Last checked: 19/04/2022

Equal treatment of staff

Employees are entitled to equal treatment in recruitment, working conditions, promotion, pay, access to vocational training, occupational pensions and dismissal.


Discrimination based on nationality is strictly forbidden across the EU. EU nationals working in another EU country must benefit from the same working rights as their local colleagues. 

Types of discrimination

As an employer, ​you are prohibited by law from discriminating against employees based on their:

Types of workplace discrimination

Direct discrimination occurs when an employer mistreats someone based on any of the 6 grounds mentioned above. This can be refusing to hire or promote someone because they represent an ethnic minority.

Indirect discrimination occurs when a practice, policy or rule that applies to everyone has a negative effect on a particular group. For example, implementing rules that are unfavourable for part-time workers may indirectly discriminate against women, as most part-time workers are women.

Harassment is unwanted conduct, bullying or other behaviour that leads to a hostile working environment. For example, if a boss or colleagues tell jokes based on sexual orientation to one of their LGBTQ colleagues. 

Instruction to discriminate occurs when a person incites another to discriminate against someone else. For example, if an employer asks a temporary work agency to find only workers aged under 40.

Victimisation occurs when where supervisors or colleagues retaliate in reaction to a discrimination complaint. For example, if someone has been dismissed or refused a promotion because they filed a discrimination complaint against their boss.

However, there are situations where different treatment based on one of these prohibited grounds may be justified under strict conditions. For example, it may be possible to justify age discrimination to promote the employment of young workers if a national rule obliges workers to retire after a certain age.

Find national equality bodiesOpen as an external link

EU legislation

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