Equal Treatment & Equality

Equal treatment comprises strategies for avoiding individual discrimination – e. g. based on ethnic background, sex, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual identity – in all areas of life. The aim of equality involves strategies for the alignment of living conditions of social groups that are to be equally treated – women, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersexual Persons – LGBTI people, people with disabilities or people with an immigrant background. Aligned living conditions take into account an equal distribution of resources (e. g. money, power, time, work).

Strategies of equal treatment and equality are, for example, anti-discrimination measures, diversity management, special support programs or Gender Mainstreaming. They work differently due to their different objectives. However, the strategies are not mutually exclusive, but may be complementary. Discrimination and inequalities manifest themselves also within disadvantaged groups with view to different categories – like age, ethnicity, experience of violence, regional differences, social milieus and levels. Multiple categories can intersect in a single person – for example an old woman with an immigrant background or a homosexual man with disabilities.

Equal treatment and equality are core values of the European Union – as incorporated in the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The European Union is committed to integrate these core values into all its Community policies and activities. For this purpose, the EU adopted various directives of equal treatment and equality.

In the area of equal treatment, however, the Directive 2006/54/EG was the last anti-discrimination directive adopted by the European Council. Since then, no legislative progress to combat discrimination has been achieved at EU level. Although, with the aim to extend the anti-discrimination protection in EU Member States beyond the labour market, the European Commission already initiated a proposal for a comprehensive anti-discrimination directive in 2008. This is, however, still subject of discussion in the EU Council.

In the area of equality the reform of maternity leave, as set in the Directive 92/85/EWG, failed in 2015. It was replaced by the roadmap „New start to address the challenges of work-life balance faced by working families“. Also still subject to discussion in the EU Council is the proposal for a directive on improving the gender balance among non-executive directors of companies listed on the stock exchanges.

Despite the blockade of individual EU Member States towards both proposals, the Member states themselves underscore their commitment to gender equality for example in form of the “European Pact for Gender Equality (2011-2020)”. The European Commission addresses the issue of gender equality via strategies for equality between women and men. The last strategy (2010-2015), however, expired at the end of 2015. In December 2015 the Commission launched a Commission staff working document with the title “Strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-2019”. Compared to the previous strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015 this is a downgraded internal document with limited liability and a limited duration of action. The European Parliament therefore calls on the Commission for a new strategy. For equality of people with disabilities, the European Commission is also working with an action plan, the “European Disability Strategy 2010-2020. A Renewed Commitment to a Barrier-Free Europe“; equality of LGBTI people, the European Commission uses a “List of actions by the Commission to advance LGBTI equality“.