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Employment and training

Equal pay

EU law (Directive 2006/54/EC) prohibits all discrimination on grounds of gender in relation to 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)pdf

Despite the EU legislation on equal pay, there is still a gender pay gap of about 17% (EU average). This is because, while direct discrimination has been relatively easy to tackle, enforcing the principle of equal pay for work of equal value is more difficult.

See also: Equal pay awareness-raising campaign

Equal treatment in access to jobs and training

EU law (Directive 2006/54/EC) aims to ensure that men and women are treated equally in access to:

  • jobs (including selection criteria);
  • self-employment;
  • occupations;
  • vocational training;
  • career advancement;
  • working conditions (including dismissals).

The principle of equal treatment means that there should be no discrimination whatsoever - direct or indirect - on grounds of gender. This includes reference to marital or family status and less favorable treatment of women related to pregnancy or maternity leave. The rules also prohibit:

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

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.

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;
  • gives assisting spouses or life partners an entitlement to social protection.

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

  • setting up a business or activity;
  • forming a company;
  • launching or extending any other form of self-employed activity.

EU countries have 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

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