More clarity in ensuring a gender neutral wage policy
Introduction: the Act combatting the gender wage gap
The Act of 22 April 2012 combatting the gender wage gap imposed the following obligations on companies with at least 50 employees on average:
a. Social balance sheet: wage gaps have to be reported in the social balance sheet (“sociale balans/bilan social”).
b. Pay structure analysis: every two years, companies must produce a detailed analysis of female and male workers pay structure, which should be discussed in the works council, or in its absence, in the committee for prevention and protection at work, within three months following accounting year-end.
c. Action plan: companies must determine an action plan to ensure a gender neutral wage policy with concrete goals, action areas and instruments, a clear implementation term and a follow-up system.
d. Mediator: a mediator must be appointed amongst the company’s personnel to support the company and its employees with measures combatting the wage gap.
Two Royal Decrees (25 April 2014) elaborate on the analysis report and the mediator’s role.
Analysis report: a full or a concise form?
The Royal Decree determines the content of the analysis report drawn up by means of a form. A Ministerial Decree of 25 April 2014 establishes model forms and recommendations for completion.
A full or concise form depending on the workforce
Companies employing at least 100 workers on average are obliged to complete a full form whereas companies employing at least 50 workers (but less than 100 workers) on average are obliged to complete a concise form:
The Royal Decree stipulates that the first report should cover a single fiscal year, namely the year that closes in 2014. Thereafter, a bi-annual report must be compiled.
Entry into force
The Royal Decree entered into force on 25 May 2014.
The Royal Decree regarding the mediator’s role elaborates on his/her tasks.
Role of the mediator
a. advises the employer and employee representatives on the action plan’s drafting.
b. advises and works with the employer on the action plan’s progress and implementation reporting.
c. hears claims by employees who believe to be victims of gender discrimination in the company.
d. assists the employer in the procedure to be followed at company level.
Knowledge and education
The mediator should possess or obtain specific knowledge related to gender-neutral remuneration. The employer must bear the study cost and study time is to be considered as working time.
The mediator remains impartial, is bound by professional secrecy and informs the parties about the confidential nature of their information. He/she must obtain their prior consent and is responsible for processing personal data.
A supposed victim of gender based unequal salary treatment can file a claim with the mediator, who then hears the worker’s claim within 8 calendar days following the first contact. The mediator informs the worker whether an informal solution is possible through a superior’s intervention and can only intervene with the worker’s consent. The superior must inform the mediator about contemplated measures. The mediator then informs the worker, who in turn must evaluate whether these measures are satisfactory and who can submit a formal complaint if he/she disagrees.
Upon the works council’s or trade union delegation’s request, the mediator establishes a report detailing his/her activities, findings and recommendations while ensuring the anonymity of the workers concerned.
Entry into force
The Royal Decree entered into force on 31 May 2014.
The new Royal Decrees clarify the mediator’s role as well as the companies’ reporting and consulting obligations and endeavour to limit the additional administrative burden by imposing standard forms. It remains to be seen how these measures will work in practice.