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Equal pay for equal work

Equal pay for equal work is one of the EU’s founding principles enshrined in Article 157 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFUE). EU countries must eliminate discrimination on grounds of sex with regard to all aspects and conditions of remuneration for the same work or for work of equal value.

The EU monitors the correct transposition and enforcement of the Directive 2006/54/EC on equal pay and supports EU countries to properly implement existing rules. The Directive 2006/54/EC consolidated existing directives on gender equality in the field of employment together with the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The Commission also undertook a thorough evaluation of the existing framework on equal pay for equal work or work of equal value published in March 2020.

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Pay Transparency

Women often remain unaware about pay discrimination in their work. A lack of wage transparency does not allow a proper assessment of the reasons for pay inequalities.

The European Commission adopted a Recommendation on strengthening the principle of equal pay between men and women through transparency in March 2014. It provides guidance to help EU countries implement the equal pay principle more effectively and focusses especially on enhancing pay transparency.

In her political guidelines Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, has committed to table measures to introduce binding pay transparency measures. The Commission therefore presented on 4th March 2021 a Proposal for a directive to strengthen the application of the principle of equal pay for equal work  or work of equal value between men and women through  pay transparency and enforcement mechanisms. The proposal is based on Article 157(3) of the TFEU. The article provides for the European Union to adopt measures to ensure the application of the principle of ‘equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation, including the principle of equal pay for equal work or work of equal value’.

In the preparation of the proposal, the Commission launched a wide-ranging and inclusive consultation process  with the public, the Member States and the social partners which closed on 28 May 2020. The present initiative follows on the Commission’s evaluation of the relevant legal provisions and previous Commission work as well as an impact assessment.

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The gender pay gap Action Plan

The Commission adopted the EU Action Plan 2017-2019: Tackling the gender pay gap in November 2017. It addresses the various root causes of the gender pay gap through a holistic approach. Its 24 action points are distributed under 8 main strands of action, namely:

  • Improving the application of the equal pay principle;
  • Combatting segregation in occupations and sectors;
  • Breaking the glass ceiling: addressing vertical segregation;
  • Tackling the care penalty;
  • Better valorising women's skills, efforts and responsibilities;
  • Uncovering inequalities and stereotypes;
  • Alerting and informing about the gender pay gap; and
  • Enhancing partnerships to tackle the gender pay gap.

The Commission published a Report on the implementation of the EU Action Plan 2017-2019 on tackling the gender pay gap in March 2020.

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The Work-Life Balance Directive

Care responsibilities vary during the life cycle, for instance when people have children or frail elderly parents. Women and men should both have the possibility to combine private and working responsibilities in an equal way. This was at the core of the EU’s directive on work-life balance for working parents and carers adopted in April 2017.

Details on the work-life balance directive.

EU rights to work-life balance.

Women-On-Boards Directive

The Commission published the Women on Boards proposal in November 2012. It aims to improve the gender balance among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges.

Achieving gender balance in decision-making.

Raising Awareness

The Equal Pay Day takes place in many European countries (e.g. e.g. Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Estonia, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden). The event aims at raising awareness on the gender pay gap. It has received a lot of media attention and triggered various national equal pay campaigns.

The EU’s Equal Pay Day falls on 10 November. It marks the day when women symbolically stop getting paid compared to their male colleagues for the same job.

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