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ESS working at pace to develop equality law and create Equality and Rights Organisation

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Friday 09 November 2018

The Committee for Employment & Social Security has confirmed that work to develop an Equality Law, and the creation of an Equality and Rights Organisation for the Bailiwick, will continue apace following confirmation regarding the future funding for the work.

President of Employment & Social Security, Deputy Michelle Le Clerc, said:

"Following the publication of the 2019 Budget, our Committee contacted the Policy & Resources Committee to seek urgent assurances that funding for the new Equality and Rights Organisation will be made available during 2019, once the States have approved our final plans. We were pleased to receive that assurance from both Deputy St Pier and the States' Treasurer, and we hope to come forward with our plans in the spring."

In the closing speech of the four-day debate on the 2019 States' Budget, Deputy Gavin St Pier, President of the Policy & Resources Committee, reconfirmed his Committee's support for the delivery of the Disability and Inclusion Strategy.

The Committee for Employment & Social Security continues to progress its work and held a workshop on Friday, together with a small group of stakeholders, to work through some key questions relating to the forthcoming Equality legislation. Participants explored how it would fit with existing laws and processes regarding employment matters (e.g. discrimination in the workplace, unfair dismissal, and the like), and the range and type of awards that might be appropriate both as restitution for those wronged, and deterrence for those who wrong others.

The workshop was one of a series of events and other engagement opportunities that the Committee is running throughout the winter of 2018 and early spring of 2019, as its work on the development of Equality legislation ramps up. These range from the public consultation on Sex Discrimination (which has just closed) to specialist workshops on technical aspects of the law. They run alongside the work led by Dr Shivaun Quinlivan and Dr Lucy-Ann Buckley at NUI Galway, who are putting together proposals for Guernsey's law based on the Australian and Irish non-discrimination laws. The findings from ESS's consultations and workshops will help to ensure that the law is properly tailored to the Guernsey context.

The Committee has confirmed that it aims to bring final proposals for Guernsey's new Equality and Rights Organisation to the States in the first quarter of 2019. The organisation, which was promised in the Disability and Inclusion Strategy, will be set up to advise businesses and employers, as well as individuals, in relation to human rights, equality and non-discrimination, as well as to monitor Guernsey's compliance with our commitment with agreed international standards. 2

The Committee has underlined its commitment to getting the organisation up and running well before any new law comes into force, as it believes that it is absolutely necessary to ensure that service providers, employers and businesses are prepared and supported in advance, so that they are able to experience the positive benefits of diversity and inclusion (benefits that range from greater workplace wellbeing and productivity to increased activity in the local economy, boosting businesses' bottom line).

Deputy Le Clerc said:

"Delivering Equality legislation for Guernsey is one of ESS's flagship commitments for the second part of the States' term, and we are fighting for it every step of the way. For me, it's especially important to ensure that we get our Equality and Rights Organisation started during 2019, so that businesses and employers don't feel daunted by the new law, and anyone who wants to can draw on its help and advice. We are continuing to make good progress, and will come back to the States with our recommendations as soon as we can."

Alan Brown, Chair of the Equality Working Group, which represents a number of organisations concerned with non-discrimination and equality, said:

"Members of the Equality Working Group were extremely concerned by the apparent lack of support in the budget report for the establishment of an Equality Rights Organisation. The formation of an E.R.O. in advance of the implementation of equality legislation is of critical importance to enable independent advice and support to be given to businesses, the public sector and third sector organisations as well as the wider community.

"We are pleased that the Committee for Employment and Social Security have received assurances that funding will be available during 2019 once the Committee's plans are approved by the States. The EWG remains committed to working with the Committee and other stakeholders on the development of the proposals for the ERO and for equality legislation."

Rob Platts, founder of the Guernsey Disability Alliance, said:

"The GDA Executive and members shared the Committee for Employment and Social security's concerns over the budget's apparent failure to fund the ERO project. The establishment of this organisation is vital both to the success of the coming discrimination legislation and to the States delivering its commitment to fairness and equality of opportunity. We have gained some comfort from the assurances given by P&R but remain concerned that this further hiccough in the equality program was not sufficiently explained or communicated."

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