Equality at last
THERE was joy and relief among many at the Royal Court yesterday, as the ‘tortuous process’ of introducing discrimination legislation finally concluded, with few significant alterations.
Many in the public gallery, where verbal communications are frowned upon, waved their hands in celebration or hunched forward in relief as the amendment which threatened to bring the most change was roundly defeated.
Deputy Chris Blin’s move to exempt small businesses from having to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate staff and service users who are disabled or are carers, fell by 26 votes to nine at lunchtime.
And then members backed the amended proposals unanimously – 33 votes in support, with seven members absent.
‘The right result was achieved in the end,’ said Guernsey Disability Association founder Rob Platts, ‘but what a tortuous process.’
He is no longer a representative of the GDA, but attended every session of the States meeting with several current members, after having instigated the process that led to yesterday’s approval of the new law.
He supported deputies’ rights to debate whatever they wished, but was dismayed about the late array of amendments to an ordinance which had already been extensively consulted upon, debated and approved at the policy letter stage.
‘It was totally unnecessary,’ he said.
‘Had people paid a bit more attention earlier on, then there would have been no need for this to come to the States.’
Employment & Social Services president Peter Roffey said he was delighted finally to have delivered on making good the many promises that had been made over several years, but he had mixed emotions.
‘I’m really pleased that it’s been delivered at the end of the day, but I can’t help ask myself why it’s so hard in Guernsey to deliver anything that’s remotely socially progressive? Why is it like wading through treacle? Why is there so much resistance?’
Deputy Roffey sought to reassure business owners that ESS would work hard to ensure they were able to adapt to the new law as easily as possible.
‘We’re going to be rolling out training programs, information material and guidance notes that will explain, in extremely simple terms, what the responsibilities of employers and service providers are in this respect,’ he said, ‘but I don’t think there’s anything in this law which good employers won’t be looking to do anyway.’
Towards the end of an often fractious States meeting, Deputy Sasha Kazantseva-Miller paid tribute to some of the key contributors – primarily from the third sector – who had paved the way for the new law to be developed, drafted and finally approved.
Among them were Dave Purdy, Shelaine Green, Karen Blanchford, Carol Le Page, Ellie Jones and Rob Platts.
The new law is expected to come into effect in October next year and will protect islanders from being discriminated against on the grounds of religion, belief, sexuality, race, disability or carer status.