Measures to strengthen equal pay between men and women

In late April 2009, amendments made to the existing legislation on equal pay for men and women for equal work or work of equal value is expected to help reduce the gender pay gap in Cyprus. The amendment aims to harmonise national legislation with the European directive on equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in employment, and also to comply with the revised European Social Charter.

On 24 April 2009, the new Law 38(I)/2009 came into force and was published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Cyprus. The law amends Laws 177(I)/2002 and 193(I)/2004 regarding equal pay between men and women for the same work or for work of equal value.

New law harmonises national and European legislation

Law 38(I)/2009 was passed for the purposes of harmonising national legislation with European legislation, notably Council Directive 2006/54/EC on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation, and also for the purposes of complying with Article 20 of the revised European Social Charter. In this context, the new law faithfully transposes the content of the recast Directive 2006/54/EC, both with regard to the replacement of the definitions of the most basic clauses of the legislation – namely those relating to ‘direct discrimination’, ‘pay’ and ‘indirect discrimination’, and also in relation to the addition of new articles.

In terms of new articles, Articles 6A and 6B refer respectively to:

  • the obligation of the social partners to enter into social dialogue for the purpose of furthering the principle of equal pay between men and women;
  • the obligation of the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance (Υπουργείου Εργασίας και Κοινωνικών Ασφαλίσεων, MLSI) as the competent authority to enter into dialogue with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which, according to their statutes, have a legal interest in helping to combat gender discrimination. The objective purpose of this dialogue is to promote the principle of equal pay for men and women.

In addition, of particular importance at the national level is the annex to Article 23C concerning the provision of independent assistance to victims of discrimination.

Upgrading of Equality Committee to implement new legislation

Article 23C includes provisions for independent assistance for victims of discrimination who report discriminatory treatment. This is a service that will be provided in accordance with the legislation by the Committee on Gender Equality in Employment and Vocational Training. This committee was set up according to the provisions of Law 205(I)/2002 on the Equal Treatment of Men and Women in Employment and Vocational Training, as amended in 2007.

Until recently, however, the Equality Committee was not particularly active. This was mainly due to the voluntary nature of the committee and to its shortage of members. In this context, the social partners, and the trade union organisations in particular, expressed serious concerns as to whether the Equality Committee could effectively play its new role of providing independent assistance to victims of discrimination, without making any substantial changes to its membership and structure. On this basis, the social partners deemed the upgrading of the committee as a necessary condition for the effective implementation of the new legislation. As a result, the passage of Law 38(I)/2009 led to an initial upgrading of the Equality Committee, through the appointment of a permanent Equality Officer, along with the decision to integrate independent services wherever they were considered necessary. On the recommendation of the Attorney General’s Office, as regards ensuring the independence of the committee, the necessary changes in this respect were also made, giving the committee greater financial independence than in the past.

Commentary

In any case, given the importance the government attaches to the matter of narrowing the gender pay gap (CY0811029I, CY0707019I), the amendment of the relevant legislation, even for the purposes of harmonisation, is considered to be yet another measure that will help to gradually reduce the gap between men’s and women’s wages.

Eva Soumeli, Cyprus Labour Institute (INEK/PEO)

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