EU dispatch: Council adopts new rules to combat pay discrimination Dispatches
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EU dispatch: Council adopts new rules to combat pay discrimination

Law students from the European Union are reporting for JURIST on law-related events in and affecting the European Union and its member states. Tara O’Sullivan is a law student at Maastricht University. She files this dispatch from Maastricht, Netherlands. 

The EU has taken steps forward in the battle to irradicate the gender pay gap. This issue has been ongoing in workplaces across the EU, however, a decision by the Council of the European Union earlier this month aims to combat this discriminatory injustice.

The right to equal pay between women and men for equal work is codified in Article 157 TFEU and in Directive 2006/54/EC. However, in the past, these rules have been difficult to implement and enforce. With the new directive by the Council, stricter rules on transparency, and cooperation will hopefully eradicate pay discrimination and the gender pay gap for good.

As a citizen of the European Union, I appreciate the goal of the Council and am encouraged by the action the EU is taking on this issue. Currently, there is ongoing gender-based discrimination in many workplaces across the European Union. For example, on average women in the EU earn 13% less than males in similar roles with equal skills and experience.

The adoption of new rules by the Council stems from the acceptance that pay discrimination counts as a form of a violation of a fundamental right and is in general seen as unfair. Companies will be encouraged in promoting transparency and accountability, as firms with over 250 employees will be required to release information on their gender pay gap and conduct audits on staff pay, according to the new rules.

I believe that with the implementation of these rules, workplaces will become more open and honest. Released information on bonuses, benefits and other pay disparities will enable companies to take corrective action and eradicate pay discrimination.

Following the April 11 decision, Helena Dalli, the EU Commissioner for Equality released a statement saying, “Equal pay is not just a fundamental right, it is a matter of fairness and justice. With the adoption of these new rules, we are taking a significant step towards achieving gender equality in the workplace and closing the gender gap once and for all.”

Also, provisions within the new directive make it compulsory for companies to disclose starting salaries and pay ranges on advertised positions. As a young person and student in the EU, I am confident this will have a drastically positive effect on the young workforce and job seekers, who are looking for positions, at all stages of their careers. Pay transparency in job advertisements has been a long-awaited wish for European citizens.

Furthermore, the provision stating that workers are allowed to request information on pay levels and scales is another crucial step towards empowering workers to challenge pay discrimination. Workers are now enabled to fight for fair compensation based on their skills and experience, rather than their gender. Similarly, EU companies will be required to take action and share pay information if their gender pay gap exceeds 5%.

It is refreshing to see that not only will this directive tackle gender equality, but it also does contain requirements for companies to ensure that the needs of workers with disabilities are considered also. Hopefully, this directive will encourage more talks about discrimination in other fields in the workplace.

Additionally, along with requirements to disclose information, the new directive includes provisions on compensation for victims of pay discrimination, such as fines for employers.

I think that with the implementation of these provisions, companies will accept responsibility for the issue and continue to aim to eradicate discrimination and the gender pay gap in their firm. Doing so may encourage neighbouring companies to do the same, especially if there is a risk of fines.

However, it should be acknowledged that the practical implementation of these rules may come with some challenges. For example, smaller companies may find it difficult to conduct audits and reports on staff pay. The EU has the responsibility to provide support to ensure all companies of any size, can comply with the new rules, to their full extent.

Moreover, there are concerns about loopholes and enforcement of the new rules. It will be essential for the EU to not only implement these rules in companies but to ensure compliance and close any protentional loopholes. The rules should be evenly implemented and enforced across all Member States.

All in all, the Council’s recent adoption of new rules, combating pay discrimination and with the aim to close the gender gap, is a positive step towards achieving gender equality in the workplace. While there may be challenges that arise, the new rules do reflect the EU’s commitment to promoting pay transparency and fairness within the European workspace.

I am hopeful that these rules will contribute to creating a more equitable and inclusive workforce in the EU. I am looking forward to more companies continuing to base pay off skills and experience as supposed to gender.

It is time to put an end to pay discrimination and work towards a future where gender equality is a reality in each and every workplace across Europe.