Mind the Gap: Emerging Standards of Protection of the Right to Equal Pay Under the European Social Charter and EU Law

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Table of Contents: I. Introduction. – II. Equal pay standards under the European Social Charter. – II.1. Obligations deriving from the protection of equal pay under the European Social Charter. – II.2. What place for EU law? – III. The European Commission’s proposal on binding measures regarding pay transparency. – III.1. What role for ESC standards? – IV. How does the proposal compare to the ESC standards? – V. Opportunities and challenges. – VI. Conclusions.

Abstract: The legal frameworks protecting the right to equal pay at European level are being reshaped. This reshaping is taking place in parallel within the European Social Charter (ESC) system, through the case-law of the European Committee of Social Rights, and in EU law, through a proposal for a Directive on pay transparency and enforcement mechanisms. In this Article, we revisit the interaction between the ESC and EU law, in the context of the right to equal pay between men and women for equal work or work of equal value. Emerging equal pay standards are detailed and address long-standing enforcement problems that have deprived legal frameworks of their full potential as an avenue for the effective realisation of the right to equal pay. We show, however, that there are some differences between the ESC and the EU instrument underway. The ESC seems to set more progressive standards in certain respects and has the potential of accommodating workers’ interests with fewer restrictions. This is particularly evident in relation to employers’ wage reporting obligation and positive obligations to promote equal pay. With regard to the interaction of EU law with the ESC system, we argue that recent equal pay developments do not suggest a major break from existing critical accounts of the stance of the EU legal order towards more progressive social rights standards found in the ESC.

Keywords: equal pay – transparency – social rights – Europe – gender equality – enforcement.

European Papers, Vol. 7, 2022, No 3, pp. 1537-1567
2499-8249 - doi: 10.15166/2499-8249/625

* Researcher, European Trade Union Institute, karabadjieva@etui.org.
** PhD researcher in Law, European University Institute, maria.kotsoni@eui.eu.


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