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Last updated: 08.02.2024

Equality plans are an important tool for preventing discrimination

An equality plan is required by law for all companies with more than 30 workers. A pay equality audit and discrimination survey must be completed before preparing the plan.

Companies must prepare an equality plan every other year in cooperation with worker representatives. The workers may be represented by their union representative, occupational safety representative, or a group. The plan may be separate or included as part of the personnel and training plan or the occupational health and safety action plan. All personnel must be able to view the plan. 

Among other things, the purpose of the equality plan is to: 

  • promote equal pay for men and women 
  • encourage everyone to apply for all open positions regardless of gender 
  • promote the hiring of women and men to different positions and create equal opportunities for career advancement 
  • promote equal terms of employment, especially in terms of pay 
  • develop working conditions to suit both men and women 
  • help women and men maintain a balance between working life and family life by organising their work appropriately 
  • prevent gender discrimination and sexual harassment. 

In Finland, the Ombudsman for Equality provides advice regarding the Act on Equality between Women and Men and supervises companies’ compliance with the law. If an employer fails to prepare an equality plan regardless of the Ombudsman’s advice and instructions, the Ombudsman may set a mandatory deadline for the employer to meet these obligations. The National Non-discrimination and Equality Tribunal may impose a fine to force the employer to prepare the equality plan.  

The Act on Equality between Women and Men also applies to companies who rent workers from another company when the renting company exercises the authority of the employer. 

Equality plan content 

The equality plan must include a general assessment of the status of equality in the workplace and a plan to improve equality. 

The equality plan must include the following: 

  1. workplace discrimination assessment  
  2. pay equality audit
  3. concrete measures to improve equality in all areas and achieve pay equality
  4. assessment of how previous measures were implemented and what were the results.

Workplace discrimination assessment 

The workplace discrimination assessment is based on existing personnel data and discrimination and workplace atmosphere surveys.  

The state of the personnel is analysed from many viewpoints based on gender: 

  • number of men and women in different positions by title (highest priority)
  • length of employment relationships 
  • type of employment relationships (fixed-term, part-time, and agency workers) 
  • age distribution 
  • level of education (higher, college, vocational, and comprehensive education) 
  • absences (personal illness, child’s illness, parental leave, and childcare leave) 
  • work arrangements (shift work and night shifts, working alone, telework, and business trips) 
  • career development, job rotation 
  • representation, workgroup participation 
  • participation in personnel training 
  • permanent and temporary lay-offs 
  • fringe benefits (lunch, phone, car, and housing) 
  • workplace atmosphere (management, opportunities to influence, access to information, feedback, sexual harassment, and bullying). 

Pay equality audit in practice 

The Act on Equality between Women and Men mandates a pay equality survey but does not specify how it must be carried out. The manner of the audit may vary by industry and employer. 

In this context, “pay” refers to all compensation, including benefits, that the worker receives for their work for the employer. Because no component of pay may be discriminatory, the audit must include at least the following: 

  • pay according to position or title 
  • pay according to duties and qualifications, if any 
  • pay according to results, performance bonuses 
  • supplements for difficult work (evening, night, and shift supplements; Sunday and overtime compensation) 
  • fringe benefits 
  • other bonuses and supplements. 

We recommend analysing all of the company’s job titles: cashier, butcher, shift leader, etc. This is the best way to analyse the workers’ duties in detail. 

Measures to eliminate pay inequality 

If the audit suggests differences in pay, the reason must be investigated by pay component. The investigation must also review if the differences are acceptable according to the Act on Equality between Women and Men. For example, experience and education are acceptable grounds for different pay.  

If no acceptable justification is found for differences in pay, the inequality must be eliminated. The manner of elimination is negotiated separately with union representatives. For example, the company may make a budget reservation for next year to equalise pay through raises. The raises may be spread out over a number of years if the company’s finances cannot handle them all at once.  

It must be noted that general pay increases included in collective agreements may not be used to equalise pay, unless this has been specifically agreed upon by the employers’ association and the trade union. 

Examples of equality plan objectives and measures  

The discrimination assessment and pay audit may sometimes make it very easy to see the problems with equality in the workplace. For example, the company may apply lower pay grades for positions with more women than men, or the company may pay men more for the same work done under the same title than it does women. The company may have more men than women in managerial positions. Various supplements or benefits may mainly benefit men, or absences due to caring for an ill child may mostly fall on women. 

The objectives and targets of the equality plan must be based on the results of the discrimination assessment and pay audit. The measures for correcting an unequal division of duties between women and men, for example, must be included in the equality plan. We have listed some examples of measures for promoting equality below. Their order of priority is decided by the situation in the workplace. 

Recruitment, equal distribution of duties, and career development 

  • In job advertisements, encourage the under-represented gender to apply for the position. 
  • Avoid gendered job titles. 
  • Use internal recruitment for open positions. 
  • Adjust aptitude tests to suit both men and women. 
  • If two candidates are equally qualified for a position, favour the gender that is currently under-represented. 

Equal pay and terms of employment 

  • Analyse the gender differences of the pay system. 
  • Develop gender-neutral performance evaluation systems (pay according to task difficulty, personal competence, performance, and results). 
  • Develop pay statistics to indicate gender. 
  • Review employee and fringe benefits for potential inequalities. 
  • Record types of employment relationship and working hours according to gender. 
  • Train supervisors in the correct application of the pay system. 

Management, distribution of duties, and working conditions 

  • Organise education and training for supervisors, workers, and union representatives on equality matters. 
  • Include equality in the organisation’s values, strategies, and personnel reporting. 
  • Develop duties to suit both men and women. 
  • Distribute monotonous and unpleasant work evenly between women and men. 
  • Develop workplace atmosphere surveys, absence statistics, and so on to allow the monitoring of equality. 

Work-life balance 

  • Develop statistics of time off taken for family leave and caring for ill children.
  • Motivate men to use their family leave. 
  • Adopt flexible working hours. 
  • Keep workers on family leave informed of workplace business, including open positions. 
  • Guarantee the same position or equal position for workers returning from family leave. 
  • Eliminate the discrimination of pregnant workers (length of employment, for example). 

Elimination and prevention of sexual harassment 

  • Agree upon the definition of harassment and decide the rules of conduct together. 
  • Add questions about harassment to the workplace atmosphere survey. 
  • Encourage workers to immediately stop harassment and report it to supervisors or union representatives. 
  • Remove suggestive imagery from the workplace (pin-up posters, computer wallpapers, etc.). 

Just get started! 

If your workplace has no history of equality planning or the existing equality plan is largely unknown, the most important thing is to just get started.  

Raise the issue with your employer. Once the planning is underway, remember that the objectives and their cost estimates and deployment schedule should be realistic and easy to measure and monitor. Keep the number of development measures moderate for the first year. The plan must indicate who is responsible for which measure, and what is the responsibility of the company’s line organisation. 

Good communication about the starting and objectives of the equality plan will lessen prejudice and prevent misunderstandings. The planning’s progress should be reported regularly to the company’s management and cooperation bodies. 

See also 

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