European Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Local and Regional Government
TO DRAWING UP GENDER EQUALITY ACTION PLANS
IN LOCAL AND REGIONAL GOVERNMENT
(As adopted by the plenary of 14 December 2007)
These guidelines have been drafted by the CEMR / EPSU working group that met on 27 April and 9 November 2007. While recognizing the importance of gender equality in all spheres of public life and the key role of local and regional authorities in promoting gender equality in their communities, both as employers and service providers, the present guidelines exclusively address the employment and working conditions aspects of gender equality in local and regional administration.
The guidelines reflect national and European experience, and in particular draw on the following documents:
- EIRO 2004 survey on gender equality plans
- The CEMR European Charter for Equality of Women and Men
- The cross-sectoral social partners' framework of actions on gender equality
- The electricity sector toolkit on equality
- The 1976 Directive, and especially Article 8 (b) as amended by the 2002 Directive that encourages social partners' initiatives
2) Why gender equality is a priority in local and regional government
Equality is about creating a fair society, where everyone can participate equally and where everyone has the opportunity to fulfill their potential. Gender equality means giving equal freedom of choice, empowerment and participation to women and men in all spheres of public and private life. Equality can be pursued in two main ways. This is known as the dual approach and each process is complementary to the other. This includes:
- Positive action: specific policies to address gender inequalities and promote equal opportunities;
- Gender mainstreaming : active steps are taken to have gender equality incorporated into all areas of policy, in all areas of activity and at all levels.
The EPSU/CEMR guidelines aim to support regional and local initiatives on equality, and to encourage a joint, long-term and sustained approach to equality by EPSU and CEMR members. As such EPSU / CEMR will provide a framework to develop best practice and to check progress. Appendix 2 sets out an equality checklist that can be used to assess equality performance over time. Equality plans are also a useful tool to help better implement equality legislation or other equality objectives. A template for a gender equality plan is proposed in Appendix 3.
3) EU legislation and social partner agreements on equality
There are a wide range of EU legal instruments that support gender equality. These are listed in Appendix 4.
The social partners at the national and European levels have been instrumental in negotiating agreements that contribute to gender equality, including directives on part-time work (1997) and parental leave (1994), and a Framework of Actions on Gender Equality (2005).
The Framework of Actions on Gender Equality, agreed between the social partners ETUC, CEEP and BUSINESSEUROPE-UEAPME, has specified actions in four areas:
- Addressing gender roles
- Promoting women in decision-making
- Supporting work-life balance
- Tackling the gender pay gap
The framework highlights actions that need to be taken by employers, trade unions and governments in achieving gender equality and meeting the Lisbon Strategy (2000) objectives. Social partners are required to address gender gaps and inequalities, and to promote a more balanced participation of women and men in decision-making. Annual reports are provided from each country on the implementation of actions under the four broad headings. The EU sectoral social partners can also contribute to the reporting process.
The 1976 Directive on equal treatment in employment, vocational training, promotion and working conditions encourages the social partners to introduce provisions on equality. In 2002 the Directive was revised, and now encourages the drawing up of equality plans. In particular, it encourages promoting equal treatment for men and women in the workplace in a planned and systematic way as a way of implementing equality in the workplace through a social partnership approach.
In some countries there is specific legislation obliging public and/or private sector employers to draw up and implement equality plans (see Appendix 5). Last, the European Council of 22-23 March 2006 adopted a European pact for gender equality that, among other things, recommends to further develop gender disaggregated statistics and indicators.
4) Gender equality action plans
Equality plans can be drawn up at local, sectoral, and/or national level. They can take into account the situation of both direct employees and other workers providing services for which local and regional government has responsibility.
Equality plans should be drawn up and implemented by employers in cooperation and in dialogue with trade unions and employees and have the support of all levels of leadership. Having a clear and strong political backing is essential to ensure the successful development and implementation of gender equality plans.
