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Summaries of EU Legislation

Equal treatment of self-employed workers (until 2012)

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Equal treatment of self-employed workers (until 2012)

The objective of this Directive is to pursue the implementation of the principle of equal treatment for persons engaged in an activity (including agriculture) in a self-employed capacity, and for spouses participating in this activity. The Directive also aims to protect these workers during pregnancy and motherhood.


Council Directive 86/613/EEC of 11 December 1986 on the application of the principle of equal treatment between men and women engaged in an activity, including agriculture, in a self-employed capacity and on the protection of self-employed women during pregnancy and motherhood [Official Journal L 359 of 19.12.1986].


The Directive applies to self-employed workers * and to their spouses, who are not employees or partners, and who habitually participate in the activities of the self-employed worker. This Directive is applicable until 5 August 2012, when it is to be replaced by the new Directive 2010/41/EU.

The principle of equal treatment implies the absence of all discrimination on the grounds of sex.

All provisions contrary to the principle of equal treatment must be eliminated by the Member States, in particular in respect of the establishment or extension of a business or of any other form of self-employed activity.

The conditions for the formation of a company between spouses shall be the same as between unmarried persons.

Where a contributory social security system for self-employed persons exists, spouses who are not protected under this system must be able to join a contributory social security scheme voluntarily.

The Member States undertake to examine all initiatives concerning the recognition of the work of the spouses.

Similarly, concerning the interruption of activities owing to pregnancy or motherhood, the Member States shall examine under what conditions female self-employed workers and the wives of self-employed workers may have access to services supplying temporary replacements or to social services, or be entitled to cash benefits (under a social security scheme or public social protection system).

All persons who consider themselves wronged by failure to apply the principle of equal treatment between men and women in self-employed activities must be able to pursue their claims by judicial process.

The measures adopted pursuant to this Directive and the relevant provisions already in force are brought to the attention of the bodies representing self-employed workers and vocational training centres.

Key terms

  • Self-employed workers: all persons pursuing a gainful activity for their own account, under the conditions laid down by national law, including farmers and members of the liberal professions.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 86/613/EEC



OJ L 359 of 19.12.86

Last updated: 13.09.2010