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Key Issues For New Guernsey Discrimination Law Emerge in Walkers' Equality Awareness Series

Walkers' four-part Equality Awareness series has covered the key issues facing Island employers and HR teams in light of the proposed introduction of the new multi-ground discrimination law.

If enacted, the new law will see Guernsey moving from three protected grounds (sex, marital status and gender reassignment) to 10 - age, carer status, disability, marital status, pregnancy or maternity status, race, religious belief, sex, sexual orientation and trans status.  This would be a big step that would have an impact on every Guernsey employer, so Walkers' employment law team was expecting significant interest in the series.

We were delighted with the level of engagement that we had, with audiences growing progressively larger throughout the series, and some insightful discussions and questions from attendees.

Thanks to everyone for attending, and specifically thanks to everyone for their questions and input through the sessions.

The key talking points, in no particular order, are:

  • There has been concern raised about the breadth of the definition of “disability” by many employers and how the definition of “disability” will also impact on the definition of “carer”.  In addition, the proposal that "carer" will include all parents of children under 18 has raised questions around the very wide scope of protection being proposed. These are the areas we can expect to see more commentary on as the consultation responses are analysed and proposals for the legislation developed. In the meantime we would recommend that employers take the opportunity to review their policies and procedures in respect of recruitment, attendance, sickness absence and capability and also consider their approach to flexible working requests.
  • Employers are also looking for guidance on the proposed duty to make appropriate adjustments for a disabled employee. This is an area where a Code of Practice will be helpful to give employers further guidance. Employers are likely to need to work closely with Occupational Health teams for advice and should review their contracts and policies to ensure there is provision to refer an employee for a medical assessment if required.
  • The proposals in respect of equal pay for work of equal value are complex and currently relate to all 10 proposed protected grounds (unlike the UK where this relates only to sex). It may be that this is one part of the proposed legislation where implementation is delayed giving employers time to prepare. Steps that employers can take now include reviewing their pay structures and pay review processes to identify any pay discrepancies and ensuring these can be justified and, if necessary, addressed going forwards.
  • With the likely introduction of age discrimination, employers with contractual retirement ages should review these to consider if this age can be objectively justified. It is unclear at this stage what approach the States may take to age related provisions in employee benefits and pension schemes, although certain exceptions are included in the proposals such as allowing employers to fix an admission age to a scheme or to fix the age from which a benefit can be taken.  Reviewing your schemes for any existing age related provisions will help you understand if any changes may need to be made or if an exception might apply.
  • Having different legislation in Guernsey and Jersey will, for some pan-Island employers, be a challenge. Educating your employees (particularly your managers and directors who have pan-Island responsibilities) and ensuring your policies are appropriate for both Islands will be key.
  • The current limits on compensation awards in discrimination cases – currently fixed at three months' pay - are being reviewed as part of the current discrimination legislation consultation process. A dual-award structure based on financial loss and injury to feelings has been proposed which will almost certainly have a financial impact on employers, even if claims are resolved on an informal basis. Employers who review their internal practices and culture and prepare for the incoming legislation in advance to address any improper behaviour will be putting their organisation in the best place to minimise their risk and exposure to these type of complaints and consequent awards.
  • The infrastructure in Guernsey needed to support the proposed legislation will need developing and funding. The possible introduction of an Equality and Rights Organisation (ERO) is being considered. How the ERO works alongside the Employment Relations Service (ERS) and the Employment and Discrimination Tribunal will, in our view, be key to achieving the objectives of the legislation. In addition, employers will need to have access to an adequately resourced and appropriately experienced Occupational Health service in order to receive proper guidance on making appropriate adjustments.

The next development that we expect to see is a report summarising the responses received to the recent consultation which is expected in December. This will be followed by the publication in March 2020 of the Committee for Employment and Social Security’s policy letter setting out the proposals for the new law which will then be debated by the States in April 2020. 

Please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss any of the points above or those that we have covered in our training series.

House of Commons Adviser On Sexual Harassment To Speak At Walker's Conference On Workplace Culture

A conference in Jersey and Guernsey in November will explore workplace culture from the perspective of employment law specialists in both Islands.

