The long-awaited ordinance is set to finally go before the States next week and would prohibit discrimination on the grounds of a person’s disability, race, carer status, sexual orientation or religious belief.
But it will face a final hurdle, with 11 amendments so far submitted. While most are technical amendments, some would significantly change aspects of the legislation.
Employment & Social Security president Peter Roffey was disappointed to see so many changes proposed but not altogether surprised.
He hoped the States would vote it through relatively unchanged.
But several deputies are pushing for changes.
Deputies Chris Blin and David De Lisle have proposed that small businesses do not have to make changes for a disabled person.
They explained that it would reduce financial pressures for Guernsey’s many locally-owned and managed businesses that they said were too small to absorb the impact of the changes.
‘The idea is that this whole legislation goes beyond what Guernsey has done before, it is far-reaching. This amendment doesn’t mean they would be exempt from all anti-discrimination activities or that they cannot be prosecuted,’ said Deputy Blin.
He said that considering global and local economical pressures it would be a mistake to impose additional financial requirements on small local companies.
‘It might be thought that if there is an exemption that employers won’t want to employ people with disabilities, but that is not true, it just means we are not putting them under additional pressure. It is a case of acting in good faith, Guernsey is a good island. We aren’t saying employers can’t
be prosecuted, it won’t be an opt-out.’
Deputies Nick Moakes and Simon Vermeulen have proposed that maximum compensation payments for injury to feelings be halved to £5,000.
‘It is a fine that applies to everyone, it doesn’t matter if you are a micro business or a large one,’ said Deputy Moakes.
The maximum payment proposed in the legislation is £10,000.
‘It could be catastrophic for small businesses. Everyone wants discrimination legislation, it just has to be proportionate.’
Some nine other amendments have been submitted by deputies, most of which are spelling or technical adjustments, which will be debated at the States meeting next week.
But Deputy Roffey said he was aware of some deputies wanting to water down the legislation.
‘Some of the amendments will really reduce the impact of the law significantly, some are unnecessary and arguing things we thought were quite clear. The five or fewer employees amendment is really going to remove the legislation for a significant portion of the population.’
He said that those who have pressed for the legislation for more than 15 years will feel their goal has not been achieved if significant changes are made to it.
‘I’m hoping the States don’t pull it apart and put it back together to end up pleasing nobody,’ said Deputy Roffey.