European & International News

The European Commission - Report on the Implementation of the Recast directive 2006/54/EC – The persistent gender pay gap continues to be an obstacle to women’s equal rights in employment

[Brussels, 13 December 2013] The European Commission released a report last Friday (December 6th) assessing the implementation of the 2006 Directive on Equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation, called the ‘Recast Directive’. The Directive, which is aimed at consolidating and modernising EU legislation and case law in the area of employment, merges already existing Directives but also contains some new provisions.

This long awaited report shows that most Member States have implemented the provisions which were part of already existing Directives but the transposition of the ‘new provisions’ set out in the Recast Directive is insufficient in the majority of the Member States despite the fact that transposition should have been completed by 15 August 2008 (article 33). These new provisions relate to the definition of what is to be considered pay, for which 18 Member States have complied; the extension of the principle of equal treatment in occupational social security schemes to pension schemes (particularly for public servants) for which transposition is lacking or unclear in 13 Member States while in Slovakia and Italy women and men continue to have different pensionable ages; discrimination arising from gender reassignment for which only four Member States have transposed and, the extension of the horizontal provisions (defence of rights, compensation or reparation and the burden of proof shifted to the employer) to occupational social security, has been transposed in the majority of Member States.

Only two Member States have fully complied with all the provisions of the Directive. However, one country, namely the Netherlands, has failed to comply with the (previously existing) provisions to adequately protect the rights of employees on maternity, adoption or parental leave when they return to work and has been referred to the European Court of Justice in January 2013.

Looking beyond the transposition of the directive, a number of issues regarding the effectiveness of its application and enforcement have been identified particularly with regards to the persistent gender pay gap. These include the lack of transparency in and difficulties to access wage data, lack of gender neutral job classification systems to compare the value of different jobs, lack of effective access to justice for victims of wage discrimination; these issues are included in the Commission Staff Working Document which accompanies the report. The Commission points out the importance of allowing gender Equality Bodies and Trade Unions to represent victims of discrimination. The transposition of the Directive does not in itself guarantee that these issues will be resolved but the Commission believes that the way forward in the fight against the gender pay gap is to focus on improving wage transparency.

The EWL contributed to the consultation of the Commission prior to the report with regards to different aspects of equal pay, notably transparency in wage composition, mandatory pay audits, gender-neutral job evaluation and classification systems and also provided a general assessment from its members on the implementation of the Recast Directive. The EWL stresses that the Directive on equal pay and subsequent Recast Directive, particularly article 4, have failed to close the gender pay gap, which has life-long consequences for women, particularly later in their lives as testified by the recent Commission study on the gender pension gap. The study reported an average gender pension gap of 39%, which is more than double that of the EU average gender pay gap: 16%.

This serious situation, calls for more stringent measures. The EWL had hoped that the Commission’s report on the implementation of the Recast Directive would provide an opportunity for more stringent measures such as legally binding provisions including mandatory pay audits to achieve transparency in wage composition.
In light of this, the EWL welcomes the Resolution issued by the European Parliament in May 2012, which calls on the Commission to review the Recast Directive by 15 February 2013 and to propose amendments, particularly with regards to the gender pay gap.

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