Bill on wage data adopted

In June 2001, the Danish parliament adopted a bill amending the Act on Equal Pay, with the aim of creating greater transparency in wage data and addressing the gender "pay gap" which persists after 25 years of equal pay legislation. Under the new legislation, employees, trade unions and the Equal Opportunities Board will have access to wage data in all enterprises with more than 10 employees.

The Danish parliament's adopted a bill (2000/1 LSF 215) amending the Act on Equal Pay for Men and Women on 1 June 2001, the last working day before the summer parliamentary recess. The aim of the new Act is to create a higher degree of transparency in wage data, especially in the light of equal pay for women and men. As from 1 June 2002, employees, employee representatives, the Equal Opportunities Board (Ligestillingsnævnet) and trade unions with one or more members in an enterprise may require companies with more than 10 employees to draw up wage statistics. Furthermore, from the same date, employees will be explicitly allowed to discuss wages openly, as it will no longer be lawful to impose a duty of secrecy on employees relating to pay matters.

The amendment had been announced by Minister of Labour, Ove Hygum, in late 2000 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Act on Equal Pay (DK0012106N). Recent studies have shown that the Act had not so far had the intended effect, in that a gender "pay gap" persists (DK0006182F). The conservative and liberal opposition parties voted against the amendment, and employers have also expressed concern over the administration of the new legislation.

The industrial section of the Union of Commercial and Clerical Workers in Denmark (Handels -og Kontorfunktionærernes Forbund, HK/industri) is enthusiastic about the new legislation: "We have obtained transparency in wage questions. This is a big step forward for Danish employees and the biggest victory since HK won the Danfoss case in 1991. Now we can make further progress in our long fight for genuine equality of wages. This new instrument will be fully used," stated the president of HK/industri, Jens Pors. It was in the Danfoss case (C-109/88) that the European Court of Justice ruled that, if a pay system is not transparent, and a complainant proves that there is a pay difference between male and female workers, the burden of proof is on the employer to prove that there is no sex discrimination.

Mr Pors added: "We will now start work to identify the sectors and occupational fields where equal pay problems exist and demand wage data from the employers. Our goal is to obtain explanations for the wage differences which we identify. In some cases, there will be a basis for raising claims for equal pay by bringing legal proceedings. In other cases the information will show that there are actually no problems with equal pay." However, he deplored the fact that more than 10,000 HK members will be barred from access to wage statistics because they work in enterprises with fewer than 10 employees. HK is the largest union in Denmark, with 374,120 members, of whom 271,464 are women.

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