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EU Treaty and legislation

Equal pay for equal work is one of the European Union’s founding principles, embedded in the Treaties since 1957. Article 157 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union provides that each Member State shall ensure that the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or work of equal value is applied.

EU Gender Equality Recast Directive (2006/54/EC) on gender equality in the area of employment and occupation prohibits direct and indirect discrimination on grounds of sex in relation to pay. It also stipulates that in particular, where a job classification system is used for determining pay, it shall be based on the same criteria for both men and women and so drawn up as to exclude any discrimination on grounds of sex.

Under the EU rules:

  • people who have suffered such discrimination can take legal action without fear of retaliation from their employer;
  • EU countries must eradicate all discrimination from their national rules and laws, and inform workers that they have done so and how.

The Commission Recommendation on strengthening the principle of equal pay between men and women through transparency, adopted in 2014, aims to assist Member States and other stakeholders in finding the right approaches to tackling pay discrimination and the persisting gender pay gap.

Despite the EU legislation on equal pay in place, there is still a gender pay gap of about 16 % at EU level (EU average).

The effective application of EU law on equal pay at national level currently remains one of the biggest challenges and is crucial for tackling the pay discrimination and gender pay gap effectively.
The Commission is constantly monitoring the correct application and enforcement of the existing EU law on equal pay in Member States and supports them and other stakeholders in the proper implementation of existing rules.

Full text: Directive 2006/54/ECof the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation (recast).

The Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015

The Strategy for equality between women and men represents the European Commission's work programme on gender equality for the period 2010-2015.

One of its priorities is “Equal pay for equal work and work of equal value”.

'Tackling the pay gap between women and men'

A Communication adopted by the European Commission in 2007 examines the causes of the gender pay gap and puts forward a series of actions to tackle the problem:

  • Ensuring better application of existing legislation.
  • Fighting the pay gap as an integral part of EU countries' employment policies.
  • Promoting equal pay among employers, especially through social responsibility.
  • Supporting exchange of good practices across the European Union and involving the social partners.

Several actions have been implemented by the Commission during these years:

Awareness-raising campaign on the GPG: In line with the 2007 Communication, the Commission launched an information campaign in 2009. This campaign ended in March 2012. The main goal of this campaign was to raise awareness among employees, employers, social partners and the general public on the existence of the gender pay gap. The main activities included a website in 22 EU languages; advertising activities in the press and in the public transport and the development of a partnership with decision-makers at national, regional and local level; equality bodies; social partners; NGOs; recruitment agencies; and academics and experts working on the gender pay gap and equality issues. A total of 286 contacts in the 27 Member States acted as multipliers of the campaign information.

European Equal Pay Day: following the Commission’s awareness-raising campaign on the gender pay gap, the Commission instituted the European Equal Pay Day on 5 March 2011 to be held each year to increase awareness of the fact that a wage gap between women and men still exists and that women have to work longer than men to earn the same. The second European Equal Pay Day was held on 2 March 2012, the third one took place on 28 February 2013 and the fourth one on 28 February 2014. This day is fixed according to the latest gender pay gap figures. This day is fixed according to the latest gender pay gap figures. The change in the day represents slight progress in the reduction of the gender pay gap. Press releases can be found below. Information on the national equal pay days can be found here.

Exchange of good practiceson issues related to the gender pay gap: in December 2011, Germany hosted a seminar on ways of reducing the gender pay gap. Representatives from the German government presented to other Member States and EEA countries the software Logib-D, which allows companies to analyse the gender pay gap within their organisations. Austria outlined their company income reports. The documents related to the exchange are available here. In June 2013, Estonia hosted an exchange of good practices on equal pay days. Estonia, Belgium and Spain presented their national equal pay days and representatives from other Member States and relevant stakeholders discussed how to improve the impact of the equal pay days in general by raising awareness of the existence of the gender pay gap; how to improve the collaboration between the different players in the organisation of these equal pay days and how to improve the synergies between the Commission and the European equal pay day with the national equal pay days. The documents related to the 2013 exchange are available here.

Equality Pays Off project: To support employers in their efforts to tackle the gender pay gap, the Commission carried out the ‘Equality Pays Off’ project during 2012 and 2013. Its aim was to raise companies’ awareness of the ‘business case’ for gender equality and equal pay, that is, better access to the labour force potential of women in a context of demographic changes and skill shortages. A total of 39 events (national workshops in 34 countries, a Business Forum on 21 March 2013, 4 trainings on equal pay) were organised. Supporting material (training manuals, good practice handbooks, information material) was produced. Big companies and stakeholders (European and national social partners, business associations, national authorities and experts) participated in the various actions. More information on the project can be found here.

Joint action

Closing the gender pay gap requires mobilisation of all key actors, mainly the EU countries, the European Parliament and the European social partners to tackle the multiple causes of the gender pay gap.

The European Pact for Gender Equalitypdfadopted by EU leaders in 2011 made fighting the gender pay gap a priority by encouraging action at Member State and EU level in equal pay for equal work and work of equal value.

In December 2010 the Council of EU employment and social policy ministers adopted conclusions concerning the fight against salary inequalities between women and men which emphasise the need for EU countries to adopt or pursue measures to tackle the full range of causes of the gender pay gap and coordinate the actions of all relevant key actors, particularly the social partners.

The conclusions are accompanied by a reportpdf prepared by the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU which analyses the current status of the gender pay gap and proposes a revision of the indicators developed during its previous presidency in 2001.

The European Parliament considers the fight against the gender pay gap a political priority. In May 2012, it approved a resolution with requests and recommendations to several players on the application of the principle of equal pay for men and women.

One of the priorities of the 'framework of actions on gender equality' which was adopted in March 2005 by the European social partners is the reduction of the gender pay gap. According to the 2009 final evaluation report on its implementation, the social partners have been active at national level in promoting equal pay through a wide variety of tools and means, such as:

  • awareness-raising activities (e.g. equal pay days) and training measures;
  • production of studies;
  • statistics and wage-comparison tools;
  • development of toolkits aimed at tackling the gender pay gap in negotiations and collective bargaining;
  • involvement in consultative national commissions dealing with equal pay.

Press Releases

Documents

Please find here all the documents related to the gender pay gap.

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