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Unequal pay Bill to fight gender wage discrimination

Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga is the driving force behind the proposed new bill


The Swiss government is to introduce a new bill aimed against unequal pay between men and women. If passed, it would force many companies to conduct a salary audit every four years, measuring the wages of employees by gender.

The news comes a day after the World Economic Forum dropped Switzerland down two places in its annual Gender Gap Report. Switzerland ranked 43rd out of 144 countries in the category “wage equality for similar work”.

Wage equality between men and women has not been reached 35 years after the government set up the Federal Office for Gender Equality, cabinet said in a statement. “There remains an unexplained difference in the pay between the sexes” despite dialogue with industry and voluntary measures being taken, the statement read.

Two years ago, a Federal Statistical Office study found that, in 2012, women earned on average 18.9% less than men with the same profile. More worryingly, the wage gap had grown 0.5% between 2010 and 2012.

After the report appeared, the cabinet announced plans to make companies with at least 50 employees conduct the reviews of their pay policies – which would be checked by an external auditor. Following a consultation period, it has been decided to put that plan to parliament next summer.

Half of the parties involved in the consultation had come out in favour of the idea. But most had disagreed with the plan to publically name and shame companies with pay inequalities. Cabinet has therefore agreed to shelve that part of the plan in its bill.

But it still wants to introduce the possibility for workers or unions to perform the audit instead of a professional outside body. “Such an approach would promote the acceptance of employees and promote confidence,” the cabinet stated.

Business lobby groups, such as the Swiss Business Federation (economiesuisse), may yet oppose the bill, having expressed fervent opposition to the prospect of such legislation in the past.

Federal Office for Gender Equality on wage discriminationexternal link

"The principle of equal pay for women and men is enshrined in the Federal Constitution and in the Gender Equality Act. Men and women should be equally remunerated for equal and equivalent work.

And yet there are still great differences in pay in Switzerland. On average, women earn 20% less than men. Discriminatory behaviour accounts for about 40% of this difference. Women in managerial positions even earn up to 30% less than men. There are still typical female and male professions in the world of work. The pay level in typical male professions is considerably higher than that in female professions.

If women and men within the same company and with the same qualifications and experience receive different amounts of pay for the same work, pay discrimination within the meaning of the Gender Equality Act can be said to exist."

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