Finland’s new legislative proposal will affect employers operating in the private sector

Finland’s extensive legislative proposal regarding among other acts the Act on Non-discrimination will affect employers operating in the private sector. If the proposed amendments are accepted, an obligation to promote non-discrimination similar to that which currently binds authorities will be placed on Finnish employers.

New legislation concerning Finnish non-discrimination and equality legislation in its entirety was proposed in April 2014. The proposed amendments will most likely enter into force in January 2015. According to the proposal, the Non-Discrimination Act, for instance, will in the future apply to both public and private activities – with the exception of activities protected by the respect for private and family life and the right to practice religion.

Proposed amendments will have an impact on Finnish private sector employers. For example, employers will have a common obligation to promote non-discrimination by firstly, assessing the realization of non-discrimination in the workplace and secondly, by developing business practices. All possible employer actions to promote non-discrimination should be efficient and reasonable. Companies having at least thirty employees should also draft a separate plan on promoting non-discrimination at a workplace.

The proposal aims to affect companies so that contributing to the fulfilment of equality and non-discrimination is taken into consideration as a general company goal and becomes part of business practice development.

Currently, the maximum compensation payable due to discrimination or illegal counter-measures is EUR 17,800. If the Parliament of Finland enacts the proposed amendments, the compensation’s upper limit will no longer apply.

According to the legislative proposal, a business employing temporary workers is liable for compensating a worker it discriminates while supervising work. Also, although an employer would not directly be responsible for any discriminatory action, it might have an obligation to pay remuneration if it fails to intervene in harassment between its employees.

A provision stating that any discriminatory contract term or a term breaching the prohibition of counter-measures is null and void will be added to the Non-Discrimination Act. For instance, a collective agreement provision that contradicts the ban on discrimination should be set aside. Instead, a provision that is applied to employees working in a comparable situation should be applied to an individual employee whose employment terms are otherwise defined by the collective agreement in question.

In the future, the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, labor protection authorities and the Non-Discrimination and Equality Board will monitor the observance of non-discrimination and equality legislation.