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Gender equality in the workplace

Updated: Nov 1

Maria Demetriou is the author of the article with title "Gender equality in the workplace"

Author: Maria Demetriou

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Date of Publication: 04/10/2022

Have you ever noticed or experienced sexual harassment, discrimination or unequal opportunities on the grounds of gender in the workplace? Then you have come to the right place. Through this article you can get informed about your protection and your rights.

The law of the European Union provides protection over gender equality in the workplace. On the one hand, the principle of equal treatment is stated in Article 157 TFEU. On the other hand, the specific prohibition of gender discrimination is guaranteed in Article 23 of the EU Charter.

Particularly, the EU implements the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation. The relevant European legislative act for this is the Recast Directive 2006/54/EC.

The EU implements the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation.

The Recast Directive


It guarantees equal treatment of men and women in all fields related to employment:

  • access to employment at all activities and all levels, including hiring criteria and promotion

  • access to all levels of vocational training, including practical work experience

  • employment and working conditions, including dismissals

  • participants in an organization of workers or employers, including its benefits

  • occupational social security schemes - access to them, calculation of contributions and benefits

For a list of the exact applicable occupational social security schemes, click here (Article 7, page 6).


As soon as you are a worker or employee, the protection against gender discrimination covers you. It doesn’t matter if you are self-employed, retired or a disabled worker. You are even protected if you are seeking employment, or if you stop working due to illness, maternity, accident or involuntary unemployment.


However, you should pay attention to a few cases outside the protected scope. Particularly, you are not protected in the case of:

  • individual contracts and single-member schemes for self-employed persons

  • insurance contracts, where the employer is not a party

  • optional individual provisions of occupational social security schemes

  • voluntary contributions by workers to the occupational social security schemes

Equal treatment and equal opportunities at the workplace are important.

Meaning of equal treatment and equal opportunities

Employers shall treat their male and female employees in the same manner. That includes the prohibition of:

  • Direct discrimination: if your employer treats you less favorably than another employee of the opposite sex in a comparable situation

  • Indirect discrimination: if your employer applies a provision or practice, which puts you in a specific disadvantage compared to employees of the other sex

However, your employer is eligible to apply this provision if:

  • it promotes a legal and objective purpose

  • the way used to achieve the purpose is suitable and essential

Examples of unequal treatments and consequences

  • Harassment: if you experience unwanted behavior related to your sex

The purpose or the consequence should be:

  1. The violation of your dignity and

  2. The creation of a hostile/intimidating/offensive environment towards you

  • Sexual harassment: if you experience unwanted sexual behavior - verbal, nonverbal or physical

The purpose or the consequence should be:

  1. The violation of your dignity and

  2. The creation of a hostile/intimidating/offensive environment towards you

  • Any less favorable treatment related to (1) your rejection or submission to harassment, (2) pregnancy or (3) maternity leave

  • Instructions to discriminate against employees on grounds of sex

It is also important to remember that equal treatment involves the right to equal pay. In other words, your salary as a man or a woman should be the same for the same amount of work or for work of equal value.

More examples of unequal gender treatments

Some forms of gender discrimination in the employment field that occurred in the past include:

  • Setting down different conditions for the age of entry to participate in an occupational social security scheme

  • Laying down different rules for the level and reimbursement of contributions

  • Determining different retirement ages

  • Delaying the granting of maternity leave rights

  • Dismissal of pregnant women during maternity leave, refusal of return, or less favorable treatment after return

Your protection for gender equality

Did you find yourself being a victim of one or more of the above mentioned unequal treatments or gender discrimination in your workplace?

If you are a European citizen, then you are entitled to have court protection and out-court protection, according to your domestic law. In both procedures, it is enough to establish the facts showing that your employer discriminated against you based on your sex. If your employer fails to prove that they didn’t violate the principle of equal treatment, you will have the right to compensation or reparation for your loss and damage.

Lastly, your protection against gender discrimination becomes stronger with the help of equality bodies. These bodies will assist you in submitting your complaint about discrimination. On top of that, your employer is strongly encouraged to provide the necessary information on equal treatment for male and female employees in the workplace on a regular basis.


Reference List:

Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council

Consolidated Version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union - Part Three: Union Policies and International Actions

Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union

Judgment of the Court

Judgment Curia Europa

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