EUR-Lex Access to European Union law

Back to EUR-Lex homepage

This document is an excerpt from the EUR-Lex website

Self-employment — equal treatment between men and women


Directive 2010/41/EU on the application of the principle of equal treatment between men and women who are self-employed


It puts into effect the principle of equal treatment between self-employed men and women.


  • The legislation covers all self-employed workers (people pursuing a gainful activity for their own account) and their spouses or life partners.
  • Equal treatment means no discrimination, either directly* or indirectly*, on grounds of gender in the public or private sectors. Harassment*, sexual* or otherwise, is considered to be discrimination on grounds of sex.
  • EU countries may adopt positive action, such as promoting business initiatives among women, to ensure full equality in practice between working men and women.
  • EU countries must ensure:
    • the conditions for establishing a business between spouses or life partners are no more difficult than for other people;
    • spouses and life partners can benefit from national social protection schemes;
    • self-employed female spouses and life partners are granted a sufficient maternity allowance of at least 14 weeks;
    • anyone who considers their equal treatment rights have not been respected can access judicial or administrative proceedings;
    • real and effective compensation or reparation is available for any loss or damage someone might have suffered;
    • the relevant national bodies have the authority to promote, analyse, monitor and support equal treatment of all people covered by the legislation;
    • equal treatment is applied between men and women when drafting and implementing laws, regulations, administrative provisions, policies and activities covered by the legislation;
    • the content of the legislation is made as widely known as possible.
  • EU countries had to provide the European Commission with all the relevant information on implementation of the directive by 5 August 2015.
  • The Commission is to present a report on the basis of the national submissions to the European Parliament and the Council no later than 5 August 2016.
  • The Commission has its own website for female entrepreneurs.


It applies from 4 August 2010. EU countries had to incorporate it into their national law by 5 August 2012.


For more information, see ‘Employment and training’ on the European Commission's website.


* Direct discrimination: where one person is treated less favourably than another because of their gender.

* Indirect discrimination: where an apparently neutral rule, criterion or practice puts people of one gender at a particular disadvantage.

* Harassment: where unwanted conduct violates someone’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

* Sexual harassment: any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.


Directive 2010/41/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 July 2010 on the application of the principle of equal treatment between men and women engaged in an activity in a self-employed capacity and repealing Council Directive 86/613/EEC (OJ L 180, 15.7.2010, pp. 1–6)

last update 28.06.2016