ESS sends 28-page briefing note to persuade deputies

EMPLOYMENT & Social Security has made a final attempt to persuade deputies to back its discrimination legislation.

Employment & Social Security president Deputy Peter Roffey. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 31312478)
Employment & Social Security president Deputy Peter Roffey. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 31312478)

It has written to all States members to explain in detail its opposition to several of the amendments, which are set to be debated today.

The amendments themselves are out of the ordinary, having been placed at the ‘legislation for approval’ stage of the parliamentary process, which rarely attracts any debate.

The 28-page ESS briefing note went out to all deputies on Monday evening, placing its responses to each of the 11 amendments that had been laid up until that time into the categories of ‘support’, ‘neutral’, ‘oppose’ and ‘strongly oppose’.

In common with the Guernsey Disability Alliance, ESS supports the first two amendments- to correct a typo and include belief systems alongside religious beliefs in the legislation.

It reserves its strongest opposition to amendments four and 11 – both laid by Deputy John Dyke – and amendment eight, laid by Deputy Chris Blin.

Deputy Blin’s attempt, supported by Deputy David De Lisle, would exempt businesses employing five or fewer staff from any requirement to avoid discriminating against carers or accommodating the needs of people with disabilities. ESS took four pages to outline its opposition.

It points out that the amendment would ‘have a very significant impact’ on the effectiveness of the new legislation, as 65% of Guernsey businesses have between one and five employees. Evidence is also given regarding the ‘usually modest’ financial burdens faced by businesses in jurisdictions which have already adopted similar legislation.

Deputy Dyke’s amendment four seeks to avoid unintended consequences relating to the definition of contracts for services, such as hiring a plumber to fix a boiler. ESS argued the amendment itself will have negative repercussions by developing an inconsistency in the way such contracts are defined in separate Guernsey laws.

His amendment 11, if approved, would limit compensation for the victimisation of those making discrimination complaints. ESS warned that companies already engaged in harassing complainants will face no further consequences if the amendment goes through. It also advised that it will lay a new amendment of its own in order to provide further clarity.

Another new amendment will be introduced by ESS regarding the rights of homeowners to choose who they take in as lodgers. This is in response to amendment 10 from Deputy Sam Haskins, which seeks to free owners of households with rented-out rooms from the effects of the discrimination legislation where it is aimed at multiple-occupancy accommodation and guest houses. ESS has thanked Deputy Haskins for identifying a need for more clarity but wants to bring in an amendment with its own wording.

Amendments by Deputies Peter Ferbrache and Aidan Matthews have been put in the ‘neutral’ category, having been deemed by ESS to be unnecessary.

The States meeting gets under way at the Royal Court at 9.30am, with debate on the discrimination ordinance likely to begin late in the morning session.

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