Calls to make small businesses exempt from Guernsey anti-discrimination law thrown out

Deputies voted 26-9 against the controversial 'Amendment 8' which would have made small businesses exempt. Credit: ITV Channel Television

Guernsey politicians have rejected calls to make small businesses exempt from the island's new anti-discrimination law.

If approved, it will make it illegal to discriminate against someone on the grounds of their sexual orientation, race, disability, carer status or religious beliefs.

A controversial amendment proposed by Deputy Chris Blin would have allowed Guernsey businesses with five employees or fewer not to comply with the law.

He argued those businesses - which make up around two thirds of all local firms - would be "too small to absorb the impact of the changes".

Similar anti-discrimination legislation came into force in the United Kingdom in 2010, and in Jersey in 2013.

They do not permit any exemptions, enshrining an individual's "protected characteristics" in law.

Campaigners against Deputy Blin's bill - Amendment 8 - argued he hadn't consulted the people the new law sets out to protect, calling it "a disgrace that shames the island".

More than 1,300 islanders signed an online petition from the equality charity, Liberate, calling for it to be withdrawn.

Campaigners protested against any further delays or 'watering down' of Guernsey's anti-discrimination law. Credit: ITV Channel Television

The debate on Amendment 8 began on Thursday afternoon (29 September) but ran on into a second day.

Deputies eventually voted 26-9 against Deputy Blin's amendment. Four States members were absent and one abstained.

It means that if the full Prevention of Discrimination Ordinance is voted through, there won't be any exemptions and all Guernsey businesses will have to comply.

Industry leaders previously wrote to Guernsey's Employment and Social Security Committee asking for a 12 to 18-month delay to the law being brought in, arguing firms needed more time to make the "reasonable adjustments" it requires.

The debate on whether to introduce the long-awaited anti-discrimination law in the States continues.