Jersey's Scrutiny Panels deliver two reports in two days – seasonal workers and gender pay gap
13 April 2022
It's been a busy week for Jersey's Scrutiny Panels, with the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel releasing its report examining the employment of seasonal workers in the agricultural industry on 12 April 2022, and the Gender Pay Gap Scrutiny Review Panel releasing their follow up report on 13 April 2022. We examine each of the reports briefly below.
Agricultural Seasonal Workers – Scrutiny Panel recommendations
On 12 April 2022, Jersey's Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel published a report examining the employment of seasonal workers in the agricultural industry, a copy of which can be found here.
The Report made 14 key findings and 5 recommendations following on from those findings, the substance of which are summarised below:
- Recommendation 1: The Work Permit policy should be reviewed and amended to allow for flexibility within the seasonal and temporary work permit arrangements to align with business needs.
- Recommendation 2: Within 6 months of the date of the report, the Minister for Home Affairs should establish a direct line of contact with the UK Immigration Services to ensure that updates can be requested and received on the status of delayed visas for agricultural seasonal workers. The contact should be between Jersey Immigration Officers and the UK Immigration Officers only and not Jersey employers.
- Recommendation 3: Within 6 months of the date of the report, and provided there are no changes to the application from the previous year, the work permit fee of £115 should be waived for each consecutively returning employee to help bring the costs of employment down.
- Recommendation 4: Without any delay, the Minister for Social Security should increase the offset in accommodation rates in line with that of the minimum wage for 2022.
- Recommendation 5: To allow seasonal workers who return to Jersey following a previous, consecutive 9-month contract of employment to effectively freeze their social security payments for the 3 month period that they are off-island, and then re-commence those payments on their return the following year and have access to the social security benefit system.
Moving forward, it is now for the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Social Security to consider the recommendations and determine whether they will be adopted and in what form. Positively, and in relation to the 5th recommendation, the Minister for Health and Social Services has already indicated the intention to "bring forward revised rules to ensure that returning seasonal workers are entitled to free healthcare on their return to the Island if they have lived and worked in Jersey for at least six months continuously, three years before the date of their treatment".
We will provide relevant updates as and when relevant information is made available to the general public.
Jersey's worsening gender pay gap
On 13 April 2022, The Gender Pay Gap Review Panel released its follow up report on Jersey's gender pay gap, and disappointingly found that very little progress had been made to close the gender pay gap since 2019, when it published its first report, and in fact the gap had widened - exacerbated by Covid-19.
The review found that the Government's median average gender pay gap increased from 18.3% in 2019 to 24.3% in 2020. It is more difficult to get a feel for the gap in private organisations where data is not publicly available, however, PwC's Channel Islands Women in Work Index 2021 found that workplace gender inequality in the Channel Islands increased between 2017 and 2019, with Jersey falling from 20th to 24th of the 35 jurisdictions examined.
The Panel made 26 key findings, and 13 recommendations, details of which can be found on pages 10-14 of the report.
The gender pay gap is a topical issue and it is one that the Government is taking seriously. The Panel recognised the Government's commitment to closing the public sector gender pay gap, welcoming "its ambition to be a forward-thinking organisation through its People Strategy and its Flex Positive initiative" each of which aim to create a flexible working environment. However, to really make progress and genuinely reduce the gender pay gap, the Panel has recommended where the Government should focus its energies:
- Encourage flexibility in the workplace: Recommendations have been made to introduce flexible working practices which are inclusive to everyone (including those not working in 9-5 roles) and looking at ways to ensure that those working from home are not afforded less opportunities than those based in an office. The recommendations also focus on education and the de-stigmatisation of part-time working, ensuring that it is available for men and women. Relevantly for employers, the Panel also recommended that the Employment Forum consult with businesses and employees about improving the existing statutory framework for flexible working including measures to help make it the default position unless employers have good reasons not to offer flexible working. It is also recommended that a publicity campaign be undertaken to ensure employees know of their rights to request flexible working.
- Provide greater access to childcare: It is recommended that the Government commission an independent review of childcare in Jersey which includes accessibility, flexibility, quality and affordability to better inform future policy-making decisions.
- Introduce statutory reporting measures: Engage in consultation with businesses to determine the appropriate threshold level for mandatory reporting and what level of support businesses might require in order to report on their gender pay gaps effectively. The recommendation also includes a requirement for business to publish a 5-year action plan alongside their reports;
- Introduce a political lead for diversity, equality, and inclusion: By introducing a ministerial position within the States, there would be an enhanced diversity perspective and an opportunity for a political lead to champion the causes related to the gender pay gap and push for diversity, equality and inclusion.
- Gather better data: Obtain data relevant on both the structural issues (impact of policies and working practices) that can create barriers for women and on the cultural issues (stereotypical views and values) that can create biases about women's capabilities. This will enable the informed review of gender statistics and facilitate the implementation of a gender mainstreaming approach.
Watch this space for our article on what employers can do within their own business to reduce the gender pay gap and ensure that they are benefiting from having an engaged, loyal, diverse and inclusive workforce.