Non-discrimination and equality in working life
Discrimination and unfair treatment in working life are prohibited. Under the Non-Discrimination Act, employers may not discriminate against employees on the basis of
- religion, belief, opinion,
- political activities, trade union activities,
- family ties,
- health, disability,
- sexual orientation,
- gender or
- other personal characteristics.
The Act on Equality between Women and Men (Equality Act) contains provisions on non-discrimination on the basis of gender.
Harassment, denial of reasonable accommodation and instructions and orders to discriminate are also prohibited. Moreover, no one may be treated unfavourably or suffer adverse consequences after having taken measures to ensure non-discrimination or participated in such measures (prohibition of victimisation).
The Employment Contracts Act also lays down that employees must be treated equally. Work discrimination in the advertisement of a vacancy or selection of an employee or during employment that meets the statutory definition of the offence under the Criminal Code is punishable.
Supervising compliance with non-discrimination provisions
Supervision of compliance with the Non-Discrimination Act in employment and service relationships is the responsibility of the occupational safety and health authorities. However, the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman is also responsible for a number of more general promotion, monitoring and reconciliation tasks. Ultimately, civil and criminal cases involving discrimination are decided in general courts.
At local level, supervision of compliance with occupational safety and health provisions is the responsibility of the occupational safety and health authorities in the occupational safety and health areas of responsibility of the Regional State Administrative Agencies. The task of the occupational safety and health authorities is to provide advice and issue instructions and opinions on the application of the occupational safety and health provisions and regulations. If there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a case involves work discrimination under the Criminal Code, the occupational safety and health authorities must report the matter to the police for pre-trial investigation.
The authorities may decide not to report the matter to the police if, on account of the minor nature of the offence and the occupational safety situation at the workplace, the public interest does not require the reporting of the matter.
The occupational safety and health authorities may give the employer a reprimand if the employer breaches the prohibition of discrimination, prohibition of victimisation or the prohibition of discriminatory job advertising laid down in the Non-Discrimination Act or if the employer has failed to prepare a non-discrimination plan.
The occupational safety and health authorities may issue a decision obliging the employer to rectify the illegal situation if the employer fails to act in accordance with the reprimand within the time specified. The occupational safety and health authorities may reinforce the decision by imposing a conditional fine.
The occupational safety and health authorities must notify the party submitting the complaint of the duty of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman to assist victims of discrimination. The occupational safety and health authorities may also request an opinion on the interpretation and application of the Non-Discrimination Act from the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman or the Non-Discrimination and Equality Board.
The Ombudsman for Equality and the Non-Discrimination and Equality Board supervise compliance with the Equality Act. The Non-Discrimination and Equality Board may impose bans and obligations and reinforce them with conditional fines. The board may also approve arrangements ending disagreements between parties.
Guidance and supervision of labour legislation: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Osha)
Law-drafting: Seija Jalkanen, seija.jalkanen(at)gov.fi