Proposed E.U. Legislation Goals to Rectify Gender Pay Hole

BRUSSELS – The European Union urged member states to close the gender pay gap and on Thursday announced details of a legislative proposal requiring companies to disclose gender pay gaps in wage interviews and giving applicants access to salary information. It would too Providing women with better tools to fight for equal pay.

The move takes place as workers all over the world were disproportionately affected by the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis and could lead to sanctions against companies that does not correspond.

The proposed law would also allow women to verify that they are being adequately compensated versus male colleagues. The European Commission, the bloc’s executive branch, wants to give workers the opportunity to apply for appropriate compensation in the event of discrimination.

Under the proposed law, those who believe they are victims could take action through independent observers of compliance with the equal pay requirements. You could also raise gender pay complaints through employee representatives either individually or in groups.

“You need transparency for equal pay,” said Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the Commission, who had undertaken to make pay transparency binding after taking office in December 2019. “Women need to know whether their employers treat them fairly. And if they don’t, they must have the power to fight back and get what they deserve. “

Although in theory the principle of equal pay for equal work is one of the basic values ​​of the European Union of 27 countries, the difference in salaries for men and women doing the same work is 14.1 percent and the difference in pensions is 30 percent. said the commission. According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, a research group, female managers earn a quarter less than men.

Despite several efforts to enforce equal pay in practice, it appeared to be inaccessible to women across the bloc for more than 60 years, which is a beacon for human rights and equality. So far, only 10 European countries, including Austria, Germany, Italy and Sweden, have introduced national legislation on wage transparency.

The proposed EU-wide law requires the approval of the member states and the European Parliament. There are concerns that it could be blocked by national governments, as has happened with the European Commission’s proposal to introduce gender quotas on boards of directors. Faced with these potential obstacles, Vera Jourova, the bloc’s top official for values ​​and transparency, described the pay proposal as “pure pragmatism and good economic calculations”, stressing that companies benefit from gender equality at work.

“We see quite limited appetites in some Member States and surprisingly in those who have already put such measures in place,” said Ms Jourova. “What gives me hope is that this is badly needed.”

Companies with more than 250 employees would be required to publicly disclose their gender pay gap, reflecting the concerns of smaller organizations that have suffered a severe economic blow from the coronavirus.

“I am aware that in times of economic downturn and the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, this proposal may seem out of date for some,” said Helena Dalli, the bloc’s equal opportunities commissioner, and stressed that the law was “appropriately proportionate ” be.

Under the bill, national governments would be required to penalize companies that violate equal pay measures. Governments could decide on the penalties imposed, including financial sanctions, which must be effective and proportionate, the commission said.

The suggestion comes as researchers warn that the virus could significantly delay women’s progression in the workplace. According to the 2020 Women in Work Index, which is compiled annually by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 33 industrialized countries, advice, economic damage caused by the pandemic and the effects of government policy have a disproportionately high impact on women. This has reversed the steady trend of gains for women in employment and resulted in what the consultancy calls “shecession”.

Women’s rights groups welcomed the Commission’s initiative. “Information is power: Pay transparency would enable employees to know the value of their work and to negotiate salaries accordingly,” said Carlien Scheele, Director of the European Institute for Gender Equality. “This would help combat discrimination in the workplace, which can only be a boon to gender equality.”

Aware of the possible legal and economic implications of the proposal, employers carefully assessed it and blamed it on what they described as profound reasons for gender inequality.

“Appropriate compensation transparency requirements can be part of the answer,” said Markus J. Beyrer, head of BusinessEurope, a lobby group. “However, the key to improving gender equality is addressing the root causes of inequalities, particularly gender stereotypes, labor market segregation and inadequate childcare.”

Mr Beyrer said the Commission must respect the “competences of the national social partners” and “should not add undue burdens to human resource management and pave the way for inappropriate litigation”.

According to Ms. Jourova, “binding rules” are required, not just trust in corporate social responsibility. “We see it’s going nowhere,” she said.

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