Article 20 January 2015

Changes in non-discrimination legislation

The new Non-Discrimination Act (1325/2014) includes tightened requirements for preventing discrimination in the workplace.

Since the beginning of 2015, the prohibition of discrimination has evolved to include an obligation to promote equality among employees and candidates.

Compliance with the rule of equality has become increasingly important for employers in all aspects of working life.

As a result of the new changes, employers have an obligation to implement reasonable adjustments to better promote working conditions or employment opportunities for employees or candidates who are disabled or otherwise demand special attention due to a physical condition that may make them subject to discriminatory behaviour.

Failing to make reasonable adjustments or refusing to guarantee sufficient protection is regarded as discrimination.

Reasonable adjustments are needed

Additionally, upon request, employers are obliged to provide a detailed account, including the justification for different treatment of the disabled employee or candidate who suspects that he or she has been discriminated due to the employer’s failure to make reasonable adjustments.

For example, this means an employer may have to provide an explanation as to why a disabled candidate was not hired for an open position.

The sphere of prohibition against discrimination has been specified to be broader than before. Thus, discriminating an employee who is not himself or herself disabled but, for example, whose child is disabled is now also considered as discrimination based on a preliminary ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Draft and discuss an equality plan

The employer is also prohibited to set discriminating requirements when seeking new employees. In addition, all employers with at least 30 employees are required to prepare an equality plan in order to analyse the fulfilment of equality among the employees and to promote the working conditions to better ensure equal treatment. Such promoting actions must also be discussed together with the employees or their representatives.

Ceiling for compensation removed

Moreover, the previous maximum amount of the compensation (EUR 17,800, although it included a possibility for the court to exceed the maximum amount) payable for breaching the prohibitions of discrimination has been removed.

Hence, as a consequence of the new Non-Discrimination Act, there is no longer any fixed maximum amount of compensation. Instead, the amount will be based only on an overall assessment of the situation taking into account the level, extent and duration of the violation against equal treatment, as well as compensation that is payable based on other legislation, for example, the Employment Contracts Act.

Damage to an employer’s image

In conclusion, as the focus has changed to more preventive protection against discrimination, the new legislation requires special attention from the employers regarding the new mandatory obligation.

A breach in the tightened laws may be detrimental, not only in terms of economic sanctions, but also for the employer’s image.

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