Gender equality plans to be part of company collective agreements

The equality law recently approved by the government stipulates that the social partners must negotiate gender equality plans in companies with over 250 workers. The aim is to reduce the wage gap between women and men and to improve promotion prospects for women. Small companies are invited to do this on a voluntary basis.

The framework law on gender equality, which was passed by parliament in 2006, was finally approved in March 2007. This law transposes into national legislation Directive 2002/73/EC on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women as regards access to employment, vocational training and promotion, and working conditions. It also introduces gender mainstreaming by applying the principle of equality to political, social, economic and cultural life.

Moreover, the law includes a significant number of measures on employment and social protection stemming from the Agreement for the Improvement of Growth and Employment. This agreement was signed by the government, the Spanish Confederation of Employers’ Organisations (Confederación Española de Organizaciones EmpresarialesCEOE), as well as the Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Commissions (Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras, CC.OO) and the General Workers’ Confederation (Unión General de Trabajadores, UGT) (ES0605019I).

Aims of equality plan at company level

With regard to collective bargaining, the law establishes for the first time that companies with more than 250 employees – of which there are currently about 4,600, according to the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales, MTAS) – must negotiate equality plans. This means that the trade unions are required to draw up an analysis of the number of women working in the company, their salaries and their promotion prospects. It is envisaged that the plan should not be a mere declaration of intentions, but should include strategies for achieving equal treatment and opportunities for both sexes.

With this measure, the government aims to eliminate the current 19% wage gap between men and women (ES0701049I). Companies with fewer than 250 employees will not be forced to negotiate equality plans, but they may choose to do so voluntarily.

The law urges companies with boards of directors to include a number of women as members so that a balanced representation can be achieved within eight years. At present, only 4% of company directors named on the Spanish stock exchange are women.

Furthermore, the law establishes the creation of a recognition award, presented by the ministry to companies that excel in their application of equality policies.

Work–life balance

The new regulations also define a series of measures to improve work–life balance and to promote a greater shared responsibility for family obligations between both sexes. This issue is a matter of ongoing concern in Spain (ES0611029I). The most significant measures in this regard include the following:

  • the right of workers to adapt the duration and distribution of their working time and the right of women to accumulate time off for breastfeeding as full days;
  • the right to reduce working time by as much as half in order to care for children under the age of 12 years and for people with disabilities.
  • recognition of the right to 13 days of paternity leave, independently of maternity leave, for birth or adoption. The period is increased by two days per child after the birth of the second child. It is planned to increase paternity leave entitlement to one month within six years.

In December 2005, the Concilia Plan aimed at fostering better work–life balance was signed in the public sector (ES0602104F).

Commentary

The trade unions support the measures established by the framework law on gender equality. However, CEOE strongly rejects the inclusion of woman on governing boards simply as a means to achieve gender balance. In order to get employers’ support, the government raised from four years to eight years the period of implementation of such measures.

Emma Cervino, CIREM Foundation

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