More equal opportunities across Europe

IF – 08/2023

After the parliamentary summer break, the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) and the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) will discuss on a draft report on the directive on standards for equal opportunities bodies in the field of equal treatment and equal opportunities for women and men in matters of employment and occupation in the European Parliament.

Response to the draft directive

The co-rapporteurs from the two competent committees, Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP/FIN) and Marc Angel (S&D/LUX), have been working for several months on the report on the directive to strengthen equal opportunities bodies. The Draft Directive was presented by the responsible Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli (S&D, MLT), at the end of 2022 to strengthen the independence and powers of national equal opportunities bodies. Discrimination in the European world of work is to be combated even more effectively. The main objective, according to Dalli, is to adequately equip the equal opportunities bodies so that they can fulfil their tasks independently and effectively. Member States should therefore be obliged to provide sufficient human and financial resources and also to ensure access for persons with disabilities.

Tasks of the equal opportunities bodies

Equal opportunities bodies play an important role in helping victims of discrimination in labour and employment issues; especially discrimination based on gender, disability, age, ethnicity, job search, pay disputes or self-employment. The existing legal requirements in equal treatment and anti-discrimination, such as the Directive on the application of the principle of equal treatment between men and women engaged in an activity in a self-employed capacity (2010/41/EU). remain untouched. The new directive is intended to eliminate existing legal loopholes in the area of equal treatment, supplement ambiguities and create unified standards.

Current legal situation

For the European Commission, equal opportunities bodies are the indirect controllers to monitor the implementation and compliance with the Equality Directives in the Member States. The directives currently contain only a few specifications, which is why the equal opportunities bodies are structured very differently in a European comparison in terms of mandate, independence or effectiveness. The new legislation aims to ensure that standards are set in the area of access to services and in the area of social security. This is also the view of the European Pillar of Social Rights with its principles of gender equality, equal opportunities, access to employment and fair working conditions.

Diversity in the Member States

Strengthening equal opportunities bodies should also help to improve economic and social cohesion. Not only are people diverse, but so are national equal opportunities bodies. The systems in the Member States in which the equal opportunities bodies are embedded are also diverse. Nevertheless, it must be ensured that citizens in every Member State receive protection against discrimination with comparable legal protection rights.