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Employment and training

Equal pay

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 prohibits sex discrimination in application of job classification systems used for determining pay.

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.

Full text: Directive 2006/54/EC of 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)

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, supports them and other stakeholders in the proper implementation of existing rules as well as undertakes several awareness-raising activities.

See also: Equal pay awareness-raising campaign

Equal treatment in access to jobs and training

EU law (Gender Equality Recast Directive 2006/54/EC) aims to ensure that men and women are treated equally with regard to:

  • access to employment;
  • occupational social security schemes;
  • vocational training;
  • career advancement;
  • working conditions including pay.

The principle of equal treatment means that there should be no direct or indirect discrimination on grounds of sex in employment and occupation.  The rules also prohibit:

  • harassment;
  • sexual harassment;
  • instructions to discriminate.

This also includes less favorable treatment of women related to pregnancy or maternity leave.

Employees who complain or take legal action to enforce their right to equal treatment are protected from dismissal or any other form of retaliation by their employer.

Member States must ensure that the burden of proof for cases of sex discrimination in their legal systems lies with the defendant.

National rules adopted to implement the EU rules must be brought to the attention of employees by all appropriate means.


The Directive 2010/41/EU:

  • grants female self-employed workers and female assisting spouses or life partners a maternity allowance for at least 14 weeks, enabling interruptions in their occupational activity owing to pregnancy or motherhood;
  • gives assisting spouses or life partners an entitlement to social protection, where a system for social protection for self-employed workers exists in a Member State.

EU Memeber States must eliminate sex discrimination in a range of areas, including:

  • establishment, equipment or extension of a business;
  • launching or extending any other form of self-employed activity.

EU Member States should ensure that the conditions for setting up a company between spouses, or – when and in so far as recognised by national law – life partners, are not more restrictive that the conditions for setting up a company between other persons.

EU Member States had to transpose the provisions of the Directive into national law by 5 August 2012 at the latest (5 August 2014 for the provisions on assisting spouses in case of particular difficulties).

Full text: Directive 2010/41/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 July 2010 on the application of the principle of equal treatment between men and women engaged in an activity in a self-employed capacitypdf