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Summaries of EU Legislation

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Equal pay

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Equal pay

The Directive prohibits all discrimination on the grounds of sex in relation to pay. It offers recourse to judicial process for persons disadvantaged by a failure to comply with this principle and protects complainants against the employer's reaction. It also calls upon the Member States to eradicate any discrimination laid down in national laws, regulations or administrative provisions and to inform workers of measures taken in application of the Directive.


Council Directive 75/117/EEC of 10 February 1975 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the application of the principle of equal pay for men and women [See amending acts].


The principle of equal pay entails, for the same work or for work to which equal value is attributed, the elimination of all discrimination on grounds of sex with regard to all aspects and conditions of remuneration. Where a job classification system is used for determining pay, it must be based on the same criteria for both men and women.

Judicial process

Employees wronged by failure to apply this principle must have the right of recourse to judicial process to pursue their claims.

Discrimination in legislative provisions

Member States shall abolish all discrimination between men and women arising from laws, regulations or administrative provisions which do not comply with the principle. They shall take the necessary measures to ensure that provisions appearing in collective agreements, wage scales, wage agreements or individual contracts of employment which are contrary to the equal pay principle may be declared null and void. They shall ensure that the equal pay principle is applied and that effective means are available to take care that it is observed.

Protection against the employer's reaction

Employees shall be protected against dismissal by the employer as a reaction to a complaint within the undertaking or to any legal proceedings aimed at enforcing compliance with the equal pay principle.

Information and communication

The provisions adopted pursuant to the Directive and relevant existing legislation shall be brought to the attention of employees.

Member States shall forward all necessary information to the Commission by the deadline specified, to enable it to draw up a report on the application of the Directive.


The aim of the Directive is to reinforce the basic laws with standards aimed at facilitating the practical application of the principle of equality to enable all employees in the Community to be protected, as there are still disparities between Member States despite efforts to date.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 75/117/EEC



OJ L 45 of 19.2.1975

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2006/54/EC repeals Directive 75/117/EEC of 14.8.2009



OJ L 204 of 26.7.2006


Regulation (EC) No 1177/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 June 2003 concerning Community statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC) [Official Journal L 165 of 3.7.2003].

A new Community database (SILC) has been created with a view to collecting comparable statistics in all Member States on income, poverty, social exclusion and other aspects of living conditions.

Resolution of the European Parliament on equal pay for work of equal value (pdf ) [Official Journal C 77 E of 28.3.2002].

Given the continued existence of gender pay gaps in the European Union in favour of men, Parliament calls on all the social players at European level, namely the Commission, the Member States, the social partners and the candidate countries, to give renewed impetus to the policy of equal pay for men and women.

Commission Communication of 17 July 1996 on the code of conduct concerning the implementation of equal pay for women and men for work of equal value [COM (96) 336 final - not published in the Official Journal].

The Communication aims to provide concrete advice for employers and collective bargaining partners at business, sectoral or intersectoral levels in order to ensure the implementation of the principle of equality. In particular, it aims to eliminate sex discrimination where the pay structures are based on job classification and job evaluation schemes.

Essentially, the Code proposes that negotiators at all levels, whether on the side of the employers or the unions, should carry out an analysis of the remuneration system and evaluate the data required to detect sexual discrimination so that remedies can be found. The Code also proposes that a plan for follow-up should be drawn up and implemented in order to eliminate any sexual discrimination evident in the pay structures.

The Code is intended to be applied at the workplace, both in the public and private sectors. Employers are encouraged to follow the recommendations in the Code, adapting them to the size and structure of their businesses.

Last updated: 04.04.2008