What is the role of equality bodies?

Equality bodies promote equal treatment by providing independent assistance to victims of discrimination, conducting independent surveys, publishing independent reports and making recommendations on matters relating to discrimination. They were first established by the Racial* Equality Directive (2000/43/EC).

Three subsequent equality directives entrusted equality bodies with the same missions in their respective field: the Gender Equality Directive in the field of goods and services (2004/113/EC), the Gender Equality Directive in the field of employment (2006/54/EC) and the Gender Equality Directive in the field of self-employment (2010/41/EU). The latter two have added the additional mission of exchanging information with corresponding European bodies.

* The use of the term ‘racial’ in the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU and Council Directive 2000/43/EC (‘Racial Equality Directive’) does not imply any acceptance by the European Union of theories that attempt to determine the existence of separate human races.

Assistance in cases of discrimination

If you need assistance because you feel discriminated against, please contact your national equality body.

Equinet – European network of equality bodies

The European Network of Equality Bodies (Equinet) brings together national equality bodies to promote exchange of information and best practices between members and organises capacity-building events.

More information about Equinet

Recommendation on binding standards for equality bodies

In 2018, the Commission recommended a set of measures for Member States to improve equality bodies’ independence and effectiveness, in particular as regards their capacity to ensure that individuals and groups that are discriminated against can fully enjoy their rights.

Member States should ensure equality bodies have the necessary resources to fight discrimination on the following grounds: sex/gender, race, ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation. The recommendation furthermore stresses the importance to raise awareness on the role of equality bodies and on how citizens can access them to exercise their rights if they experience discrimination. 

Commission recommendation on standards for equality bodies

Legislative initiative on new binding standards for equality bodies

The report on the application of the Racial Equality Directive and the Employment Equality Directive and its accompanying Staff Working Document on equality bodies have shown that most issues addressed by the recommendation remain unresolved.

Therefore, as announced in its work programme for 2022, the Commission is preparing a new legislative initiative that aims to strengthen equality bodies by setting minimum standards for their functioning.