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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 7 March 2014

International Women’s Day: Commission takes action to close the gender pay gap

Ahead of International Women’s Day (8 March), the European Commission has today adopted a Recommendation asking Member States to improve pay transparency for women and men in a bid to help close the gender pay gap. The pay gap – the average difference between women and men’s hourly earnings across the entire economy – has barely moved in recent years and is stagnating at 16.4% across the European Union (IP/14/190). Greater transparency in pay is an important part of tackling the pay gap, because it can reveal gender bias and discrimination in the pay structures of an organisation. This enables employees, employers and social partners to take appropriate action to ensure effective implementation of the equal pay principle. The Commission is recommending that Member States improve wage transparency through a ‘toolbox’ of measures, including allowing employees to request information on pay, reporting by companies, pay audits for large firms and including equal pay in collective bargaining. Member States will need to report back to the Commission on what action they have taken to implement the recommendations by the end of 2015.

"Europe has been promoting gender equality since 1957. From the Treaty-enshrined principle of equal pay to workplace rights, we can be proud of the progress Europe has made over the last few decades. But our work mustn't stop here. Because equal pay is still not yet a reality for women in Europe. That is why we are now asking for more transparency in remuneration. If companies really respect the principle of equal pay for equal work, then they should have nothing to hide," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. “Women should not be paid less simply because they are kept in the dark about what their male colleagues earn. Greater transparency will help close the gender pay gap. I hope Member States will take up the challenge and endeavour to make sure women no longer get short-changed. Together we can make gender equality a reality, not just on International Women's day, but 365 days a year."

The Commission Recommendation to Member States adopted today sets out a broad range of measures specifically addressing wage transparency, including:

  • Entitlement of employees to request information on pay levels, including complementary or variable components such as bonuses or payment in kind, broken down by gender;

  • Employers' regular reporting of average remuneration by category of employee or position, broken down by gender (applies only to large and medium companies);

  • Conducting pay audits in large companies (SMEs are excluded) and making them available to workers' representatives and social partners on request

  • Inclusion of equal pay questions (and pay audits) in collective bargaining.

Member States should implement at least one of these measures, according to their own national situation.

Other measures suggested include the collection of improved and up-to-date statistics on the gender pay gap; a clear definition of "work of equal value" and the promotion of gender-neutral job evaluation and classification systems; enhancing the role of national equality bodies in tackling gender pay discrimination; monitoring and enforcement of the equal pay principle and awareness-raising activities.

Next steps: Member States have until 31 December 2015 to inform the Commission as to the steps they have taken to implement the Recommendation, after which the Commission will assess the progress made and any need for further action.

Background

Gender equality is one of the founding principles of the European Union. The principle of equal pay has been enshrined in the Treaties since 1957 and is also incorporated in Directive 2006/54/EC on equal treatment between women and men in employment and occupation.

The latest figures released by the European Commission show an average 16.4% gender pay gap in 2012 across the European Union (IP/14/190). They show stagnation after a slight downward trend in recent years, with the figure around 17% or higher in previous years. The very slight decreasing trend for the past years is largely a result of the economic crisis, which has seen men's earnings decrease – especially in some male-dominated sectors such as construction or engineering – ­rather than women's earnings increase.

A report by the European Commission from December 2013 on the implementation of EU rules on equal treatment for women and men in employment (Directive 2006/54/EC) found that equal pay is hindered by a number of factors, including a lack of transparency in pay systems (IP/13/1227). Without adequate information about wage levels in an organisation, it is hard for an employee who is paid less than their counterpart of the opposite sex to challenge the situation. Increased wage transparency can improve the situation for individual victims of pay discrimination who would be able to compare themselves more easily to workers of the other sex, the report found.

Besides monitoring the correct implementation of EU legislation, the Commission has continued to take action on all fronts to tackle the pay gap, including the Equality Pays Off Initiative during 2012 and 2013, which supported employers in tackling the gender pay gap with the organisation of workshops and trainings; annual Country Specific Recommendations issued in the framework of the European Semester drawing the attention of Member States to the need to address the pay gap (see IP/13/463); European Equal Pay Days (IP/14/190); exchange of best practices; and financing of Member State initiatives through the Structural Funds and actions by civil society.

For more information

MEMO/14/160

European Commission – Gender pay gap:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/gender-pay-gap/index_en.htm

European Commission - Equality Pays Off:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/equality-pays-off/index_en.htm

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

http://ec.europa.eu/reding

Follow the Vice-President on Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU

Follow EU Justice on Twitter: @EU_Justice

Contacts :

Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82)

Natasha Bertaud (+32 2 296 74 56)

For the public: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 or by e­mail


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