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European legislation

The importance of European legislation for gender equality and non-discrimination at the national level can hardly be overestimated.

For example, EU law requires (Article 157 TFEU) application of the principle of equal pay for equal work or work of equal value between women and men. The broad interpretation of the concept of pay by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)  and its extensive case law on this article have certainly broadened the possibilities to combat both direct and indirect sex pay discrimination and to narrow the gender pay gap.

Similarly, with regard to non-discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation, the importance of Article 19 TFEU must be underlined. This provision was included into the primary legislation of the Union so as to provide a legal basis for the adoption of directives imposing specifically the principle of non-discrimination with regard to these grounds.

EU legislation prohibiting discrimination covers a broad personal and material scope by means of several directives, covering either the ground of sex, the ground of racial/ethnic origin, or the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation. These directives all prohibit direct and indirect discrimination, victimisation, harassment and instructions to discriminate, and they provide for the possibility to maintain or adopt positive action measures to achieve full equality in practice.

Key EU Directives in gender equality and non-discrimination law

The so-called Recast Directive (2006/54/EC) on equal opportunities and equal treatment of women and men in employment and occupation has brought together some older directives.  This directive requires the implementation of the prohibition of direct and indirect sex discrimination, harassment and sexual harassment in pay, (access to) employment and in occupational social security schemes. A prohibition of direct and indirect sex discrimination applies to statutory social security schemes (Directive 79/7/EEC) and to self-employment (Directive 2010/41/EU).  Sex discrimination is also prohibited in access to and the supply of goods and services (Directive 2004/113/EC). In addition, some directives apply to specific groups, such as the Pregnancy Directive (92/85/EEC), the Parental Leave Directive (2010/18/EU)  or the Part-time Work Directive (97/81/EC). The great majority of part-time workers in the EU being women; the requirement of equal treatment of part-timers and full-timers is also relevant for them.

Go to the European Commission - Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities This initiative is financed by the EC Programme Progress. But the views expressed in this website do not necessarily reflect the official views of the EU institutions.