Equality between women and men is among the fundamental human rights which all Council of Europe member States have undertaken to respect. It is inscribed into the most fundamental legal instruments adopted by the Organisation, including the European Social Charter.
In a declaration, adopted on 17 March 2021, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, points to the following resources with a view to tackling pay and opportunities inequalities in employment:
- recognising the right to equal pay between women and men for work of equal value in law;
- ensuring access to effective remedies for victims of pay discrimination;
- promoting pay transparency, inter alia through relevant statistics, allowing for pay comparisons;
- maintaining effective equality bodies and relevant institutions in order to ensure equal pay in practice;
- adopting, when appropriate, a comprehensive strategy to promote the rights to equal pay for work of equal value and gender equality in employment, including concrete milestones and a detailed timeline, notably through the design of effective policies and measures and the collection of reliable and standardised sex-disaggregated data.
These elements have been emphasised by the European Committee of Social Rights in its decisions, conclusions and statements of interpretation. In the framework of the Charter monitoring procedures, the Committee has found that progress is being made, but also established many instances of non-conformity with these requirements on a variety of grounds.
In 2020, the European Committee of Social Rights made public fifteen decisions on state compliance with the right to equal pay and equal opportunities in the workplace in the countries that have accepted the collective complaints procedure and developed criteria that can assist member States in their efforts to address inequality revealed by the pay gap and by equal opportunity shortfalls for women in employment.
The Committee of Ministers underlines that equal pay and equal opportunities for women are part and parcel of equality and enable women to enjoy many other human rights, whether they are civil and political or economic and social rights. Equal pay for equal work or work of equal value is a condition for social justice and for effective participation in decision-making and democracy.
“Sixty years after the adoption of the European Social Charter - the Social Constitution of Europe - that proclaimed the right of men and women workers to equal pay for work of equal value, closing the pay gap is an objective that cannot be delayed”, stated Karin Lukas, President of the European Committee of Social Rights on that occasion.
In addition, the Committee of Ministers adopted individual recommendations on the follow-up to fourteen decisions by the European Committee of Social Rights in collective complaints concerning equal pay and lodged by the international non-governmental organisation University Women of Europe (UWE) against Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Slovenia, Complaints Nos. 124/2016 to 137/2016.