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What, if anything, has the EU done for gender equality? Please give us your views

(44 Posts)
RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 27-Feb-13 14:07:11

Justine has been asked to speak at an event next week discussing issues around the EU and gender equality. It's part of a series of events marking 40 years since the UK joined what was then the European Community.

The questions the event aims to discuss are: What role has the EU played in shaping gender equality for women in Europe and in the UK? And what opportunities and dangers might arise in this field from any renegotiation and repatriation of powers by a UK government in the years to come?

As ever, we'd love to know what you think. What are your thoughts about the effects on women and gender equality of legislation and directives that have originated in the EU? Is it your impression that these measures have helped or hindered British women in their working and domestic lives? For example: measures like the Social Chapter are thought by some to have contributed to women's welfare by improving their working conditions and bargaining rights; others see them as having made it expensive and difficult for small businesses in a way that has impacted negatively on employees.

You can see some information on this page about specific European initiatives on gender over the years.

The panel debate will be held on March 7, and as well as having your views beforehand, you're welcome to use this thread or the Twitter hashtag #UK40 on the night to put questions to the panel members or relay your thoughts.


Tee2072 Wed 27-Feb-13 14:19:54

Anyone else read that # as UB40? Just me then?

Sorry, I'll go away and try to come back with something useful to say. I promise.

TheFallenNinja Wed 27-Feb-13 14:38:02

Well, it's stiffed women on car insurance.

msrisotto Wed 27-Feb-13 14:55:05

I came on to say the same thing as thefallenninja! It decided to defy fact and rule to increase womens car insurance. Thanks for that.

Apart from that, I can't think of anything they have done to positively impact gender equality.

AliceWChild Wed 27-Feb-13 15:26:47

Was going to say the same. Remarkable how quickly the boys sorted out the car insurance anomaly but yet seem to be stalling on the old pay gap, women on boards, political representation of women etc. Funny that.

PhyllisDoris Wed 27-Feb-13 15:34:42

Was/is gender equality one of the EU's aims then? They haven't publicised that very well.
I can't think of ANYTHING the EU has done to promote gender equality, other than the insurance debacle already mentioned.

How about you give us some examples of what the EU thinks it's done, and we can tell you how effective those initiatives have been to the man/woman on the street.

nailak Wed 27-Feb-13 17:28:09

wasnt there that video about scientists in pink lab coats or something....

drwitch Wed 27-Feb-13 17:48:09

Equal pay, before 1984 it only applied to men and women in the same job at the same firm, the equal value act (bought in to comply with EU legislation) means it now applies to men and women doing similar jobs, there was no leap to equality but successive test cases have I think reduced the pay gap within firms and within the public sector

trockodile Wed 27-Feb-13 18:30:30

As far as I know it is because of EU legislation that pregnant women were allowed to remain in the Armed Forces and given good maternity packages (and were allowed to rejoin if they had been forced to leave). Not sure if it is relevant but they were also instrumental in allowing lesbian(and gay) servicemen/women to serve openly. Huge difference to the make up of the services.

Crumblemum Wed 27-Feb-13 19:32:41

Poor JustineMumsnet, what has she done in a past life to deserve this? Seriously though, with current coalition looking ready to start trimming maternity and general workers' rights, I'm pleased the the EU makes this harder.

As an institution I'd say just as sexist as the next undemocratic, self important and over staffed bureaucracy.

crochetcircle Wed 27-Feb-13 21:04:04

How about parental leave/transferable maternity leave. That was an eu directive that many countries implemented some time ago. Not long enough to say what the impact was, but for me it was a very important step to acknowledge that fathers should have the same protection as mothers if the couple decides the father will take time off in the first year of a child's life.

gallicgirl Wed 27-Feb-13 21:11:54

Equal pay for equal work, pension rights, maternity leave, promotion of educationfor all...I'll think of more but its years since I did my degree.

PhyllisDoris Wed 27-Feb-13 21:30:09

Crochet - that's something the EU has done for men, not women.

mercibucket Wed 27-Feb-13 21:57:39

most of the legislation on maternity pay was driven by the eu. we would have naff all if it was down to uk politicians.

