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08 October 2020
Responding to legal change is rarely straightforward; it absorbs management time and operating budget. For employers, amendments to labour legislation often have a significant impact, even in the healthiest economic circumstances.
Planning and adjusting to the impact of COVID-19 has undoubtedly affected many businesses in the Channel Islands. Recovery will take time. However, an amendment to the Discrimination (Jersey) Law 2013 came into force on 1 September 2020, and businesses in Jersey will need to react.
Jersey's discrimination legislation has been extended so that businesses, service providers and those managing and letting premises must take reasonable steps to avoid disadvantaging people with disabilities in relation to the accessibility of their premises.
Numerous measures can be taken to avoid substantial disadvantage. These can include removing a physical feature, altering it or providing reasonable means of avoiding it. Physical features of premises include the design and construction of buildings, entrances and exits, fixtures, fittings and furnishings. For example, adjustments that property managers and landlords might consider for existing and prospective tenants include widening doorways or installing access ramps or stairlifts.
This law change is for the benefit of employees, customers, clients and tenants, but it also means that businesses and premises will be more accessible to the thousands of people in Jersey who have a disability, increasing the number of people who can use their services.
While business and service providers are likely to still be facing challenges relating to COVID-19, there are positive actions that can reasonably be taken.
An access audit could be a helpful first step to improving accessibility and provide a basis for planning access improvements. An initial review of premises could even be undertaken virtually.
An access audit will identify current accessibility and areas that could be improved, as well as advising on facilities management (eg, use of lighting and signage). Jersey businesses and service providers should prepare a list of what is practically achievable and then prioritise the positive changes that they can make now that the law is in force.
For further information on this topic please contact Helen Ruelle, Jonathan Hughes, Will Austin-Vautier or Kate Morel at Ogier by telephone (+44 1481 721 672) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Ogier website can be accessed at www.ogier.com.
Rachel DeSanges, head of employment, Sarah Parish, senior associate and Laura Shirreffs, associate, contributed to the preparation of this article.
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