Walkers is holding the conference in Jersey on Tuesday 12 November and in Guernsey the following day, to examine workplace culture, and specifically what it means, why it matters and what it can cost employers if it goes wrong.

Employment law specialists from Walkers' Jersey, Guernsey and Ireland offices will speak at the event – along with Clare Murray, managing partner of CM Murray LLP and specialist adviser to the House of Commons Women & Equalities Committee in respect of its Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Inquiry.

Partner Louise Hall, who leads Walkers' Channel Islands employment law team, said: "A lot of what is said and written about workplace culture is vague and hard to define, but there are very real and practical implications when it goes wrong, which HR teams and in-house lawyers have to deal with every day.

"This event is all about the intersection between workplace culture and the various stands of employment law, and we are particularly pleased to have Clare Murray joining us to share her experiences as specialist adviser to the House of Commons inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace.

"We have tailored this event not just at the HR professionals and General Counsel who deal with workplace culture issues, but also senior leaders and directors who need a clearer idea of where this issue as a whole sits on their risk registers."

The events are free, anyone interested can contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to attend.

The events take place at:

·         8 am, Tuesday, 12 November 2019 - Rocco Tower Radisson Blu, Jersey
·         8 am, Wednesday, 13 November 2019 - Duke of Richmond Hotel, Guernsey

Guernsey's Captive Insurance Offering Gains Traction In Chinese Market

Guernsey's profile as a key captive insurance jurisdiction for Chinese clients continues to build, says Walkers partner Kate Storey after a six-day visit to Shanghai to coincide with We Are Guernsey's Shanghai Masterclass 2019, at which she presented on regulation of Guernsey captives.

Kate was talking to clients in Shanghai alongside Charles Scott, managing director of insurance manager ARM, and says that a combination of factors including international co-operation agreements are facilitating the growth of the Guernsey captive insurance product with Chinese clients.

"What sets us apart is that we are the no.1 captive domicile in Europe and for Chinese businesses looking to expand into Europe, we are the best location to set up their captive," said Kate.

"Proximity to London is a selling point, as is Guernsey's international reputation as a highly regarded legal and regulatory environment, and the high quality of professional services available within the jurisdiction.

"Another distinguishing factor is the existing co-operation agreements between Guernsey and China - since March 2017 there have been agreements in place between the Guernsey Financial Services Commission and the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, and between Guernsey Finance and key business hub, the Beijing Airport Economic Core Zone."

Statistics released recently by We Are Guernsey showed that Guernsey remains Europe’s leading centre for captive insurance, responsible for more than a third of the European captives market.

The Island has also been nominated for Domicile of the Year in the 2019 UK & European Captive Review Awards, at which Kate is also the only lawyer in the shortlist for Captive Service Professional of the Year.

"The key questions from the people I was meeting and speaking to in Shanghai were about Brexit and the benefits of the Guernsey model," said Kate.

"The message that we're not directly affected by Brexit because we are not part of the UK was positively received – as was the message about the cost effectiveness, speed of set up and proportionate risk-based regulation of the Guernsey captive.

"The fact that entrepreneurs can set up captives to be owned by a trust arrangement for the benefit of their family members – that was of interest to the audience, who were a mix of business owners and private wealth professionals.

"Their evident interest and familiarity with Guernsey's offering is in no small part due to the commitment of ARM who have been going out to China for several years building visibility and relationships, as well as the massive efforts and professionalism of Wendy Weng, who heads We Are Guernsey's representative office in China."

Walkers, which has a thriving Hong Kong office, is proud to have been awarded Offshore Law Firm of the Year at the China Law & Practice Awards 2019 held in Beijing last month.

Walkers Supporting Junior Triathletes in Guernsey

Walkers' Guernsey is supporting the next generation of Guernsey triathletes with new kit for the 40 youngsters aged between six and 15 taking up the sport in a new club.

Sponsorship provided by the firm has helped subsidise the cost of triathlon suits, swim caps and tracksuit tops for the young athletes in the newly formed Guernsey Tribe Juniors club.

