Last Updated: Tuesday, 02 September 2014, 13:52 GMT

Finland: Act on Equality between Women and Men

Publisher National Legislative Bodies / National Authorities
Publication Date 1 January 1987
Cite as Finland: Act on Equality between Women and Men [Finland],  1 January 1987, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b51c0.html [accessed 3 September 2014]
Comments This is the official consolidated translation. The 1987 Act was amended by Act No. 624/1992 and No. 206/1995.
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The Equality Act

·         aims at promoting equality between women and men

·         prevents direct and indirect discrimination based on gender

·         improves the status of women particularly in working life

·         facilitates the reconciliation of working life and family life for women and men

·         prohibits discrimination in advertising jobs and training vacancies

·         gives those discriminated in working life a right to claim compensation

·         obliges the authorities to change such circumstances that prevent the achievement of equality

·         requires that men and women shall be provided equal opportunities for education and occupational advancement

·         demands an even distribution of male and female members in state and municipal bodies.

The observance of the Act is monitored by the Equality Ombudsman

The Act does not apply to

·         the functions of the Defence Forces and the Border Guard Service requiring military training

·         activities connected with the religious practices of religious communities

·         the Act does not authorize to interfere in families' internal affairs or in people's private life.

The official title of the Act is the Act on Equality between Women and Men.

Section 1
Aim of the Act

The aim of the Act is to prevent discrimination on the basis of sex and to promote equality between women and men, and, for this purpose, to improve the status of women, particularly in working life.

Section 2
Restrictions on the scope of the Act

The provisions of this Act shall not apply to

·         activities connected with the religious practices of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church, the Greek Orthodox Church or other religious communities or

·         relationships between family members or other relationships in private life.

The provisions of sections 10 and 11, 14 a, and sections 17 and 19 shall not apply to parliamentary activities connected with the duties of Members of Parliament. Nor shall the provisions of sections 10 and 11 apply to the activities of the President of the Republic.

Separate provisions shall apply to defence administration offices, posts and functions requiring military training, and to military offices and posts in the Border Guard Service.

Section 3
Definitions under this Act

'Employee' means a person who, by contract, undertakes to perform work for another person (an employer) under the latter's direction and supervision in return for wages or other remuneration, or who holds a post or is party to another comparable employment relationship with the State, a municipality or other public body (authority).

'Employer' means an employer or public body referred to in paragraph 1.

Section 4
Duty of authorities to promote equality

Authorities shall promote equality between women and men purposefully and systematically, especially by changing circumstances which prevent the achievement of equality.

The minimum percentage of both women and men in government committees, advisory boards and other corresponding bodies, and in municipal bodies, exclusive of municipal councils, shall be 40, unless there are special reasons to the contrary.

If an agency, an institution or a municipal or State-majority company has an administrative board, board of directors or some other executive or administrative body consisting of elected or appointed representatives, that organ shall comprise an equitable proportion of both women and men, unless there are special reasons to the contrary.

Section 5
Implementation of equality in training and education

Authorities, educational institutions and other bodies arranging training and education shall provide equal opportunities for education and occupational advancement for women and men, and ensure that instruction, research and instructional material promote fulfilment of the aim of this Act.

Section 6
Employer's duty to promote equality

Each employer shall promote equality between women and men within working life purposefully and systematically.

In order to promote equality in working life, the employer shall, with due regard to the resources available and any other relevant factors,

·         act so that both women and men apply for vacancies

·         promote an equitable recruitment of women and men in the various jobs and create for them equal opportunities for promotion

·         develop working conditions so that they are suitable for both women and men, and facilitate the reconciliation of working life and family life for women and men

·         ensure, as far as possible, that an employee is not subjected to sexual harassment.

Section 6a
Measures to promote equality

If an employer regularly employs a staff of at least 30, said employer shall include measures to further equality between women and men at the workplace in the annual personnel and training plan or the action programme for labour protection.

Section 7
Prohibition of discrimination

Direct or indirect discrimination on the basis of sex is prohibited.

For the purposes of this Act, discrimination on the basis of sex means:

·         treating men and women differently on the basis of sex

·         treating women differently for reasons of pregnancy or childbirth

·         treating men and women differently on the basis of parenthood, family responsibilities or for some other reason related to sex.

Discrimination is also involved in any procedure whereby people are de facto assigned a different status in relation to each other for the reasons mentioned in paragraph 2.

Section 8
Discrimination in working life

The action of an employer shall be deemed to constitute discrimination prohibited under section 7, if the employer, upon engaging a person or selecting a person for a particular job or training, bypasses a more qualified person of the opposite sex, unless the employer can prove that the action was based on weighty and acceptable grounds related to the quality of the work or job or that the action was due to an acceptable reason other than sex.

