The Law Societies are  committed to principles of equality and diversity, and to working with our members to support practice in these areas. We promote and encourage diverse membership and effective and inclusive working practices. The Brussels Office has helped the Law Societies to submit responses to various Commission consultations. The most recent responses include a Joint Response by the Law Society of England and Wales and the Law Society of Scotland on equality between men and women in the EU.

The EU has adopted the widest framework of directives in relation to gender. These gender equality directives, Directive 2006/54/EC and Directive 2004/113/EC cover access to employment or occupation, and access to supply of goods and services respectively. In addition, Article 157 TFEU provides for the equal pay. This Treaty Article is directly effective and to supplement it, the EU has adopted a further  framework of directives covering parental leave, pensions and other work related benefits.

Furthermore, on basis of Article 19 TFEU, the EU has adopted several directives, including the equal treatment directive of November 2000 which extends the framework for equal treatment and prohibits discrimination on grounds  as including religion or belief, disability, race, age or sexual orientation. The directive applies in the context of   employment, social protection, education and access to and supply of goods and services which are available to the public. The EU also adopted  separate Directive: 2000/43/EC which complements the employment equality framework and implements the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin. and which sets out a binding framework by prohibiting racial discrimination throughout the EU. This directive outlaws discrimination in the fields of employment, social protection and social security, social benefits, education and access to the supply of goods and services.

Equality law - employment law

There is much interaction between equality and employment law at EU level. These areas of law connect in particular to the free movement of workers in the EU: that the EU workers should not be discriminated against or they are granted certain basic level of protection. Accordingly, the EU equality law framework applies mainly in the scope of employment and whether a person has equal access to employment in terms of application, training and promotions to name but a few. The EU gender equality law also covers equal pay which is applicable to all work related payments, benefits and pensions.

EU employment law refers to employment conditions which aim to protect workers’ health and safety. The most infamous of example of EU employment law is the working time directive. This directive provides for weekly working hours which must not exceed 48 hours in average, minimum daily rest and resting periods once working time exceeds six hours, paid annual leave and protection for night work.

Future developments of equality and employment law

Current pending proposals include the women on corporate boards initiative which would set a quota of 40% of the underrepresented sex to be included on non-executive boards and initiatives to help with youth unemployment and job mobility.

During Spring 2016, the Commission proposed that the EU implement the Council of Europe Convention combating violence against women, the Istanbul Convention, in areas which fall under EU competencies. Finally, the Commission is likely to put forward a new parental leave proposal in autumn of 2016.

Policy advisors:

Rita Giannini and Eoin Lavelle