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Equal treatment in employment and occupation

This directive sets out a general framework to ensure equal treatment of individuals in the European Union (EU) at the workplace regardless of their religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.


Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation.


The directive aims to ensure that persons of a particular religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation do not suffer from discrimination and instead enjoy equal treatment in the workplace.

What kind of discrimination does the directive cover?

It covers both direct discrimination (differential treatment based on a specific characteristic) and indirect discrimination (any provision, criterion or practice which is apparently neutral but puts the people in the above categories at a disadvantage compared to others). Harassment, which creates a hostile environment, is deemed to be discrimination.

Who does the directive apply to and who does it not apply to?

The directive applies to all individuals, whether they are working in the public or private sectors, in relation to:

  • conditions of access to employed or self-employed activities, including selection criteria and recruitment conditions and including promotion;
  • vocational training;
  • employment and working conditions (including dismissals and pay);
  • membership of and involvement in an organisation of employers or workers or any other organisation whose members carry out a particular profession.

The directive does not cover differences of treatment based on nationality or payments of any kind made by State schemes, including State social security or social protection schemes.

What can be done to stop the discrimination?

EU countries are obliged to ensure that judicial and/or administrative procedures are available to all people who consider themselves wronged by a failure to apply the principle of equal treatment to them. This still applies even after the relationship in which the discrimination is alleged to have occurred has ended. Further details about remedies and enforcement can be read in Chapter II of the directive.

How can the situation be improved?

According to a report (COM(2014) 2 final) on this directive and the Racial Equality Directive, the main challenge is to raise awareness of the protection that already exists and to ensure better practical application of the directives.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2000/78/EC



OJ L 303 of 2.12.2000


Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council: Joint Report on the application of Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin (Racial Equality Directive) and of Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation (Employment Equality Directive) (COM(2014) 2 final of 17.1.2014 - not published in the Official Journal).

Last updated: 27.06.2014