Hullygully Wed 27-Feb-13 22:26:43

Apart fromn aqueducts?

crochetcircle Wed 27-Feb-13 23:16:39

Phyllis, not really. Direct and indirect benefits fit women I think.

In our case it meant one parent could care for baby the whole first year, and the higher earner (me) could go back sooner.

More widely, if the first year's maternity allowance is split more often across society the there would be no difference for an employer between women and men, and jobs might change so that careers commonly feature gaps. Thus would help women - longer term obviously.

josiejay Wed 27-Feb-13 23:53:59

Equal rights for part time workers, improved maternity leave, the right to paid time off for antenatal appointments, to name a few. Many of the employment rights that we have come to take for granted have come from the EU.

KatieMiddleton Thu 28-Feb-13 00:11:05

EU directives and rulings around equality have had some positive impacts around employment. If it were not for European Directives I think I'm right in saying there would not have been political appetite for the shared leave after the birth of a baby that's due to come into force in 2015.

From memory EU rulings around pregnancy and maternity discrimination have managed to establish case law precedents in the UK that have enabled women to fight discrimination. I'll need to have a look for some specific examples.

The Equality Act 2010 came from an EU Directive and it gave women rights not to be discriminated against for pregnancy/maternity. In England and Wales those rights have given protection to women wanting to breastfeed their babies in public (Scotland already had legislation).

The Working Time Directive that became The Working Time Regulations 1998 (I think it was 98?!) and the subsequent amendments have given women taking maternity leave the right to acrue holiday during that leave.

But... it's late and I've still got baby brain so will need to check that out in the morning.

One other half thought: aren't there a greater proportion of women MEPs than MPs? Not sure MEPs are much cop but still, it's something.

KatieMiddleton Thu 28-Feb-13 00:15:11

Some EU Directives that have not been taken up full in the UK but have elsewhere in Europe have led to working examples we benefit from indirectly in changing mindsets. When studying employment practices we spent a lot of time looking at what the Scandis are doing.

Not sure that's much help either but poor old Justine is going to need something!

sis Thu 28-Feb-13 09:49:10

Sex Discrimination Act, Equal pay Act, Part-Time Workers Regulations, all as a direct result of the EU. Also the interpretation of the legislation by the European Courts have helped the cause of gender in the UK equality enormously. Also current protection for pregnany workers is a direct result of EU legislation.

Meringue33 Thu 28-Feb-13 09:50:21

Social programmes funded via EU eg the EQUAL programme and some Structural Fund programmes that had equality as a cross cutting theme. Sorry I can't link as on phone but there will be more info on web.

sis Thu 28-Feb-13 09:51:52

As a woman, I am hugely grateful for the changes imposed on the UK by the EU in the area of equality as the courts and governments have shown a worrying reluctance to implement and apply any legislation to further the cause of gender equality in without being pushed to do so by the EU.

sis Thu 28-Feb-13 09:56:35

There was a thread recently where people were saying how shocked they were that their mothers, as recently as the 1970s, were dismissed as soon as they announced their engagement/got married and for the slightly more fortunate, who were 'allowed' to work after marriage, they were dismissed as soon as the employer found out that they were pregnant. The huge changes in the workplace and society's expectations since this time is largely due to the equality legislation imposed by the EU.

Xiaoxiong Thu 28-Feb-13 10:01:57

Gender diversity pages from the EU here and full list of documents, reports and legislation here.

Recent mandatory actions include:
- action plan on European company law and corporate governance, including a proposed directive which would force companies to increase the proportion of women on boards after they found that voluntary actions did absolutely nothing to improve gender equality (Dec 2012)
- gender equality strategy (series of actions based around five priorities: the economy and labour market, equal pay, equality in senior positions, tackling gender violence, promoting equality beyond the EU) (Sept 2010)

Xiaoxiong Thu 28-Feb-13 10:03:18

Oh duh you've got that first link already.

Anyway I think the main advantage is their willingness to use directives to push this forward rather than relying on voluntary pledges. The most recent directive for women on boards being just one example.

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