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Home  »   Latest News   »   Equality law is a step forward for pharmacists in Guernsey, but UK may go backwards

Equality law is a step forward for pharmacists in Guernsey, but UK may go backwards

Channel Isle moves further towards introduction of equality protection for working people, as their legislature, the States of Guernsey, rejects an attempt to water down the scope of the protections.

Wed 5th October 2022 The PDA

Guernsey politicians will soon get a final vote on introducing the island’s long-awaited discrimination law. It would be illegal to discriminate against someone because of their race, disability, carer status, sexual orientation, or religious belief in employment if approved.

A previous attempt by business representatives to further delay the legislation was rejected earlier this year. A majority of the island’s governing body has now voted against a further controversial amendment that would have allowed Guernsey businesses with five employees or fewer to discriminate without breaking the law.

That was hopefully the final attempt to block, delay, or water down the new law and it should now proceed. The introduction of equality protection will be a welcome addition to rights at work for pharmacists, their colleagues, and all working people on the island. The law will come into effect on 1 October 2023.

Those PDA members working in the United Kingdom may not have realised that, until now, discriminatory behaviour by employers in Guernsey relating to the characteristics listed above may not be unlawful. It is a timely reminder that the majority of the UK equality law, which some may take for granted, has only been in force for a relatively short period of time too, and some people would like to see them removed.

Many UK laws only came into force during the lifetime of many PDA members. For example, The Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations came into force as recently as 1 July 2000. Whilst there were already Acts criminalising discrimination against sex and race, it was not until the Equality Act 2010 that all protected characteristics were included in one piece of legislation.

Prior to 1970, employment rights, such as equal pay and rights between men and women, did not exist at all and it was not unlawful in the UK to discriminate. These laws were principally fought for by trade unions working together, nationally and internationally, to outlaw bad employment practices. They cannot be taken for granted and are not set in stone, so it is essential that these rights are actively protected.

As Guernsey employment rights advance, UK rights may retreat

Worryingly, the Westminster government’s Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, published on 22 September of this year, has opened the way for the removal of many employment rights derived from the EU, which have provided protection for the UK’s working population for the last 50 years.

All EU-derived subordinate legislation and retained directly applicable EU legislation is to be revoked automatically from the end of 2023. The only exceptions will be where areas are specified in regulations made by a minister or devolved authority.

So, unless specific provisions are made to retain them, the protections and rights at work that could be removed in the UK under this proposed new UK law include:

  • TUPE.
  • Working Time Regulations.
  • Some parental leave rights.
  • Some aspects of equal pay for equal work.
  • Some other health and safety regulations.

Just as trade unions lead the fight to secure these laws, trade unions will now fight to retain them. Trade union members, including PDA members, will need to support those campaigns if they are to succeed in retaining the hard won rights that we enjoy today.

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