Anti-discrimination law proposals are ‘workable’
‘NOT PERFECT but workable’ is how equality campaign groups have described the approved anti-discrimination legislation proposals.
Founder of the Guernsey Disability Alliance Robert Platts was very happy the proposals had been approved by the States and said they were a good starting point.
Giving an example of shortcomings, he explained that if you were employed somewhere and became disabled and needed an alteration made to something like the toilet facilities at work, the employer would not have to make these changes for five years.
‘After five years, these [sort of restrictions] would fall away – and they’re just about giving employers time to make changes – but it is just one example of how the proposals are not perfect,’ he said.
While Mr Platts was pleased that deputies supported introducing the proposals in two phases rather than three, another disappointment was the lack of funding to raise awareness of discrimination issues. It is anticipated that the proposals will be a priority for law officers and campaign groups hope to have the legislation back within 18 months.
In the first phase, scheduled to become law in 2022, the characteristics are disability, race, carer status, sexual orientation and religious belief. The second phase in 2024 includes the further grounds of sex and age discrimination, and a principle of equal pay for work of equal value will be introduced from 2027.
LGBTQ+ charity Liberate CEO Ellie Jones was particularly pleased that sexuality had been moved from what was proposed as a phase three issue to phase one.
‘Sexuality was buried in phase three so was going to be stuck on its own without protection for two years, so it was really important for us to make sure that did not happen,’ she said.
‘Also the amendment that will mean same-sex parents can both be named on their children’s birth certificates is really good, it is heartbreaking for parents that Guernsey has lagged behind on legislation of this kind.’
Liberate will now focus on clarifying the difference between biological sex and transgender people for those in the community who often muddle the two.
‘It’s vital now that the next set of deputies after the election in October continue this legislation through and it does not get stuck somewhere in the line. We will be asking all candidates where they stand on these proposals so the electorate can make informed decisions about who should be voted in,’ she said.
Dean of Guernsey the Very Rev. Tim Barker was also delighted that the proposals were supported so overwhelmingly by the majority of deputies.
‘Clearly the devil, as always, is in the details and the churches will need to look closely at what the proposals mean for us practically in terms of religion. I and others will be happy to liaise with law officers to make the law as protective as possible because this is a very momentous, sensitive and long-overdue issue for Guernsey,’ he said.
Mentioning the Black Lives Matter protest last month, Mr Barker said it was good to see just how many people are willing to put the Guernsey Together message into practice.
Guerns Against Discrimination campaigner Lottie Parkes said it was promising to hear a great deal of support for the proposals and the need for education and attitudinal changes in the community.
‘However, it would be unduly complacent to assume that the fight is over; unfortunately, there is still the opportunity for this to be delayed further and we must keep in mind that legislation has not been approved – this has not even been drafted yet and will need approval.’
Unless deputies who pledge to see this through without any further delays are voted in at the upcoming election, then the island will be back to square one, she said.