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By Marcus Hoy
Dec. 9—The requirement that Finland's large and medium-sized employers develop gender equality plans to address inequities in the employment of women will be extended to include other forms of discrimination. As of Jan. 1, 2017, companies employing at least 30 workers must prepare plans aimed at preventing discrimination on the basis of age, ethnicity, national origin or nationality, language, religion, belief, opinion, political activity and trade union membership.
According to Section Seven of the nation's Nondiscrimination Act (1325/2014), employers must assess how workplace equality can be achieved given factors such as their employees' specific work environment and available resources. The plans must cover both working conditions and the selection of personnel. Employees or their representatives must be consulted with regard to the effectiveness of the proposed new measures.
In a Dec. 13 statement, Leenamaija Heinonen, an attorney at the Roschier legal firm, told Bloomberg BNA that the obligation would entail more than the adaptation of existing gender equality plans to include other forms of discrimination.
“In our view, this is not just about amending the existing texts of the gender equality plans,” Heinonen said. “The gender equality plan is separate from the new nondiscrimination plan. This concerns new matters to be handled at the workplace and requires involving the employees or their representatives in the drafting process.”
“The content and the form of the nondiscrimination plan . . . must concern the general state of equality at the company and plan for measures necessary for the promotion of equality with respect to the discrimination grounds mentioned in the law,” Heinonen said
Although noncompliance is punishable by fines, Heinonen said, companies found to be in breach of the requirement would more likely be ordered by the Occupational Safety and Health Authority to prepare a new plan or amend an existing one. Fines would be imposed only if the employer failed to comply with the authority's instructions.
“As a rule, the Occupational Safety and Health Authority first issues an order to correct the noncompliance and only imposes a fine if it is not corrected,” Heinonen said.
Heinonen added that several other amendments to Finnish employment legislation are planned by the government, including longer trial periods for new employees, a shorter reemployment obligation and an obligation in certain cases for employers to provide outplacement services for employees.
To contact the reporter on this story: Marcus Hoy in Copenhagen at email@example.com
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An unofficial English translation of the Nondiscrimination Act is available here.
For more information on Finnish HR law and regulation, see the Finland primer.
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