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Protection of the dignity of women and men at work

This summary has been archived and will not be updated, because the summarised document is no longer in force or does not reflect the current situation.

Protection of the dignity of women and men at work

This recommendation seeks to promote greater awareness at all levels of the problem of sexual harassment at work and its consequences. To this end, it urges the Member States in particular to take preventive measures and highlights the role of the Commission in promoting and evaluating the use of the code of practice.


Commission Recommendation 92/131/EEC of 27 November 1991 on the protection of the dignity of women and men at work [Official Journal L 49 of 24.02.1992].


In this document, the Member States are recommended to take action to promote awareness that conduct of a sexual nature, or other conduct based on sex and affecting dignity, is unacceptable.

Sexual harassment is defined as:

  • conduct which is unwanted, unreasonable and offensive to the recipient;
  • any conduct which is used explicitly or implicitly as a basis for a decision which affects that person's access to vocational training, access to employment, continued employment or salary;
  • any conduct which creates an intimidating, hostile or humiliating work environment for the recipient.

Such conduct may, in certain circumstances, be contrary to the principle of equal treatment within the meaning of Articles 3, 4 and 5 of Council Directive 76/207/EEC on equal treatment.

Member States are also asked to take action in the public sector to implement the Commission's code of conduct, with such action serving as an example to the private sector. Member States should also encourage employers and employee representatives to develop measures to implement the code of conduct.

The Commission is to draw up a report based on the information forwarded by the Member States concerning the measures taken - information that should be communicated within three years of the date on which the recommendation is adopted. During this period, the Commission shall ensure the widest possible circulation of the code of practice. The report shall examine the level of information on the Code, its perceived effectiveness, its degree of application and the extent of its use in collective bargaining between the social partners.


Commission communication of 24 July 1996 concerning the consultation of management and labour on the prevention of sexual harassment at work. (link to c10917c)

In 1996, the Commission adopted a communication which launched the first stage of consultation with the social partners on the prevention of sexual harassment at work. At the same time, it presented the evaluation report concerning the 1991 Recommendation on the protection of the dignity of men and women at work, which was compiled on the basis of information transmitted by the Member States. The consultation of the social partners revealed a difference of opinions as to the measures to be taken to combat sexual harassment: the employers' organisations wanted to keep using national initiatives, whilst the trade union organisations asked for the adoption of a binding Community instrument. The Commission, noting the lack of success of repressive national rules, advocated the implementation of a comprehensive prevention policy comprising rules and procedures that are adapted to the context of the workplace. A second stage of consultation was launched with the Commission communication of 19 March 1997. With the social partners having turned down the invitation to comment on the components of a comprehensive policy and negotiate a collective agreement at European level, the Commission could, as it suggested in its communication of 1997, seek other means of preventing sexual harassment, including the adoption of a binding legal instrument.

Council Declaration of 19 December 1991 on the implementation of the Commission recommendation on the protection of the dignity of women and men at work, including the code of practice to combat sexual harassment [Official Journal C 27 of 04.02.1992]

The Council, which fully endorses the Commission's opinion, asks:

  • the Member States to intensify their efforts to promote the integration of women in the workplace;
  • the Commission to promote the exchange of information and good practice between the Member States;
  • the Commission to submit to the European Parliament, the Council and the Economic and Social Committee the report provided for in Article 4 of the Commission's recommendation, not more than three years after the adoption of this declaration.

Council Resolution of 29 May 1990 on the protection of the dignity of women and men at work [Official Journal C157 of 27.06.1990]

Council Directive 76/207/EEC of 9 February 1976 on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women as regards access to employment, vocational training and promotion, and working conditions [Official Journal L 39 of 14.02.1976] amended by Directive 2002/73/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 September 2002 [Official Journal L269 of 05.10.2002]. (link to c10906)

Last updated: 21.05.2007