The Committee for Employment & Social Security has announced the launch of an Access to Work Scheme.
The Prevention of Discrimination Ordinance, which came into force on 1st October 2023, includes a duty on employers in Guernsey, Herm and Jethou to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled employees.
The idea is that sometimes it is necessary to treat disabled people differently from other people in order for them to have equal opportunities and to be included – this can be achieved by making adjustments in the workplace.
However, the employer does not have to provide the adjustment if it would be a disproportionate burden to do so.
The Access to Work Scheme aims to support disabled people and smaller local businesses where the cost of the adjustment would represent a disproportionate burden by providing grants to fund the purchase of appropriate aids or specialist equipment, software, etc. The grant is capped at £5,000 per person within any period of 12 months.
The Scheme will be funded through the Guernsey Insurance Fund and the Committee is estimating, based on equivalent schemes in similar jurisdictions, that the cost of the Scheme will not exceed £50,000 a year.
Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez, Vice-President of the Committee for Employment & Social Security said: “The main purpose of the Access to Work Scheme is to support an inclusive and diverse workforce for the benefit of both employees and employers. Many workplace adjustments can be made for free or at minimal cost, but some adjustments may be unaffordable for small businesses. In these circumstances, disabled employees, prospective employees and self-employed persons can apply to the Access to Work Scheme for a grant to cover the cost of aids and equipment that would help to reduce or remove a disadvantage.
“This will help to ensure equal employment opportunities for disabled persons across all sizes of business. The reasonable adjustment duty, supported by the provision of the Access to Work Scheme, should help to increase workforce participation by enabling disabled people to enter, remain in and return to employment. This will be of benefit to local businesses and the wider economy at a time when many businesses are struggling to recruit and retain the employees that they need. With more people working, it also means there are more people earning and it reduces their reliance on support from the States.”
Before applying to the Scheme, employees must first ask their employer to make a reasonable adjustment. The employer must then consider whether they can make the adjustment and consult with the individual concerned regarding their needs. If the employer determines that the adjustment would be a disproportionate burden for their business or organisation to make, the employee may apply for a grant through the Access to Work Scheme.