The UK has been found by the European Commission to have incorrectly implemented two EU Equality Directives.
The first breach concerns the EC Equal Treatment Framework Directive, which prohibits discrimination based on religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.Ã‚Â The second relates to the EC Equal Treatment Directive, which covers equal treatment between men and women in employment.Ã‚Â
The Commission found that some aspects of the UK legislation, which implement these Directives, are too broad or not defined with sufficient precision.
In the first case, the European Commission recentlyÃ‚Â sent a reasoned opinion to the UnitedÃ‚Â KingdomÃ‚Â for incorrectly implementing EU rules prohibiting discrimination based on religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in employment and occupation (Directive 2000/78/EC, see also ).
“Tackling all forms of discrimination – especially at work – has been a priority for this Commission and for me personally. Our legal action has led to better protection against discrimination in workplaces across the EU,” said Equal Opportunities Commissioner VladimÃƒÂrÃ‚Â Ã…Â pidla. “We call on the UK Government to make the necessary changes to its anti-discrimination legislation as soon as possible so as to fully comply with the EU rules. In this context, we welcome the proposed Equality Bill and hope that it will come into force quickly,” he added.
In the reasoned opinion sent to the United Kingdom, the Commission pointed out that:
there is no clear ban on ‘instruction to discriminate’ in national law and no clear appeals procedure in the case of disabled people;
exceptions to the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for religious employers are broader than that permitted by the directive.
In the second case, the Commission sent reasoned opinions to the UKÃ‚Â for not fully implementing EU rules prohibiting discrimination in employment and occupation on the grounds of gender (2002/73/EC, see also ). This is the second stage of the infringement procedure. The UK hasÃ‚Â two months to respond.
VladimÃƒÂrÃ‚Â Ã…Â pidla,Ã‚Â said: ” This directive was agreed unanimously by all EU countries in 2002, but to be effective it needs to be fully and correctly transposed into national law”.
TheÃ‚Â reasoned opinions for incorrect transposition of Directive 2002/73/EC raised the following issues:
the definition of indirect discrimination is too narrow, as it does not cover potential discrimination;
the exceptions to the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of sex for certain jobs are too wide;
the exceptions to the principle of non-discrimination for “office-holders” in political institutions are not defined with sufficient precision;
the right of associations to support victims of discrimination before the courts is not established with sufficient clarity.
Anti-discrimination (in areas outside gender and nationality discrimination) is a relatively new area of policy for the EU. The European Community acquired new powers in 1999, with the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty, to combat discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin, religion and belief, disability, age and sexual orientation (new Article 13 of the EC Treaty). This led to the unanimous adoption by the Member States of two Directives in 2000:
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”). This Directive covers direct and indirect discrimination, as well as harassment, in the fields of employment, vocational training, education, social protection (including social security and health care), social advantages and access to goods and services (including housing).
Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment, occupation and vocational training (“Employment Equality Directive”). This Directive covers direct and indirect discrimination, as well as harassment, in employment and training on the grounds of religion or belief, age, disability and sexual orientation. It includes specific requirements on reasonable accommodation for disabled persons.
The deadlines for transposition of these two Directives into national law by the Member States were 19 July and 2 December 2003 respectively. For the 10Ã‚Â countries which joined the EU in 2004, the deadline was 1 May 2004. For Bulgaria and Romania it was 1 January 2007.
Infringement procedures consist of three steps. The first step is that the Member State receives a letter of formal notice and has two months to respond. In case further compliance with EU legislation is needed, the Commission sends a reasoned opinion. Again the Member State has two months to reply. If there is no satisfactory reply, the Commission can refer the matter to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
EU anti-discrimination legislation
The UK now has two months in which to respond.Ã‚Â If the UK`s response doesn`t satisfy the Commission, the matter could be referred to the ECJ.