On Dec.14 2018, both Houses of Parliament have adopted with a final vote an amendment to the Equality Act, adding a new section entitled “Analysis of Equal Pay and Audit”.
The legislative process linked to this amendment has given rise to numerous parliamentary and media debates, often very emotional, including the desirability of introducing mandatory equal pay control and legislation on this issue. This process led to a very watered down version of the initial one, proposed by the Federal Council.
The main elements of the new law are:
- employers with more than 100 employees will have to perform an internal pay equity analysis, which applies to both private and public employers;
- this analysis must be carried out “according to a scientific method and in accordance with the law”, with the Confederation providing all employers with a free standard analysis tool;
- this analysis must be verified by an independent body, namely an approved audit firm, the Federal Council being responsible for setting the criteria governing the training of auditors;
- the result of this analysis should be communicated to employees. For publicly-traded companies as well as for public sector employers, the result should be published;
- no penalty or obligation to correct an unequal situation is provided for in the bill.
As for the formal aspects, the future law sets out the following rules:
- the analysis must be repeated every four years. However, if the analysis shows that equal pay is respected, the employer in question will be permanently released from the obligation to carry out an analysis in the future;
- the Federal Council is responsible for setting the date by which the analysis will have to be carried out for the first time by the employers concerned;
- the Federal Council must submit a report on the effectiveness of the obligation to conduct this analysis no later than nine years after the law comes into effect;
- the validity of the new law is limited to 12 years from when it comes into effect.
This new Act having been adopted, an order on verification of the analysis of equal pay for the purposes of the Equality Act is now being prepared. The Federal Council will set, this year, the date of entry into force of the amendment and of the order.
From a global point of view, more than the content of the new law (which represents the bare minimum action which should be taken) is the fact that the Federal Parliament has agreed to legislate on the issue of equal pay at all, despite several attempts by representatives of the economic right to bury the project.