Steps to take in preparing a gender equality plan:
- Step 1: Set up a joint employer / trade union working group:
The group should discuss and agree the objectives, methodology and content for the equality plan. The group can organise focus groups, surveys or interviews with workers from all grades. This can help capture attitudes to, and perceptions of, equality in the workplace, and any experiences of discrimination or inequality. It is important that information is sex disaggregated.
- Step 2: Identify the gender composition of the workforce:
Identify the percentages of women and men in each occupational group or grade. Which jobs are male dominated (e.g., with over 70% men) and which are female dominated (e.g., with over 70% women). Highlight issues such as the distribution of working time patterns e.g. of full-time, part-time, type of employment contract, civil service status, pay levels, career development and training opportunities, and health and safety issues. Consider including information about workers in companies and other organisations providing services to the local authority.
- Step 3: Identify where inequalities exist:
From your baseline data, it should be possible to identify specific areas of potential inequality, for example, unequal pay because of bonuses paid to employees who work a certain number of hours or in certain occupations, or poor access to promotion, education and training experienced by part-time workers or women's occupations. Identifying inequality patterns is a difficult task, which requires a considerable amount of time and a careful analysis of the data.
- Step 4: Develop a set of actions to resolve the inequalities identified:
These can take the form of an action plan, which highlights policies that need to be developed, priorities, areas for action, and includes a short and a longer timeframe for implementing actions. The plan should identify who is responsible, how the measures are going to be implemented, and what resources are required to implement the actions.
- Step 5: Monitor, report on, and evaluate progress:
Regularly review the progress in implementing actions in the joint social partners' working group, and ensure that there is an annual reporting system, for example, to the senior management team and to social partner/works council bodies, including the EU social dialogue Committee for local and regional government. This monitoring should also allow for the revision of priorities and objectives with a view to adapt to changes or new developments over time.
Examples of issues that can be addressed in equality plans:
- Recruitment and terms and conditions of employment: Are women recruited equally at all levels? Are there differences in employment contracts?
- Training: Who benefits from training? Do women benefit equally to men? If not, how can this be rectified? Are part-time workers included in training? Is training held at times that are convenient to women?
- Reconciliation of work and family responsibilities: what are the maternity, paternity and parental leave arrangements? How many men take up leave possibilities and if not many why? What about working time arrangements?
- Health and safety: What are the issues that impact on women and men? Are specific health and safety issues raised concerning pregnant or breastfeeding women?
- Sexual and other forms of harassment: How is this addressed? This issue can be identified for example through a questionnaire / survey together with other questions (see Step 1)
- Changes in work organisation or working methods: What is the impact of this on women's participation in the workforce? Will this encourage or discourage women's participation? How are women involved in discussions about work organisation? What retraining measures are planned? Are they adapted to women's situations?
- Collection of sex disaggregated data (quantitative and qualitative): Data is an essential part of equality action plans and enables baseline positions to be established, progress to be tracked and monitored, and trends and changes to be marked. It is important that data collection covers all working conditions, including pay and pension schemes
- Equal pay and job evaluation and effects of performance-related criteria for pay and promotion: Do pay structures discriminate against women? How many women compared with men achieve performance related pay criteria? How many women compared to men achieve promotion?
- Restructuring (e.g. inter-municipal cooperation, outsourcing, privatisation): Which groups will be most affected? What is the impact on women and men? Are there special measures that can be put in place to support the vocational training of women who are affected?
- Public procurement: Do public tenders include equality criteria?
- Monitoring the implementation: This is important for accountability and for measuring the impact and progress of policies and initiatives.
Appendix 3 provides EPSU and CEMR members with a template for a gender equality plan.
There is a real “added-value” to take up the issue of equality plans in the social dialogue Committee for local and regional government. Even where equality plans are obligatory, they can be absent in practice especially as there is often a lack of sanctions.
Through joint exchange and cooperation of the social partners at local/regional, national and European level equality plans can become a key instrument to achieve gender equality.
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