New European law must end pay discrimination

Large employers will soon be obliged to publish salary information annually and will no longer be allowed to ask applicants for previous salaries. At the same time, employees will have more options to challenge perceived wage inequality and to still claim lost income.

The legislative proposal of the European Commission consists of two parts: measures to make wages in a company transparent and measures whereby employees can challenge discrimination by their employers.

Spearhead Commission

For example, applicants should be informed about their starting level and salary prospects before the interview. Employees are entitled to information about the level of their wages in relation to the average for the same work and broken down by male and female.

It is the employer who must from now on prove that there is no discrimination if an employee earns less than a colleague who does the same work. Brussels also wants the EU member states to impose fines on companies that do not comply with equal pay.

Equal pay for equal work is one of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s spearheads. “Women need to know if their employers are treating them fairly,” she said. “And where this is not the case, they must have the power to fight back and get justice.”

Netherlands in the middle

Despite the fact that the right to equal pay was enshrined as a fundamental principle in the Treaty of Rome as early as 1957, the pay gap is large. Men in the EU still earn on average 14.1 percent more than women, according to data from the European statistics agency Eurostat.

The differences between the different Member States are great. Men in Estonia and Latvia, for example, receive more than twenty percent more. Luxembourg is doing best with 1.3 percent. Dutch scores with a difference of 14 percent around the European average, according to figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics for 2019.

Part of the difference in the Netherlands is caused by the fact that older generations of women have a lower level of education and work less. If corrected for these factors, a wage difference of between 5 and 7 percent remains, the CBS reported in 2018.

Need approval

The proposal is now before the European Parliament and 27 European heads of government, united in the European Council, for approval. If they give their approval, the member states have two years to implement the directive in national law.


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