Brussels asks to sanction companies that discriminate against their workers

Sanctions for companies that discriminate against their workers. This is what the European Commission is pursuing in its proposal for a directive on equal pay presented this Thursday in Brussels, a proposal on salary transparency that seeks to guarantee that women and men in the EU receive equal pay for equal work. The proposal establishes salary transparency measures, such as salary information for job applicants, the right to know the salary levels of workers who perform the same work, as well as the obligations to report on the gender pay gap for large companies. .

“Salary transparency will allow workers to assert their right to equal pay by giving them access to the necessary information on wages, in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation, so that they can assess whether or not they are subject to discrimination compared to their colleagues of the other sex. the same job or work of equal value “, argues Brussels:” Companies with more than 250 employees should report on the wage differences between male and female workers in their organization; when that report shows a high risk of inequalities unjustified wages, employers and workers’ representatives shall jointly take corrective measures. ”

The proposal also provides tools for workers to claim their rights, including in court. Thus, employers will not be able to ask jobseekers for their salary history, and must provide anonymized data related to salaries. Employees will also be entitled to compensation for pay discrimination.

The new measures, which take into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on both employers and women, who have been particularly affected, seek to “increase awareness of salary conditions within companies, and will provide more tools for employers and workers to address wage discrimination at work “, states the European Commission:” The COVID-19 pandemic is reinforcing gender inequalities and puts women at greater risk of exposure to poverty. ”

The legislative proposal focuses on measures to ensure wage transparency and better access to justice for victims of wage discrimination.

Regarding salary transparency for job seekers, employers will need to provide information on starting salary level, or rank, when posting a job vacancy or prior to the job interview. Employers will not be able to ask prospective workers about their salary history.

On the other hand, regarding the right to information for employees, workers will have the right to request information from their employer on their individual salary level and on the average salary levels, disaggregated by sex, for categories of workers who perform the same work or work of equal value.

In relation to information on the gender pay gap, employers with at least 250 employees must publish information on the pay gap between male and female workers in their company. For internal purposes, they should also provide information on the wage gap between male and female workers by categories of those doing the same job or work of equal value.

Likewise, when salary reports reveal a gender pay gap of at least 5% and when the employer cannot justify the gap in gender-neutral objective factors, employers must carry out a salary evaluation, in cooperation with representatives of the employees. workers.

With regard to better access to justice for women victims of wage discrimination, compensation is provided for people who have suffered wage discrimination based on gender, including full recovery of late payments and bonuses or payments. in kind related.

According to the European Commission proposal, it will be by default the employer, not the worker, who has to prove that there was no discrimination in relation to salary.

In this regard, Member States should establish specific penalties for breaches of equal pay rules, including a minimum level of fines. Equality bodies and workers’ representatives can act in legal or administrative proceedings on behalf of workers, as well as promote collective demands on equal pay.

How are Member States going to establish sanctions and calculate fines for non-compliance with the principle of equal pay? “Member States must establish sanctions, including fines, applicable to infringements of the principle of equal remuneration. These sanctions and fines must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive. While Member States have the discretion to establish the level of fines , the directive requires that said fines take into account the seriousness and duration of the offense, any intent or gross negligence on the part of the employer or any other circumstance of the case “, Brussels explains.

“The proposal takes into account the current difficult situation of entrepreneurs, in particular in the private sector,” says Brussels, “and maintains the proportionality of the measures while providing flexibility to small and medium-sized enterprises and encourages Member States to use the resources available for the presentation of data. It is estimated that the annual costs of salary reports for companies range between 379 euros and 890 euros “:

The right to equal pay for the same work or work of equal value between male and female workers has been a fundamental principle of the European Union since the 1957 Treaty of Rome. A 2006 directive on equal treatment of women and men in matters Employment and occupation already requires employers to ensure equal pay for equal work or work of equal value for women and men.

In 2014 it was supplemented by a Commission Recommendation on pay transparency. Despite this legal framework, the principle of equal pay is not fully applied or enforced, says Brussels: “The gender pay gap in the EU remains at 14.1%, according to the latest Eurostat data” .

“Lack of salary transparency is one of the main obstacles to enforcing this right”, continues the European Commission: “It prevents workers from knowing how their salary compares, on average, with that of their colleagues of the other sex who do a job. work of equal value or work of equal value. This places them in a situation where they lack information about whether they are paid in accordance with the right to equal pay. Furthermore, without pay transparency, employers do not necessarily review their payroll or check whether their pay systems and job classification do not omit the assessment of relevant skills, for example in the service economy. Lack of salary transparency thus creates a gray area that favors the perpetuation of gender bias in job setting. the salaries”.


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