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 25545504)
Deputy Emilie McSwiggan. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 25545504)

There was significant opposition to the historic move, which makes Guernsey one of the few jurisdictions in the world to allow the system.

It means that deputies with new-born or newly-adopted children will be able to appoint a proxy to cast their votes over a six-month period.

After considerable debate, the proposals from the States’ Assembly & Constitution Committee (Sacc) were passed by 22 votes to 16.

Sacc member Emilie McSwiggan asked States members to ‘please listen to women’.

She wanted to make the position of deputy more family-friendly with flexible working policies, so that young people would not be deterred from standing in the next election.

Deputy McSwiggan highlighted the ‘hypocrisy’ of the divergent views.

‘What I can’t get over is the audacity of us taking a stance where we are telling the business community that they need to be more inclusive and more family-friendly.

‘What I can’t get over is us saying to rest of the world “you do that but it’s not for us”, States exceptionalism should have no place here.’

Five babies have been born to States members during this political term, and the current set-up for breast-feeding deputies is a mini-fridge in a spare room with a radio.

Deputy Rhian Tooley had a Utopian vision of proper creche facilities for deputies, but was happy to see a small step in that general direction.

‘This isn’t the adjustment that I would have chosen, I would have made it much more radical, and made it possible for people to be here, bring their babies into the chamber while they cast their votes, have their babies in a side room in a soft play zone, or sitting at the table doing their homework if they’re older.’

One of the main themes of the debate was whether proxy voting should be broadened to include deputies with sick partners or dying parents.

Deputy Carl Meerveld thought it was unfair to focus just on the needs of new parents.

Deputy Al Brouard felt that the debate had been hijacked by emotion.

‘I don’t like members making me feel guilty for a crime I’m not going to commit.

‘I’m not stopping mothers or fathers bonding with their children, that is not the debate in front of us today, please don’t make me feel guilty for that.’

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