All businesses in the Isle of Man need to be prepared for new, far reaching social legislation that aims to ensure fair and equal treatment for all.
The Equality Bill 2016 will create rights in the Isle of Man where it will be unlawful for anyone to discriminate on the grounds of age, disability, gender re-assignment, race, religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation and discrimination. This legislation will apply to the provision of goods and services, when exercising a public function and in employment.
Direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation will be prohibited by the Bill, which covers contract workers, employees, partnerships, personal and public (including local government) appointments, qualifications bodies, employment agencies and trade organisations.
As this is one of the Isle of Man’s major pieces of legislation when enacted later this year, all businesses need to review existing practices, policies and contractual arrangements. Manx Companies, including public bodies, must be in a position to comply with the new requirements, which includes the following:
Under the Equality Bill, individuals will have a right to continue work until they retire voluntarily or they are no longer capable of carrying out their job duties to an appropriate standard. Unless there is a policy in place spelling out a legitimate aim, e.g. succession planning, employers are no longer able to dictate a compulsory retirement age for staff.
There is also a restriction on the questions that are allowed to be asked of the applicant prior to an offer of employment being made. Employers will no longer be able to enquire about the health of an applicant unless it falls into an exception of this prohibition. However, employers should be aware that exceptions to this restriction are narrow.
The Gender Gap and Equal Work
The Bill has introduced the concept of ‘equal pay for equal value’ whereby it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate between men and women in terms of their pay. This clause will apply where a woman is employed in ‘work rated equivalent’ to that of a man in the same employment (or vice versa). To allow employers the opportunity to review pay structures, there will be a minimum two year lead in period after the Bill receives Royal Assent.
Aside from equal pay, women will be further protected under the new maternity pay requirements. This will mean any pay increase a woman receives must be included in the calculation of her maternity-related pay. In addition, once she returns to work, any pay increase which she would have received if she had not been on statutory maternity leave must be taken into account.
There is a duty for employers to make reasonable adjustments for persons with disability and under the Equality Bill this may include obesity, depression and diabetes. Although these are not conditions that are ordinarily classed as disabilities, employers may well be required to prevent those persons from being discriminated against in the workplace.
Prohibited conduct includes harassment and victimisation where it makes the workplace an offensive or threatening place to work for any employee, whether they’re male or female.
The Bill also contains express provisions with regard to occupational pension schemes which will be taken to include non-discrimination and sex equality rules.
The Act will also make changes in other areas, in particular:
Control of Employment Act 2014
The definition of “Manx worker” under this Act and the availability of spouse/civil partner permits will be extended to make the Isle of Man more attractive to workers and increase the size of the working population.
The Redundancy Payments Act 1990
The Act will be amended to clarify that redundancy payments will not be made where there is a service transfer in which an employee of the old contractor is employed by a new contractor on the same terms, but payment may be due if the terms are different.
To give employers the best possible chance of complying with the new obligations, the Government has promised that a two year lead-time will be allowed to become familiar with its provisions from the date on which the Bill becomes an Act.
It has been indicated that the new Act will increase productivity and reduce dependency on the state by assisting disabled people to contribute more fully in employment, older people to continue working longer and to reduce the gender pay gap.