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European Equality Law Network

European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination

Key EU directives in gender equality and non-discrimination

The so-called Recast Directive (2006/54/EC) on equal opportunities and equal treatment of women and men in employment and occupation has brought together some older directives. This directive requires the implementation of the prohibition of direct and indirect sex discrimination, harassment and sexual harassment in pay, (access to) employment and in occupational social security schemes.

A prohibition of direct and indirect sex discrimination applies to statutory social security schemes (Directive 79/7/EEC) and to self-employment (Directive 2010/41/EU). Sex discrimination is also prohibited in access to and the supply of goods and services (Directive 2004/113/EC). In addition, some directives apply to specific groups, such as the Pregnancy Directive (92/85/EEC), which protects pregnant and breastfeeding women and women who have recently given birth, the Work-life Balance Directive (2019/1158/EU), which provides a set of legislative and non-legislative measures to enhance rights to leave and flexible working arrangements for parents and carers, and the Part-time Work Directive (97/81/EC). The great majority of part-time workers in the EU being women; the requirement of equal treatment of part-timers and full-timers is also relevant for them.

The Racial Equality Directive (2000/43/EC) prohibits discrimination on the ground of racial or ethnic origin in a broad range of fields, including employment, social protection and social advantages, education, and goods and services available to the public, including housing. The Employment Equality Directive (2000/78/EC), however, is limited to the field of employment and occupation but covers the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation. The adoption of the Racial Equality Directive and the Employment Equality Directive initiated a movement throughout Europe, in EU Member States and beyond, towards the adoption of national non-discrimination legislations transposing the provisions of the directives. In many Member States, this movement implied quite profound changes to the existing legislative framework, through the amendment of existing legislation or the adoption of new unprecedented laws and regulations to specifically regulate the prohibition of discrimination in accordance with the directives’ requirements.

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