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Extensions to family friendly employment rights A REPORT BY THE ECONOMIC AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS SCRUTINY PANEL

We are the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel. It's our role to scrutinise Jersey's government on matters of public importance, policy and legislation which falls under this remit.

The Minister for Social Security lodged P.17/2019 on 12th February 2019 which calls to amend the Employment (Jersey) Law 2003 to extend family friendly employment rights. The proposals come as part of the second phase of extensions to the legislation following a recommendation made by the Employment Forum in 2017.

The first phase extensions were brought forward in 2018, when the Employment Law was amended to extend maternity leave from 18 weeks to 26 weeks. The latest set of proposals replaces maternity leave with parental leave and extends leave from 26 weeks to 52 weeks.

The Panel agreed to undertake a review of the proposals following concerns about the effects the changes may have on businesses.

The Panel’s review focussed in particular on the consultation process undertaken by the Employment Forum because this informed the recommendations to extend family friendly employment rights and subsequently the Proposition (P.17/2019). The Panel’s main aim was to ensure that the legislation works well for both families, employers and other employees.

In addition to inviting submissions from key stakeholders and members of the public, the Panel held several public hearings with Ministers, the Employment Forum and other interested parties. The submissions and transcripts can be found on the review page of the States Assembly website.

Under the proposals, 52 weeks of leave would be available to all parents, of which 6 weeks would be paid by the employer.

Parental leave can be taken in up to 4 blocks during a 3 year period and is also available to adoptive and intended surrogate parents.

Female employees would be allowed breaks to breastfeed and employers must take reasonable steps to provide facilities in the workplace.

Female employees would have the right to paid absence where a risk assessment had found that she was unable to carry out her normal job and she cannot be allocated other duties.

This review has uncovered a significant number of concerns from a wide variety of stakeholders including (but not limited to) employers and childcare organisations.

Alongside these concerns, there was support for the underlying principles of the legislation. There are many positive proposals such as breastfeeding rights, and the same rights being applied to adoptive and surrogate parents.

The concerns were mainly around the parental leave aspects of the legislation and the paid leave element funded by the employer.

The Panel found that the impact would be felt most greatly by employers:

  • The 6 weeks paid element of parental leave funded by the employer will be financially unviable for some businesses;
  • The 46 weeks unpaid element of parental leave, which can be taken in 4 blocks over 3 years, will cause disruption, staffing issues and increase costs for some businesses;
  • Although the proposals may provide certain benefits to employers including enhancing reputation and maximising the workforce, they may also increase the cost of employment in Jersey;
  • The cumulative effect of regulation over the years has created financial and administrative implications for employers which has effected the economy.

The Panel considered all of the concerns received during the review and has called for a number of amendments to be made to the draft Law.

  1. To remove the proposed Articles on parental leave;
  2. To amend the Article on the blocks of leave to include an element of conversation for the second and third blocks of leave (as amended by the Minister for Social Security);
  3. To increase the notice periods an employee must give to their employer to vary their parental leave dates.

As a result of the Panel's line by line legislative scrutiny of the draft Law, the Panel has made two additional amendments:

  1. Amending the definition of surrogate parents;
  2. Amendment to include an offence of making false statements.

If legislative changes are going to be based on consultation, there must be evidence that the process gathered meaningful participation from all relevant stakeholders. Without this evidence, the Panel has found that the legislation proposed by the Minister (P.17/2019) was based on a consultation process which was not as thorough as it could have been.

The Panel concludes that, although there are many positive elements to the extensions to family friendly rights, there are a number of issues with the practical implementation of some of the proposed changes.

It is hoped that the findings and recommendations made in our report, as well as our proposed amendments, will assist the Minister in producing revised proposals for parental leave that works well for all.

The Proposition is due to be debated on the 18th June. During the debate, the Assembly will also consider the amendments lodged by the Panel (and the amendments lodged by the Minister and other States Members).

Panel Membership

Deputy Kirsten Morel (Chair), Deputy David Johnson (Vice-Chair), Senator Kristina Moore and Deputy Jess Perchard

Credits:

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