The actions of an employer shall likewise be deemed to constitute discrimination prohibited under section 7, if the employer

·         upon engaging a person or selecting a person for a particular job or training bypasses a person on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or for some other reason related to sex, or on such grounds restricts the duration of the employee's employment relationship or its extension

·         applies to an employee or employees, on the basis of sex, terms of payment or employment less favourable than those he or she applies to an employee or several other employees in the same work or work of equal value

·         manages the work, distributes tasks, or otherwise arranges the working conditions so that an employee or several employees is/are assigned a clearly less favourable status than others on the basis of sex

·         neglects his or her obligations under section 6, paragraph 2, subparagraph 4 to eliminate sexual harassment

·         weakens the working conditions or the terms of employment of an employee after the employee has appealed to the rights and obligations stipulated in this Act

·         on the basis of sex, gives an employee or employees notice, or terminates an employment relationship, or otherwise causes it to terminate, or transfers or lays off an employee or employees.

An employer shall not be deemed to have violated the prohibition on discrimination stipulated in subparagraphs 1-3 or 5-6 of paragraph 2 if he or she can prove that his other procedure was based on acceptable grounds other than the employee's sex.

Section 9
Procedure that shall not be deemed to constitute discrimination

For the purposes of this Act, the following shall not be deemed to constitute discrimination based on sex:

·         special protection of women because of pregnancy or childbirth

·         enactment of compulsory military service for men only

·         admittance of either women or men only as members of an association, if this is based on an express provision in the rules of the association

·         procedure based on a plan aiming at practical fulfilment of the aim of this Act.

Section 10
Obligation of employer to report on his or her procedure

Upon request, the employer shall without delay provide any person who considers that he or she has been subject to discrimination as referred to in section 8, paragraph 1, with a written report on his or her procedure. The report shall indicate the grounds for the employer's choice, the education and training, work and other experience of the person chosen, and any other clearly demonstrable qualifications and considerations that have influenced the employer's choice.

Likewise, upon request, the employer shall without delay provide a job seeker or an employee who considers that he or she has been subject to discrimination as referred to in section 8, paragraph 2, with a written report on his procedure.

The employer shall provide an employee with a report on the grounds for his or her wages and other necessary information concerning the employee on the basis of which it can be assessed whether the prohibition on wage discrimination referred to in section 8,paragraph 2, subparagraph 2, has been observed.

The shop steward or, according to what has been agreed upon at the workplace, other employee representative shall have independent right of access to information on the wages and the employment relationship of an individual employee with the latter's consent, or of a group of employees, or as agreed in the collective agreement for the branch, if there is reason to suspect wage discrimination on the basis of sex. If the information concerns the wages of only one individual, the person concerned shall be informed about disclosure of the information. The shop steward or other employee representative shall not disclose information on wages or employment relationships to others.

The report shall not contain information relating to a person's state of health or other personal circumstances without the consent of the person concerned.

Section 11
Compensation

An employer who has violated the prohibition on discrimination stipulated in section 8shall be liable to pay compensation to the affected person.

The compensation payable shall amount to no less than FIM 15,000 and to no more than FIM 50,000. The compensation may be reduced beyond the minimum amount stipulated above, or the liability to pay compensation may be lifted completely, if this is deemed reasonable in view of the employer's financial situation, the employer's attempts to prevent or eliminate the effects of the action or other circumstances of the case. When the amount of compensation is being determined, the nature and the extent and duration of the discrimination shall be taken into account. If the nature and the circumstances of the discrimination provide grounds for so doing, the maximum amount may be exceeded. The maximum may be doubled at the most.

Where several persons have the right to claim compensation by virtue of section 8,paragraph 1, or paragraph 2, subparagraph 1, and they are all more qualified than the person chosen, the compensation shall be divided equally between them.

Section 12
Claims for compensation

Compensation shall be claimed by legal action brought at the court in the employer' splace of domicile.

Action for compensation shall be brought within one year of the prohibition on discrimination being violated.

When an action for compensation has been brought and more than one person is entitled to demand compensation on the grounds of the same act or omission, all claims for compensation shall be presented in the same proceedings under penalty of forfeiture of the claims.

Section 13
Right to claim compensation under another act

The provisions of this Act regarding compensation for discrimination on the basis of sex shall not prevent the affected person from also claiming compensation under the Damages Act (412/74) or other legislation.

Section 14
Prohibition of discriminatory announcement of vacancies

No announcement concerning a job or training vacancy shall invite exclusively applications from women or men, unless there is weighty and acceptable cause for so doing related to the nature of the job or duties, or unless this is based on implementation of a plan as referred to in section 9, subparagraph (4).

Section 14a
Penal provisions

Anyone who violates the prohibition laid down in section 10, paragraph 4, by disclosing information at his disposal concerning the wages of an employee shall be sentenced to a fine for violating the secrecy duty under the Act on Equality between Women and Men.

