Thursday, 5 April 2012

E is for Equality.

I will give you a slight warning here, after studying sociology at A level I had sympathy for feminists (not particularly the radical ones, mind). I would go as far as saying at some point through my education, I became a bit of a feminist. However that time is pretty much gone now, and whilst I think they have some good arguments, they can also go too far.

Sociology is not what I'm basing my post on today. Today's post will be focused on Equal treatment between the two sexes, with regards to equal pay - mainly because this particular topic is far too large to write about all in 1 post. This particular topic originates from European Union (EU) law.

Now, I've had so many conversations with people (such as my flatmate, who also studies law, and says she doesn't feel part of the EU) and even my sister and family, who don't actually know anything about what the EU does for us here in Britain. Let me give you a couple of examples, excluding equality, which I will go on to talk about after these.

  • Without the EU, crossing borders between countries such as France, Germany, Spain, Italy, - your favourite holiday haunts, would be much more difficult. Thanks to the EU, all we require is to show our passports at airports, relevant borders or docks (ferry ports, whatever they are called).
  • Further to the above point, thanks to the EU requiring member states to open up housing markets to foreign EU Citizens, it has made it possible to purchase holiday homes in other countries. 
  • Working abroad is now encouraged, and much easier thanks to Worker's rights and the Citizenship directive which the EU has implemented. It's now easier to go and live in other countries, so you might gain employment there.
  • Without the EU, we would not have the Human Rights Act 1998, which was transposed into UK law and was taken from the European Convention on Human Rights. This particular act gives individuals a lot more protection than most people realise. However, I will take into account on this point that using the Human Rights Act to protect potential terrorists & stop them being deported is wrong, particularly when they can be proved to be extremely dangerous individuals.  
I shall leave it here, as I'm going off topic, but remember that it does much more for the UK than those listed above.


Equality between men and women is one of the fundamental principles of community law. The EU's objectives on gender equality are to ensure equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women and to combat any discrimination on the grounds of gender.

Firstly, there are 2 core functional treaties which lay out how the EU operates. The TEU (Treaty on European Union) and the TFEU (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

(This is where it gets boring)

Article 8 of the TFEU states the following: "In all its activities, the Union shall aim to eliminate inequalities, and to promote equality, between men and women."
Article 19 focuses on the general power to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age, or sexual orientation. 
Art 153(1)(I) is focused on the equality of men and women in the work environment 
Article 157 is interested with equal pay and now the promotion of equality between the sexes. 

Article 157 is considered the cornerstone of EU Employment law. The CJEU (Court of Justice of the European Union) has used this provision to initiate the development of EU sex equality legislation. This particular article is worded in such a way as to impose an obligation onto Member states. Article 157 (1) states that "Each Member State shall ensure that the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or work of equal value is applied." 

Article 157 has vertical and horizontal direct effect:
  • Vertical direct effect - Concerns the relationship between EU law and National law; specifically, the states obligation to ensure its compatibility with EU law, enabling citizens to rely on it in actions against the state.
  • Horizontal direct effect - concerns the relationship between individuals - horizontal direct effect with regards to provisions means that individuals (including companies) can rely on it in actions against eachother.
2nd para of article 157 defines pay - it gives a broad definition and it has to be linked to the employment relationship directly or indirectly. It is defined to include bonuses or perks of the job, and doesn't necessarily have to be whilst you're in employment - it can be after redundancies or after you're retired.

Directive 2006/54 covers equality in employment & working conditions, social protection, parental leave (maternity & paternity leave).

Moving swiftly on - the burden of proof lies with the complainant - they have to prove that they've been discriminated against - that they receive lower pay than a colleague of the opposite sex, and that they perform the same work of equal value.

NOTE there's a lot of case law in this area which I've omitted as I'm quite aware that most readers are not law students and this is a very large and confusing area. Furthermore, this is literally the basics of the particular area, and I haven't gone into too much detail. Any more info can be found on the European Union website here. If you got this far - well done, this ones taken me like 4 hours to write so I'm concluding here :) 

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that's a lot of information! It's so different in European countries than America, but I guess for you crossing borders would be closer to us crossing state lines. We only have Canada and Mexico to worry about and only needed passports recently. Despite the differences we seem to have the same discrimination issues though. People are people wherever you are.