Equal Treatment and Non-Discrimination
An employer is under a legal obligation to treat its employees equally and without discrimination. Equal treatment of employees is regulated by the Employment Contracts Act, the Non-Discrimination Act, the Equality Act and the Criminal Code.
Equality Requirement and Discrimination Prohibition according to Employment Contracts Act
The requirement for equal treatment in the Employment Contracts Act means, among other things, that an employer has to treat all employees equally. This means that employees must be treated the same way in similar situations. Equal treatment has to be taken into consideration amongst other things when an employer grants benefits or sets obligations to its employees (e.g. terms of employment, work arrangements, giving tasks, choosing employees to trainings or career progress). Employees must be treated equally, unless deviating from this is justified in view of the duties and position of the employees. For example, benefits can vary on grounds of employees’ position and tasks.
Discrimination prohibition means that an employee must not be put in a worse position than his/her colleagues by reason of, for example, his/her health, nationality, language, religion, political activity, age or gender. Nowadays the Employment Contracts Act refers to provisions of the Non-discrimination Act as far as the non-discrimination is concerned. When an employer selects employees or makes other decisions related to the employment relationship, the basis for the decision must be the requirements of the work in question and an employee cannot be discriminated the basis of his/her personal characteristics. An employer, who has breached the discrimination prohibition, shall according to the Non-Discrimination Act pay compensation to the employee who has been discriminated. There is also a punishment for breaching the discrimination prohibition in the Criminal Code.
You can read more about equal treatment and discrimination prohibition below.
According to law, it is forbidden to apply more unbeneficial terms and conditions to the employees with fixed term employee contracts or part time contracts just because of the nature of the contract. The employer must have a justifiable reason for e.g. treating fixed term employees differently than permanent employees.
Obligations under Equality Act and a Discrimination Prohibition
The aim of the Equality Act is to further the equality between men and women and improve women’s position especially in working life. Furthermore, it is the objective of the Act to prevent discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression.
Every employer shall improve gender equality purposefully and systematically. An employer who employs more than 30 persons must, produce an action plan for the furthering of equality [Gender Equality Plan 22.214.171.124].
The Equality Act covers discrimination by reason of gender, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, giving labour, parenting and responsibility for looking after the family, among other things. Also sexual and gender-based harassing are considered forbidden discrimination according to Equality Act. In addition, any order or instruction to engage in discrimination based on gender shall be deemed to constitute forbidden discrimination.
The employer must be able to present an acceptable reason for their actions, if he/she disregards a more distinguished employer while recruiting, applies different payment terms on men and women or otherwise puts them in different position, e.g. while terminating employee contracts or when dismissing temporarily employees.
It is important to note that it is the employer’s responsibility to intervene in sexual harassment and gender-based harassment at the workplace if it becomes aware of such. Neglecting this obligation is considered discrimination.
If a notice has been given to an employee or he/she has been placed into an unbeneficial position after he/she has referred to his/her rights and obligations set in Equality Act, employer’s actions are considered forbidden discrimination.
The employer shall without delay give a written report of his/her actions upon request to a person who considers himself/herself as supplanted in a recruiting situation. The report shall include the following facts:selecting principles of the employer, the education, works and other experience of the applicant who was selected. In addition, other factors that have influenced the decision and can clearly be indicated shall be included. The employer shall also without delay provide a written report of the grounds for his/her actions to an applicant or an employee who considers that he/she has been discriminated in a different matter prohibited in the Equality Act.
The employer shall provide the employee a report of the grounds of his/her payment and other employee-related necessary information for the evaluation of the equality of the payment and whether or not the prohibition of discrimination is breached. When there is a just reason to suspect payment discrimination based on gender, a shop stuart and the elected representative or other agreed workers' representative has also an independent right to receive information on payments and workingterms and conditions of the individual employees or employee groups. For reporting on the individual employees employee's consent is required.
An employer, who has breached the Equality Act’s discrimination prohibition, shall pay minimum compensation of 3.620 euros (in 2018) to the employee who has been discriminated and in recruitment situation maximum of 18.130 euros (in 2018) depending on the situation to applicants who have experienced discrimination in the recruiting. The amount of the compensation is reviewed every third year. Payment of the compensation does not prevent the defended from demanding indemnification for economic loss according to Tort Liability Act or other law.
Discrimination Act’s Discrimination Prohibition
Non-Discrimination Act imposes a duty to employers to promote equality in recruitment, organizing working conditions of workers and in workers’ career advancement. An employer who regularly employs at least 30 persons must have a plan for the necessary measures for the promotion of equality [Equality Plan 126.96.36.199].
Non-discrimination means equal treatment of all person-related characteristics such as age, ethnic origin, nationality, religion, language, conviction, opinion, political activity, trade unionism, family relations, health, disability or sexual orientation. No one shall be discriminated against on these grounds.
Discrimination is understood not only unfavorable treatment compared to another, including an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice which in fact leads to a person at a disadvantage over others. See also [188.8.131.52 Prohibition of Discrimination, Equal Treatment Non-Discrimination Demand in Recruitment].
Different treatment when employing as well as in employment relationships is justified if the treatment is founded on genuine and determining requirements concerning the type of occupational tasks and their performance, and the treatment is proportionate to achieve the legitimate objective. Different treatment based on age or domicile can also be justified on particular prerequisite prescribed in the law.
According to the law, an employer has to make due and appropriate adjustments necessary for persons with disabilities to be able, equally with others, get work as well as to manage their work tasks and to advance their careers. On request, the employer must promptly provide a written report on the grounds of its procedures to a disabled person, who considers that he/she has been discriminated against as a result of the denial of reasonable adjustments in applying for employment or in an employment relationship.
A harassment, denial of reasonable adjustments for disabled persons as well as an instruction or order to discriminate constitute also forbidden discrimination. It is important to note that it is the employer’s responsibility to intervene in harassment at the workplace if it becomes aware of such. Neglecting this obligation is considered discrimination.
Employees must not be placed in an unfavorable position or treated in such a way that they suffer adverse consequences, because he/she has complained or taken action to ensure equality. An employee cannot be dismissed or moved to a different position, for example.
The Non-discrimination Act prohibits also discriminatory job advertisements. An occupational safety and health authority can prohibit discriminatory advertisement at risk of a fine. Only a job applicant who has applied for the job and has not become selected for that job is entitled to a compensation for discrimination.
An employer who treats employees unfavorably compared to other workers or in whose workplace’s practice leads to a worker at a disadvantage compared to other workers, or who does not interfere with workplace harassment, can be sentenced to pay his/her employees compensation based on the Non-discrimination Act for breaking the law on the basis of discrimination. Also an employee or some else which suffers adverse consequences as a result of pleading the rights or obligations provided for in the law is entitled to a compensation. Payment of the compensation does not prevent the defended from demanding indemnification for economic loss according to Tort Liability Act or other law.
There is also a punishment for breaching the discrimination prohibition in the Criminal Code.