This is proving to be a significant period in the development of employment law in Jersey. The Discrimination (Jersey) Law 2013 came into force on 1 September 2014, making any form of discrimination against a person based on race illegal. And, just prior to this, the States approved the proposed Employment (Amendment No 8) (Jersey) Law (the "Law") which will introduce more 'family friendly rights' for Jersey employees in late 2015. Key changes under the Law include entitlements to maternity leave, adoption leave, parental leave, and the right to request flexible working hours.
Whilst each area will be discussed in detail below, it is helpful to understand the background.
During the consultation process it was recognised that, over the past 40 years, the amount of women in employment in the Island had increased from 37% to 80%. With more women than ever in full or part time employment, the traditional roles of men and women have changed with more women opting to work through parenthood and, in doing so, finding it difficult to balance the demands of employment with their parental responsibilities. It was further noted that traditional views of women automatically adopting the role of 'stay at home parent' no longer fits in the modernised workplace with many men looking to undertake the role. The Law recognises these changes to the social dynamic and it is hoped that the Law will facilitate a healthier work/life balance and, with it, encourage economic growth given that the Law will forge a path of equality for both parents to make a real choice when considering who should play the role of full time parent.
The consultation process also noted concerns that the proposed entitlements would place a huge burden on small businesses in the Island. It was noted that 75% of local businesses employ less than 6 employees. For businesses of this size, it is foreseeable that dealing with long periods of absence from work, or requests of flexible working hours, may prove difficult. The Law has sought to deal with this concern by allowing businesses, in certain circumstances, to refuse flexible working. Smaller businesses are more likely to satisfy one of the grounds outlined in the Law allowing a request for flexible working to be refused.
Looking at the detail of the Law:
- Compulsory maternity leave is to be introduced - an employee will not be permitted to work during the first 2 weeks immediately following the birth of the child and will be entitled to be remunerated at her normal contractual salary by her employer during this period.
- An employer should be able to deduct the statutory maternity allowance, to which the employee may be entitled, from the amount paid to the employee during the compulsory maternity leave period.
- Entitlement to ordinary maternity leave - all employees will be entitled to 6 weeks' unpaid maternity leave in addition to the compulsory maternity leave although, if they have been continuously employed by the employer for a period of 15 months or more, they will be entitled to 16 weeks' unpaid maternity leave in addition to the compulsory maternity leave.
- Any pregnant employee is entitled to take time off during her normal working hours to attend an appointment for the purpose of receiving ante-natal care. It should be noted that ante-natal care does not extend to ante-natal classes.
- The employee is entitled to be paid for the period of absence at her normal hourly rate.
- All employees will be entitled to receive 8 weeks' unpaid adoption leave and, where an employee has been continuously employed by the employer for more than 15 months, they shall be entitled to receive 18 weeks' unpaid adoption leave.
Parental leave upon birth or adoption
- Employees shall be entitled to 2 weeks' unpaid parental leave following the birth or adoption of a child. The 2 week entitlement can be taken as either 2 separate weeks or taken consecutively, subject to it being within 8 weeks of the birth or adoption of the child.
Entitlement to request flexible working
- Employees may request to change the hours, time and place they are required to work, subject to the reason for the request being to care for another person.
- In order to qualify for this provision, an employee must have been continuously employed by the employer for a period of 15 months or more.
- The employer has the right to refuse a request provided it falls within one of the statutory grounds outlined in the Law. The grounds include:
1. Where the granting of the application would create a burden of additional costs.
2. Where the granting of the application would have a detrimental effect on the quality or performance of the employer's business; or
3. Where there would be insufficient work for the employee to do during the period the employee proposes to work.
It is likely that the Law will come into force on 1 September 2015 which is the date when the Discrimination (Jersey) Law 2013 will be extended to make any form of discrimination on the grounds of sex illegal. It is important that the two laws come into force together and complement each other as sex discrimination has strong links with 'family friendly' employment rights.
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.