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Working parents law approved

Working parents law approved

Thursday 24 October 2019

Working parents law approved


Proposals to make Jersey workplaces more ‘family-friendly’ has seen off several political challenges in the States Assembly, and succeeded in extending parental leave to 52 weeks for both mothers and fathers.

Having drawn criticism from her fellow politicians and the local business community for her plans to give more rights to working parents, the Minister for Social Security finally managed to get her ‘family-friendly’ legislation passed this morning.

Following a lengthy and divisive debate in the Assembly, Members ultimately decided by 38 votes to six to adopt the Minister’s draft law as every amendment brought to challenge the legislation fell away, one by one. 

The long-awaited plans were criticised by both the Chamber of Commerce, and the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel whose own suggestion to maintain the “status quo” of 26 weeks’ parental leave failed to win a majority.

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Pictured: The law secures equal leave rights for both working parents.

The latest iteration of the ‘family-friendly’ law, revised by Social Security Minister Deputy Judy Martin after she was forced to withdraw her first version back in June, has now been passed by the Assembly.

At the outset of the debate, both Deputies Rowland Huelin and Steve Luce told the Chamber that they would be withdrawing their amendments to the Social Security Minister’s proposition. 

Their changes tried to fight the corner of small businesses, with Deputy Huelin making the case for a minimum 15-month service before an employee could claim the extended leave arrangements, and Deputy Luce suggesting that the GST register would be a useful tool for deciding which businesses could be made exempt from the extended parental leave requirements. 

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Pictured: The law was the subject of a long and divided debate in the Assembly.

Deputy Huelin said he was informed that his amendment, if approved, unintentionally removed the rights of adoptive and surrogate parents and therefore “with respect” to those individuals, he had to withdraw.

Deputy Luce explained that he wasn’t aware that some bigger businesses are also GST-exempt and therefore the register wouldn’t be an effective mechanism for deciding on exclusions for businesses. 

Constable John Le Bailly maintained his amendment which proposed reduced requirements for businesses which employ five or less members of staff.

This was overwhelmingly rejected by the Assembly with just three Members – Senator Sarah Ferguson, Constable Richard Vibert, Deputy Rowland Huelin – and the proposer himself voting in favour of it and 40 against with one abstention from the Constable of St. Brelade Mike Jackson.

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Pictured: Social Security Minister Deputy Judy Martin.

The Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel’s amendment to allow each parent 26 weeks each rather than the Minister’s proposed 52 weeks fell away by 29 votes to 16 in a decision which saw a member of the panel, Deputy Jess Perchard, breaking ranks and voting against the amendment.

This followed the Social Security Minister’s opening speech in which she effectively laid down the gauntlet to Deputy Perchard and her fellow scrutineer Senator Kristina Moore to, given their commitment to gender equality, breastfeeding rights and diversity, have a “vote of conscience” against Scrutiny’s proposed changes to the legislation.

Pending the approval of more funding to secure equal parental benefit for both mothers and fathers being secured in the Government Plan, the Social Security Minister told the Assembly that the new law will be coming into force in June or July next year.

After the Minister's law was approved, Members also agreed a bid by Deputy Louise Doublet to hold a review of the impact on businesses two years after the law comes into force.

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