Adopted by Eurocadres' presidium 11 May 2021.
The European Commission proposal for a directive to strengthen the application of the principle of equal pay for equal work or work of equal value between men and women through pay transparency and enforcement mechanism.
Reinforcements are needed for the equal pay directive
The European Commission has submitted a directive proposal to promote equal pay for women and men. The directive will certainly help in reducing pay secrecy and reveal pay inequalities. Eurocadres welcomes its content, which will increase access to information and tools to promote equal pay. Some reinforcements are still needed to close the gender pay gap. The principle of equal pay for work of equal value states that European Union member states are obliged to ensure precisely that this gap is eliminated.
Therefore, the directive should be based on four pillars:
- The obligation for all employers, of all sizes and in the public and private sectors, to adopt pay transparency policies and practices, including gender pay audits.
- Promoting the role of collective bargaining in negotiating equal pay.
- Address the main drivers of the gender pay gap: lower paid female-dominated sectors, lower paid jobs, unequal participation in domestic and care work and wage discrimination.
- Provide effective access to justice, including remedies and procedures, such as shifting the burden of proof, compensation and support for victims of pay discrimination.
Eurocadres considers it essential to put in place measures such as banning wage confidentiality clauses in contracts so that workers can negotiate their wages; requiring information for job evaluation in order to establish the principle of equal pay for equal work; make all employers provide information on pay (through audits) and annual action plans on equal pay; support trade unions in negotiations with employers to address the pay gap; require job advertisements to include the pay scale; prevent employers hiding behind privacy, data protection or administrative burdens to avoid wage transparency; ensure transparency of the entire wage bill, including benefits, bonuses, pensions, allowances, etc.; impose sanctions on employers who fail to take these measures.
Improving pay transparency
The Directive will give each worker the right to get certain information about their pay and about pay in the organisation they work in, and employers are required to publish annual reports on the gender pay gap and action plans to tackle the gap. The obligation to make a salary report and assessment is limited to organisations of more than 250 people. The upper limit is too high.
The number of small and medium sized enterprises is constantly growing. The directive should cover all companies regardless of their size as to guarantee the right to adequate pay information of all employees. The limit should be lowered or alternatively the threshold should be removed. The position of small businesses could otherwise be facilitated by regulation. Provisions can be made for less frequent reporting (every 3 years) for companies of less than 10 employees.
The directive will require employers to report on different pay gaps within the organisation, but the obligation to report on the actual pay is missing. To ensure transparency effectively, there is a need for change that will require the employer to provide information on average pay levels, broken down by gender, for the different categories of workers and for the organisation as a whole. All concepts included in any given salary must be taken into account to establish wage categories and aim at transparency. Reporting this thoroughly and by giving detailed information must be made on an annual basis.
Restrictions on pay transparency at individual level must be removed. Workers are allowed to discuss, by way of exception, about their earnings only if there is a discrimination case that needs to be clarified. This undermines the pay transparency objective: to raise awareness about and increase the general knowledge of wage categories and salary gaps. We must ask for amendments that provide that workers can discuss and disclose their salary to their colleagues.
Many employers wrongly claim that disclosure of salaries would be a breach of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It would appear that the Directive aims at confirming this incorrect approach by also preventing the workers’ representatives or Gender Equality Commission from revealing necessary information on an equal pay claim too. Eurocadres stresses the urge for amendments to make it clear that GDPR cannot be an obstacle to pay transparency or to equal pay claims. The right of workers to discuss their pay with their trade union must be clarified.
Improving the position of trade unions
The proposed Directive gives a role to ‘workers representatives’ instead of referring directly to trade unions. The priority of the trade union on negotiating must be clarified. It must be guaranteed that trade unions can be involved in job category assessments and to bargain to close the pay gap, so as to prevent company superiors to set up false workers’ representatives.
We demand the Directive to strengthen the role of trade unions and grant the opportunity to challenge partiality in the criteria used to determine job descriptions and assessments, salary categories as well as to establish the categories to be compared. Otherwise, the employer will be free to choose what categories are best for the company not to enter comparison in terms of equal pay and, so, allowing for lack of transparency. The trade unions’ right to negotiate, evaluate and demand transparency and objectivity in implementing job assessments must be justified. To promote closer cooperation between employers and trade unions’ representatives would help the organisation to identify possible gender discrimination.
Eurocadres supports The ETUC in seeking amendments to ensure that trade unions are involved in assessing work of equal value (article 4 Equal Work and Work of Equal Value) and that workers’ trade unions are given information about how salary categories are determined (article 7 right to information ), as well as a say in how the pay gap is measured (article 8 reporting on pay gap between female and male workers ) and the introduction of an obligation on the employer to negotiate a plan to close the gender pay gap (article 12 Defence of rights and article 27 collective bargaining and action). We must ensure that gender equality issues are integrated into all trade union decision-making and collective bargaining structures.