Would you say that the expression, “she’s having a blonde moment,” was discriminatory? A packed audience for Law at Work’s (LAW) breakfast briefing at the Pomme d’Or this morning heard that it might be, if someone found it to be offensive. The new regulations covering sex and related characteristics come into force in Jersey on the 1st September this year, and the LAW team briefed the audience on what to expect, how to prepare for it, and gave examples of the sorts of situations which might be covered.
Their advice was for businesses to review all their policies to make sure that they are still fit for purpose under the new regime and, if any were found to be deficient, to come up with an action plan as soon as possible.
LAW’s Technical Director, Sharon Peacock, noted that much of the media comment had so far focused on banter in the workplace and breast-feeding in public, but the new regulations were much broader than that, and employers needed to make themselves aware of what will be covered.
It will become illegal to discriminate on the grounds of sex or related characteristics, with discrimination being direct, indirect, victimization or harassment.
Some discrimination will be obvious, but Sharon pointed out that there are more difficult problems within the law for employers – for example, it will become illegal to routinely turn down applications for flexible working for a female employee to help with child-care, unless the employer can show a valid business case supporting their decision. The same applies for an application to extend maternity leave.
Equally, employers can be liable for discrimination which takes place outside of the workplace, for example at a Christmas party, if the activity has been organized by the employer.
Here’s Sharon explaining the penalties of breaching the law:
The briefing was part of a day of workshops organized by the LAW team to help make sure local businesses are fully aware of, and able to comply with, their new responsibilities.