Discrimination in Jersey on the grounds of race is now unlawful.

Jersey's new Race Discrimination Law has come into force today (1 September).

The legislation has a very wide ambit in that it covers paid employment but also training, voluntary work, education, provision of goods or services, letting of property, partnerships and clubs.

You'll be aware that it is no longer lawful to discriminate on the basis of skin colour.

However, the definition of race is much wider than just colour and includes ethnic and national origins. This means that it will no longer be possible to treat foreign nationals or people with different national origins less favourably than locals.

The main exception is where the discrimination is allowed under some other piece of legislation such as the Control of Housing and Work Law.

It is not just discrimination against foreign nationals that are covered. The law specifically provides that discrimination on the grounds of Jersey origin is also prohibited. This means that prejudice against locals in employment and in the provision or goods and services is outlawed.

Discrimination in this context includes the application of an apparently neutral criterion that has a disproportionate and negative impact on people of a particular national origin.

Employers should take care with 'word of mouth' recruitment referral schemes where the existing workforce does not reflect the national demographic of the rest of the Island. Similarly, employers should be careful to avoid stereotyping national groups as having particular employment traits.

The Employment and Discrimination Tribunal will have the power to award damages up to £10,000, so breaches of the law could be a costly mistake.

We recommend that you take steps to ensure racism is not expressed in the workplace and that it is not within your firm's culture for racial discrimination to take place.

For example, don't leave it to the employee who is the butt of discriminatory jokes to say it is unacceptable. Create a culture where diversity is respected and people speak out if they feel that a colleague is uncomfortable with they way they are being treated.

Although the law comes into effect today - and so only instances of discrimination taking place after today would be brought to the new Employment and Discrimination Tribunal - you should be aware that opinions expressed prior to that date may well be taken into account as evidence of a discriminatory culture.

Work-related social events could be a minefield, as the liability of an employer may be extended outside formal working hours and premises. 

Jersey's Discrimination legislation, which begins with Race on 1 September, will be followed by Gender (including maternity and flexible working) in September 2015, then age and disability at a later date.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.