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Beyond human rights

first_imgPit ponies, guard dogs, and cats with a responsibility for rodent controlwill be among the many non-human workers to benefit from the proposed newlegislation on mammalian equality, by Linda Goldman and Joan Lewis The Government’s White Paper on Species Friendly Policies was due to havebeen published this month, following intense pressure from Europe for the UK toexpedite legislation to prevent non-human discrimination in the workplace inthe short-term. It is widely expected that the Mammalian Equality Act (Temporary) has beenso designated to be replaced by the Living Animals (Mammals) Bill, which willcomplete UK compliance with the Directive on Unification of Mammal Beasts(Orthoptera), 14/02. The purpose of the new law is a vast extension of civil liberties, givinghitherto unexpected rights to working animals, including, for example, pitponies, guard dogs and cats kept on premises for rodent control. The rights areto be restricted to mammals (vermin and other pests excluded, even iflaboratory animals) with no plans for extension to other species,notwithstanding any ability to communicate by speech. When the Living Animals (Mammals) Bill becomes law, the rights are expectedto be extended to domestic animals, with certain exemptions for animals trainedto deal with disability, such as guide and hearing dogs, for whom no rest-breakcover can realistically be provided. The implications of this for occupationalhealth teams are profound as they will now be expected to demonstrate oracquire veterinary expertise. What are the new rights? The Human Rights Act 1996 provides rights to privacy, fair trial and freedomof expression. Initially, the Act will be extended to incorporate the MammalianEquality Act (Temporary) provisions, allowing for laboratory animals above thepre-experimental weight of 20 kg to have full representation by trainers ofmembers of their own or associated species to ensure that they enjoy the samerights as their human counterparts. The right to family life is likely to cause animal-reliant businesses somedifficulty for which early advance preparation is strongly recommended.However, concerns will be alleviated about the equivalent of imprisonment ofanimals without the right to a fair trial as exemplified in dog poundsituations. The aim is to ensure that no dog or other stray animal, whether working,domestic or feral, can be held for more than 24 hours without properarrangements being made to ensure their ability to return to such employment asthey previously enjoyed. This right will be restricted to animals who have been ‘chipped’ todesignate their status. Proper health checks will be carried out on detainedanimals to ensure they do not lose the ability to perform the tasks they weretrained and employed to do. It is not yet clear whether or not the employment status of the animals willbe a definitive criterion in assessing fair treatment. Working Time Regulations The Working Time Regulations will be extended immediately after 31 March2002, to ensure that all working animals, excluding police or armed forces’dogs, horses or mammalian mascots, who count as serving officers for thepurposes of the law, will be entitled to regulated work breaks. Equal opportunities legislation will not be amended since the new law isdirected at animals. Keepers and handlers are specifically defined under theamended regulations with liability for ensuring equality passing to those withtemporary responsibility such as feeders, walkers and groomers. It is anticipated that proposed veterinary sections of Employment Tribunalswill be co-ordinated for fast-track procedures for dogs and horses. In anunusually far-sighted concession to the need to deal with matters on the spot,animal cases will be heard in Rapid-Action Transit Positional or InterventionalSite Office Networks, a form of fast-acting transportational field arbitration.Training required Although the veterinary schools will have about a year to prepare coursesand train specialist occupational health teams, there will be an immediateshortfall in personnel who are experienced not only in dealing withoccupational health matters but also in devising and implementing policies. In the long-term, co-operation with vets will be required but the short-termis with us here and now. All organisations where there are working animals needto have either an occupational health service or access to one. Riskassessments should be carried out prior to involvement in external animalcontact situations to ascertain the need for special equipment including: – Leggings – Off-site communication facilities – Outdoor team support – Facemasks – Lighting – Interspecies vocabulary aids (whistles, ultrasound devices) – Restrictive devices (yokes, choke-chains, leads) – Pedigree investigation questionnaire forms – Animal behaviour criteria (adapted from DSM III) Above all, it essential for occupational health practitioners who are new tothis type of work to realise one feature of dealing with animals as clients isthat confidentiality will not apply to the keeping of records or thetransmission of data. Owners, trainers and employers of animals will have a right to know howtheir four-legged friend has behaved or what its needs are in the workplace.Counsellors at the London Assessment Species Society (Inter-professional)Executive will be happy to take calls about any query that relates to theseimportant changes in the law. A specially designated number has been set up todeal with individual queries on 01277 453665. A website is in preparation. When making queries, strict adherence to political correctness should bemaintained. The word ‘mongrel’ should not be used to refer to any form ofcross-bred creature. The word ‘bitch’ should only be applied to females ofcertified pedigree. These restrictions do not apply to independent contractorssuch as foxes or circus animals. Take your owner to work day In an interesting shift in policy, the Government has been persuaded thatthis widely-used introductory phase of assimilation of animals into theworkplace should be changed within a year to “Take Your Owner to WorkDay”. For animal lovers, the pack spirit indicates a bright andchallenging future. Linda Goldman is a barrister at 7 New Square, Lincoln’s Inn. She is headof training and education for ACT Associates & Virtual Personnel. JoanLewis is senior consultant and director of Advisory, Consulting & TrainingAssociates and Virtual Personnel, employment law and advisory serviceconsultancies. Previous Article Next Article Beyond human rightsOn 1 Apr 2002 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more

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