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Minister to lodge law to protect against disability discrimination

29 January 2018

The Minister for Social Security will lodge this week draft Regulations that would protect people against disability discrimination in Jersey from 1 September 2018.

Around 14,000 Jersey residents - 14% of the population - identify themselves as disabled according to the Jersey Health and Life Opportunities Survey for 2015. 

Extending the law to protect against disability discrimination will help to reach one of the goals of the States Strategic Plan, to “help people in Jersey achieve and maintain financial independence and safeguard the most vulnerable in the community.” The Law is one element of the Disability Strategy for Jersey, launched by the Chief Minister in May 2017, which aims to ensure that people living with disabilities in Jersey have a good quality of life and to reduce inequality.

Protection against disability discrimination is the latest step in a project that has introduced important new social rights for people in Jersey over the past 5 years, starting with race discrimination in 2013, sex discrimination in 2014 and age discrimination in 2015. At each stage, the legislation has been widely supported.

Members of the public were invited to consider the Minister’s latest proposals during September to November last year. Stakeholders were asked to comment on how we should define ‘disability’, whether any exceptions should be made and a requirement for physical adjustments to premises. The consultation outcomes are summarised in a report that will also be presented to the States Assembly this week.

Minister for Social Security, Deputy Susie Pinel, said: “We held a number of public consultation meetings last year, which were very well attended, and we received some detailed written comments on our proposals. I am very grateful to everyone who submitted their views as part of our consultation.  There is clearly support for the approach that we have taken in the Regulations.

As I anticipated, one of the most complex issues has been the definition of disability. We spoke to representatives of particular groups and members of the disabled community and some small changes have been made to clarify and improve the definition to reflect the feedback we received. Our definition is broad and inclusive and I am satisfied that it provides an appropriate balance.”

The consultation also sought comments on the duty that would be placed on employers and service providers to take reasonable steps to ensure that disadvantage is removed. This would apply in relation to policies and practices (for example, a strict absence from work policy), auxiliary aids (for example, no hearing loop) and in relation to the physical features of premises (for example, narrow doorways). The law gives businesses extra time – until September 2020 - to plan any changes that may be needed make their premises more accessible. 

Deputy Pinel said: “All of us are likely to be affected by disability at some point in our lives, be it personally, or in relation to a family member, friend or colleague. Our aim is to remove obstacles and barriers placed in the way of disabled people.  Many people automatically think of installing ramps and lifts. Improving the accessibility of buildings is important, but there are many other reasonable adjustments that can be made that are cheap and easy to implement. I was very impressed with recent ‘quiet hour’ initiative taken up by the Co-op in conjunction with local charity Autism Jersey. This is the sort of effective but inexpensive step that can improve the lives of disabled people in Jersey.

I had given a commitment to introduce protection against disability discrimination this year and I am pleased that we are on track to achieve this.”

The draft Disability Discrimination Regulations will be debated by the States Assembly at the States sitting of 20 March 2018 and if approved, will come into force (partly) on 1 September 2018. Advice and guidance will be provided by the Jersey Advisory and Conciliation Service and Citizens Advice Jersey.  Free public training courses are available from JACS. 

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