The States of Jersey put in place the final piece of its discrimination legislation in September 2018 with the addition of the protected characteristic of disability.
Disability was the last protected characteristic to be added because it is, arguably, the most complex and requires the greatest adjustment for organisations.
What is protected?
Jersey has opted for a social model rather than a medical model of disability in its law. This means that the number of people covered by the law is wider than in the UK, say, under the Equality Act that uses the medical model.
The social model recognises that a person who has an impairment may at times feel disabled by barriers in society. In other words, it is the barriers that make life harder for disabled people, not their impairment or difference.
Barriers can be physical, like buildings not having accessible toilets, or they can be caused by people’s attitudes to difference, like assuming disabled people can’t do certain things. Removing these barriers creates equality and offers disabled people more independence, choice and control.
The social model also means that we may, at times, all find ourselves disabled by society, for example, as we age and our health declines, or we suffer a serious illness.
The requirement to make reasonable adjustments
In order to remove those social barriers and the disadvantage faced by people with a disability, the law requires organisations to make reasonable adjustments to their physical premises (organisations have until September 2020 to make the necessary changes), to the way they do things called provisions, criteria and practices or PCPs (this is in force immediately), and to the auxiliary aids they need to provide to assist a person with a disability (this is in force immediately).
The people for whom organisations are required to make reasonable adjustments include employees (including potential candidates), customers/clients, suppliers, contractors, volunteers, etc – i.e. anyone who comes into contact with the organisation.
When considering what might be a ‘reasonable’ adjustment for a particular organisation to make the law states that factors to take into account may include:
(a) the extent to which the likelihood of the substantial disadvantage was reasonably foreseeable;
(b) the extent to which any steps would be effective to prevent or remove the substantial disadvantage;
(c) the extent to which any steps would be practical;
(d) the cost of any steps that might be taken;
(e) the extent of the financial, administrative and any other resources available to the organisation, including any provided by a third party, for the purpose of taking any steps; and
(f) characteristics of the organisation such as the nature and size.
The Jersey Employment Trust have produced a guide to answer the frequent questions that employers have when employing people with a disability and also with retaining current employees who may have a disability or long term health condition.
The National Disability Authority has some excellent online resources to help organisations become more accessible. (The NDA is a UK organisation operating under Equality Act jurisdiction, but the priniciples they explain regarding accessibility are relevant to Jersey.)