The European Parliament asks to replace “sex” by “gender” in a directive on pay transparency

Strasbourg, 6 April 2022


The European Parliament decided yesterday to bypass a Plenary debate on a sensitive report which asks to replace “sex” by “gender” in a EU directive. 

This report answers to the European Commission proposal for a directive to tackle the gender pay gap through the implementation of pay transparency measures. The EMPL and FEMM Committees adopted on the 17th of March 2022 a report on “Strengthening the application of the principle of equal pay for equal work or work of equal value between men and women“, which amends the Commission’s proposal.

According to the co-legislative procedure, after the Committee vote the report can either be tabled at the Plenary, or the European Parliament can directly enter into interinstitutional negociations with the other EU legislative bodies, without a vote of all the 705 MEPs. The latter option was chosen by the European Parliament yesterday.

This report is highly problematic in its content and should have been the subject of an open and democratic debate. Indeed, it systematically replaces the mention of “sex” with “gender”. The mention of “women” or “men” is replaced by “workers of different gender”.

FAFCE’s Vice-President, Angelika Weichsel Mitterrutzner highlighted that, as stated by the Commission, “If the aim of this directive is to fight the gender pay gap between men and women, what kind of protection will these measures implement if no mention is made of women?“.

FAFCE’s President, Vincenzo Bassi, notes that “The text, as modified by the European Parliament, would shift the directive from being a legislative act aimed at protecting women on the basis of the EU law on sex discrimination, to a vague condemnation of pay discriminations for different grounds. The real issue at stake here, is not merely ideological or formal: the risk here is to diminish the protection of women on the labour market, especially if they are mothers. With the proposed changes, the discrimination of women will not be the subject of this legislation anymore.”

A directive is a legal act of the EU with direct legal effects within the national legislations. It would create a precedent in the EU law with the use of the word “gender” to replace “sex”.

FAFCE calls on all EU decision-makers – the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU – to avoid a directive that would undermine and neglect the protection of women from pay discrimination.