The club's training sessions run in line with school terms throughout the year.

Sam Shires, a partner at Walkers and also a keen triathlete, said that the firm was pleased to get behind the increasingly popular sport.

Sam said: "We're delighted to get behind the Tribe – Guernsey is just such a perfect place to get into the sport of triathlon, and the younger that people get involved, the better.

"There is an element of competition in triathlon, but it's mainly about competition with yourself and constantly trying to improve in a supportive environment.  You also learn the importance of self-discipline and being well organised.

"It's great to be able to help the junior side of the sport – we hope that they continue to expand, and we look forward to continuing our support  as the Tribe continues to get more and more popular!"

And Walkers' donation has been welcomed by Laura Fry, Director of Try a Tri Guernsey, and Head Coach of the Guernsey Tribe Juniors team.

She said: “As part of Try A Tri Guernsey’s wider mission to make triathlon more inclusive for all ages, having the support from Walkers for Tribe Juniors has meant that we’ve been able to create a real sense of identity for the club without creating financial barriers for parents. We love seeing kids of all ages and abilities wearing their club kit around the Island and to all of the Tribe Juniors sessions and know they really feel part of something unique.”

The club, formed in January 2019, is currently fully subscribed but is hoping to offer more spaces to children aged six to 15 once more volunteer support has been recruited.  In the meantime, anyone interested is urged to join the Club’s mini duathlon events taking place this November and can find all information on Tribe Juniors Facebook page @GuernseyTribeJuniors

Walkers (London) ranked top tier for BVI and Cayman law by both Chambers and Legal 500

Walkers (London based) BVI and Cayman law teams have been ranked in the very top tier by both Chambers and Legal 500 (2019/20 editions).

Chambers has confirmed Walkers position in tier 1 for both BVI and Cayman law advice and (for the third year running) selecting BVI and Cayman finance partner Jack Boldarin as the leading BVI lawyer in the City, placing him as the sole practitioner in the top tier.

Jack is also ranked for Cayman law advice, alongside partners Hughie Wong and John O'Driscoll.

Client feedback for the Walkers team reflects the quality of the team's work and advice:

  • Jack Boldarin is described as "highly experienced, responsive and a pleasure to work with".
  • Funds specialist Hughie Wong is described as "a true class act who is bright and has a great, detailed knowledge. He is commercial, practical and a pleasure to deal with".
  • Insolvency and Dispute Resolution partner John O'Driscoll is described as "very well networked, good on strategy, commercial and pragmatic".

Jack Boldarin, managing partner of Walkers' London office, said: "We are pleased to see further independent feedback that confirms our position at the very top of the London market for offshore legal advice".

"Our team of London-based BVI and Cayman law specialists continues to grow with the appointment of Risk & Regulatory partner Sara Hall and Banking & Finance partner Mark Galazzi, as we continue to see demand for time zone-critical offshore service here in London".

Walkers' Jersey Team Advises on £205 Million Financing of Student Housing

Walkers' Jersey office has advised on the Jersey law aspects of the refinancing of a major portfolio of premium UK student accommodation.

A team led by partner Nigel Weston advised Singapore Press Holdings Limited on the £205 million refinancing of a portfolio of 20 purpose-built student accommodation buildings across eight cities including London, Glasgow, Bristol and Birmingham.

The Walkers team included senior counsel Louise Hamilton, senior associate Bella Ward and associate Meg McAuley, working with lead counsel CMS.

Interest in UK student accommodation assets has held up in the face of Brexit, and the deal is another example of investors focusing on real estate in the regions outside of London.

Nigel said: "We see significant interest from Asian investors in UK real estate assets, but while the high profile deals that attract most attention tend to relate to ultra-high value commercial property in the City, the interest goes far beyond that – and student accommodation in the regions is a good example of an area where a lot of deals go unremarked.

"We are very pleased to have advised on another deal of this kind, and to have had the opportunity to work with Caryn Penley and the team at CMS to bring this matter to a successful conclusion on behalf of our clients."