Anyone who wilfully violates the prohibition laid down in section 14 shall be sentenced to a fine for discriminatory announcement. The public prosecutor may bring charges only after notification from the Equality Ombudsman.

Section 15
Requesting opinions from the Equality Board

A court may request an opinion from the Equality Board in matters concerning compensation by virtue of section 11.

Section 16
Supervision

The Equality Ombudsman and the Equality Board shall supervise the observance of this Act in private activities, and in public administration and business, in accordance with this Act and other legislation.

Section 17
Providing the equality authorities with information

Notwithstanding any provisions or regulations on the secrecy of a matter or a document, the Equality Ombudsman and the Equality Board shall have the right to receive from the authorities, free of charge, all the information necessary for supervision of observance of this Act.

Within a reasonable period of time specified by the Equality Ombudsman, the latter shall have the right to receive from any person information needed in order to supervise observance of this Act and to demand that any document in a person's possession be submitted by that person, unless said person has a legal right or obligation to refuse to give evidence or to present the document.

In order to enforce the duty to provide information or to present a document as referred to in paragraph 2, the Equality Ombudsman shall have the right to impose a conditional fine. A decision to impose such a penalty shall not be subject to appeal. Payment of the penalty shall be ordered by the Equality Board.

Separate provisions shall apply to the secrecy of documents belonging to the Evangelical-Lutheran Church or its congregations.

Section 18
Inspections and executive assistance

The Equality Ombudsman has the right to carry out an inspection at a workplace, if there are grounds to believe that the employer has acted contrary to this Act or that the obligations concerning equality laid down in this Act have not otherwise been complied with. If the workplace is at the employer's residence, no inspection may, however, be carried out unless there is a special reason for suspicion.

The Equality Ombudsman is entitled to assistance from other authorities in carrying out an inspection.

The inspection shall be carried out without causing unnecessary inconvenience or costs.

Section 19
Advice and counselling

When observing that the obligations laid down in this Act are not complied with or that the provisions of the Act are otherwise violated, the Equality Ombudsman shall provide advice and counselling so as to prevent the continuation or recurrence of such unlawful practice.

Section 20
Placing a matter before the Equality Board

The Equality Ombudsman or a central organization of employers' associations or a central organization of trade unions may place a matter involving a practice contrary to the provisions of sections 7, 8 or 14 before the Equality Board.

A matter relating to the activities of Parliament or its organs, the President of the Republic, the Council of State, a ministry, the Prime Minister's Office, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Chancellor of Justice, the Supreme Court or the Supreme Administrative Court may not, however, be placed before the Equality Board.

The handling of a matter by the Equality Board shall be governed by the Act on the Equality Ombudsman and the Equality Board.

Section 21
Prohibition on unlawful practice

The Equality Board may prohibit anyone who has acted contrary to the provisions of sections 7, 8 or 14 from continuing or repeating the practice if the prohibition on the practice in question is justifiable with regard to the attainment of equality.

Upon issuing the prohibition, it may simultaneously be decided that the prohibition shall be observed only from a date specified in the decision if it is justified that the party concerned should be reserved a reasonable period of time to change the circumstances or practice giving rise to the prohibition.

If necessary, the Equality Board may prohibit the continuation or repetition of the practice under penalty of a fine. The penalty may be imposed on the party to whom the prohibition applies, or on the party's representative, or on both. A decision imposing such a penalty is not subject to appeal.

Payment of the penalty shall be ordered by the Equality Board.

Section 22
Appeal

Appeals against a decision of the Equality Board shall go before the Supreme Administrative Court. The appeal shall be governed by the provisions of the Act on Appeal in Administrative Matters.

A decision made by the Equality Board by virtue of section 21 shall be complied with immediately even if it has not yet obtained the force of law, unless otherwise decreed by the Board or by the Supreme Administrative Court.

Section 23
Revision of compensation

The amounts of compensation stipulated in section 11, paragraph 2, of shall be revised by decree every three years in accordance with any changes in the value of money.

Section 24
Statutory power

Further stipulations on the implementation of this Act shall be issued by decree, when necessary.

Section 25
Entry into force and transition provisions

This Act comes into force on January 1, 1987.

Measures necessary for the implementation of this Act may be taken before it comes into effect.

The provisions of this Act shall not apply if they are inconsistent with a collective bargaining agreement, or a collective agreement for civil servants or public employees concluded before this Act comes into force. The provision laid down in section 4,paragraph 2, of this Act does not require any changes to be made in the composition of a government committee, advisory board, or other corresponding body appointed prior to the Act's entry into force.

A pension scheme providing different pension coverage for employees of different sexes may be applied, irrespective of the starting date of the employee's employment, after January 1, 1987, if said pension scheme was in force prior to that date.

Amendments1992/624
1995/206

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