Eurocadres, the representative of Europe’s Professionals and Managers, is one of three recognised European cross-sectoral social partners, and represents over six million employees. We welcome the Commission’s consultation on Equality Bodies - Binding Standards, which can help to bring security and reassurances to Professionals and Managers and European workers more generally, while addressing important security aspects that impact all workplaces.
Our key recommendations for the initiative are the following:
Enabling Equality Bodies to function to their best ability
We welcome the Commission’s call to introduce minimum standards across the European Union. As outlined, the wide margin of discretion given to Member States as regards the structure and functioning of equality bodies has resulted in significant differences between the equality bodies established throughout Europe, in terms of the bodies' mandates, competences, structures, resources and operational functioning. This has resulted in a varying degree from protection against discrimination from one Member State to another. This directive aims to eliminate these discrepancies, while ensuring equality bodies independence and jurisdiction through legislation, while allowing their rights in cases of intersectional discrimination.
A critical element to the functioning of Equality Bodies is linked to funding, and welcome the principle of bodies not suffering cuts that are significantly higher than the average cuts to other public entities, along with pegging their annual growth to the average growth in funding provided to other entities. We agree with the Commission’s proposal that resources should increase proportionally if equality bodies’ tasks and mandate are expanded.
Where Equality Bodies find consistent acts of discrimination in a workplace, employers should be obligated to update existing measures, including existing action plans, in consultation with worker’s representatives and external experts.
Right to expertise
In addition to pan-European standards and funding, Equality Bodies are often in need of sectoral expertise. With the rise of digitalisation and the use of tools such as Artificial Intelligence systems, bodies have a number of new challenges to deal with in European workplaces. Equality Bodies must be provided access to independent expertise to address potential risks of discrimination from third-parties where necessary and requested.
As currently drafted, the directive does not provide clear assurances that this need can be fulfilled.
Personal data of claimants
While the directive outlines how personal data will be protected throughout the claim procedure and in providing assistance for victims, it does not provide guarantees of anonymity. Reassurances that data will be protected is a considerable asset in tackling the underreporting seen throughout Member States.
Access to reporting channels and non-discrimination
To mitigate the lack of reporting seen in European workplaces, Equality Bodies must be compelled to provide effective and impartial reporting channels with reporting, complaint and resolution mechanisms, advertising their availability in the workplace and made available to workers in consultation with worker’s representatives.
Underreporting in the workplace should be counteracted with the use of anonymous surveys and assessments, designed by employers and workers’ representatives. These surveys and assessments should be kept up to date and re-distributed with each change to working conditions. The feedback from workers should be incorporated into action plans to reduce and eradicate risk in workplaces.
Within these communications, workers should be guaranteed that Equality Bodies will guarantee, insofar as possible, the right to non-discrimination for those who make use of their services. These elements, if strengthened, can help to eliminate underreporting.
Role of trade unions and social partners
While the directive outlines the principle of data-sharing between Equality Bodies and organisations such as trade unions and social partners, the relationship should include assistance to bodies in offering their services to workers through their representatives. While maintaining the independence of Equality Bodies, collaboration should serve to highlight the options available to workers in need of assistance in instances of discrimination.
Where workplaces and/or employers are subject to multiple complaints, Equality Bodies shall liaise with Member States on their suitability to be recipients of public funds. Where multiple convictions arise from these claims, these workplaces/employers should no longer be eligible to receive public funds at the advice of national Equality Bodies.