Select Committee on European Union Ninth Report


Proposal For A Council Directive Establishing A General Framework For Equal Treatment In Employment And Occupation

(text with EEA relevance


Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community, and in particular Article 13 thereof,

Having regard to the proposal from the Commission,

Having regard to the opinion of the European Parliament,

Having regard to the opinion of the Economic and Social Committee,

Having regard to the opinion of the Committee of Regions,

(1)Whereas the Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law, principles which are common to all Member States; whereas in accordance with Article 6(2)   of the Treaty on European Union, the Union should respect fundamental rights as guaranteed by the European Convention for the protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as general principles of Community law;
(2)   Whereas Article 13 of the Treaty establishing the European Community empowers the Council to take appropriate actions to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or beliefs, disability, age or sexual orientation;
(3)Whereas the principle of equal treatment on grounds of sex is well established by a considerable body of Community law, in particular in Directive 76/207/EEC; whereas the Treaty establishing the European Community empowers the Council to adopt measures to ensure the application of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation; whereas accordingly appropriate action to implement that principle may not be taken on the basis of Article 13;
(4)Whereas the right to equality before the law and protection against discrimination for all persons constitutes a universal right recognised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, of which all Member States are signatories; whereas I.L.O. Convention nÖ 111 prohibits discrimination in the field of employment and occupation;
(5)Whereas the Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers recognises the importance of combating every form of discrimination, including the need to take appropriate action for the social and economic integration of elderly and disabled people;
(6)   Whereas the Treaty establishing the European Community as revised by the Treaty of Amsterdam includes among its activities, the promotion of coordination between employment policies of the Member States; whereas to this effect, a new employment chapter was incorporated in the Treaty establishing the European Community, as a means of developing a coordinated European strategy for employment to promote a skilled, trained and adaptable workforce;
(7)   Whereas the 1999 Employment Guidelines agreed by the European Council at Vienna on 11 and 12 December 1998 stress the need to foster conditions for a more active participation in the labour market by formulating a coherent set of policies aimed at combating discrimination on grounds of disability and race or ethnic origin; whereas; the European Council Conclusions emphasise the need to pay particular attention to supporting older workers, in order to increase their participation in the labour force;
(8)   Whereas employment and occupation are key elements in guaranteeing equal opportunities for all and strongly contribute to the full participation of citizens in economic, cultural and social life;
(9)   Whereas discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation may undermine the achievement of the objectives of the Treaty establishing the European Community, in particular the attainment of a high level of employment and of social protection, the raising of the standard of living and quality of life, economic and social cohesion and solidarity, and the fostering of the free movement of persons;
(10)   Whereas to this effect any direct or indirect discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation as regards the areas covered by this Directive should be prohibited throughout the Community; whereas harassment which produces an intimidating, hostile, offensive or disturbing working environment in relation to any discriminatory ground be deemed to be discrimination;
(11)   Whereas the provision of measures to accommodate the needs of disabled people at the workplace play an important role in combating discrimination on grounds of disability;
(12)   Whereas a difference of treatment may be justified where a characteristic related to a discriminatory ground constitutes a genuine occupational qualification;
(13)   Whereas The European Union in its Declaration NÖ 11 regarding the Amsterdam Treaty has explicitly recognised that it respects and does not prejudice the status which churches and religious associations or communities enjoy in the Member States under national law and that it equally respects the status of philosophical and non-confessional organisations;
(14)   Whereas the prohibition of discrimination should be without prejudice to the maintenance or adoption of measures providing for specific advantages to prevent, reduce or eliminate inequalities associated with the above-mentioned discriminatory grounds;
(15)   Whereas the provisions of this Directive lay down minimum requirements, thus giving the Member States the option of introducing or maintaining more favourable provisions; whereas the implementation of this Directive should not serve to justify any regression in relation to the situation which already exists in each Member State;
(16)   Whereas it is important to ensure that persons who have been subject to discrimination have adequate means of legal protection; whereas associations or legal entities must also be empowered to exercise the right of defence on behalf of any victim;
(17)   Whereas the effective implementation of the principle of equality requires adequate judicial protection in civil matters against victimisation and an adjustment of the general rules on the burden of proof;
(18)   Whereas Member States should provide adequate information on the provisions adopted pursuant to this Directive;
(19)   Whereas Member States should promote social dialogue between the social partners to address different forms of discrimination in the workplace and to combat them;
(20)   Whereas Member States should take the necessary measures to ensure that any laws, regulations, administrative provisions, collective agreements, internal rules of undertakings or rules governing independent occupations, professions, or trade organisations which are contrary to the principle of equal treatment should be declared null and void or amended;
(21)   Whereas Member States should provide for effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions in case of breaches of the obligations under this Directive;
(22)   Whereas in accordance with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality as set out in Article 5 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, the objectives of the proposed action as outlined above, cannot be adequately achieved by the Member States, in that the objective is to ensure a Community-level playing field as regards the protection of the right to equality in employment and occupation; whereas, in view of the scale and impact of the proposed action, these objectives can best be achieved at Community level; whereas this Directive constitutes no more than the minimum necessary to attain these objectives;

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