Guernsey Press

Anti-discrimination proposals ‘will not sail through States’

THERE is still a battle ahead to get new anti-discrimination legislation passed, despite it being watered down, Employment & Social Security president Michelle Le Clerc yesterday warned.

Deputy Michelle Le Clerc. (28399917)

She was speaking at a meeting of the Guernsey Disability Alliance at Les Cotils, along with ESS member Emilie McSwiggan.

The proposals are set to be debated at a States meeting next month, and would protect people with disabilities and their carers, and also outlaw discrimination based on race. But protection from sexual orientation discrimination has been held back, as well as that of age and religious belief discrimination.

Deputy Emilie McSwiggan. (28399919)

GDA founder Rob Platts admitted he was frustrated that the proposals had been watered down, after pushback from business leaders, but welcomed the progress the legislation would make.

‘It would be a travesty if we let the perfect get in the way of good,’ he said.

‘The GDA has not willingly compromised. We have pragmatically compromised.’

But Deputy Le Clerc warned that even watered down, the legislation was unlikely to have a smooth journey through the States and she was expecting some deputies to lay amendments.

‘I think it would be foolish to sit on our laurels and think this is a slam dunk,’ she said.

‘We still have a battle ahead of us to change some minds of deputies.’

There had been concerns raised by business, but last week a joint statement by the Institute of Directors, Guernsey Chamber of Commerce, Guernsey International Business Association and Confederation of Guernsey Industry and the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development threw their support behind bringing in discrimination legislation. They also raised concerns that Guernsey was going for its own legislation, rather than adopting a law from Jersey or the UK, which would have meant guidance was already available.

Deputy Le Clerc said she knew there was an appetite to adopt another jurisdiction’s legislation, but noted that in Jersey’s case it would not do all the things they wanted and would leave big gaps.

There were questions about what would happen to restaurants that did not provide disabled access or fully accessible toilets.

Guernsey Disability Alliance members meeting at Les Cotils. (28399921)

Deputy McSwiggan said this was not possible for all establishments. But if it was possible, and an establishment chose not to make itself fully accessible, then this legislation would allow them to challenge that.

There were also questions about how much charities did to help rehabilitate people, and how much the States should be doing to help.

Deputy Le Clerc said there was the Guernsey Employment Trust to help support people into work, but said it was important there was funding to support people.

‘We are on a journey and this is the start,’ she said.

‘But there is so much more we need to do and we should be providing.’

Deputy McSwiggan said there needed to be a change in mindset at the heart of the States about helping all people to be part of island life.

  • It is hoped that the legislation will be debated in the States on 15 July.