According to a recent Eurobarometer survey, despite
some improvements since 2015, an important share of
Europeans believe that discrimination is widespread in
their country (European Commission, 2019). Perceived
discrimination is most significant on the grounds of
being Roma (61% of Europeans consider this
discrimination to be widespread), followed by ethnic
origin and skin colour (59% for both), sexual orientation
(53%), being transgender (48%), religion or belief (47%),
disability (44%), being too young or too old (40%), being
intersex (39%) and being a man or a woman (35%).
Almost one in five (17%) Europeans indicated that they
felt personally discriminated against or had experienced
harassment in the previous 12 months on one or more
grounds. This number rises considerably for those who
consider themselves to be part of a minority.
Social partners have a key role to play in combating
discrimination at work (as well as in wider society).
They can do so by – among other things – helping to
shape relevant legislation and policy, raising awareness
of the rights and obligations of workers and employers,
monitoring workplace practices, concluding collective
agreements, implementing codes of conduct,
undertaking research, supporting their members in case
of litigation concerning equal treatment and/or
engaging in strategic litigation.
The principle of non-discrimination is enshrined in the
EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The European Pillar
of Social Rights underlines the right to equal treatment
and opportunities for everyone. EU secondary law, in
particular the Employment Equality Directive and the
Race Equality Directive, prohibits discrimination on the
grounds of age, religion, disability, sexual orientation
and racial or ethnic origin at the workplace.
Both directives call on Member States to ‘take adequate
measures to promote dialogue between the social
partners, with a view to fostering equal treatment’.
Member States must encourage social partners to
conclude collective agreements laying down
non-discrimination rules, affording at least the
minimum protection enshrined in the two EU
The European Commission issued an ad hoc request to
Eurofound to provide an input for the Commission’s
upcoming report on the implementation of the two anti-
discrimination directives, scheduled for the end of 2020.
Eurofound invited its Eurofound Network of
Correspondents to provide information on the actions
and achievements of the social partners in this area,
focusing in particular on collective agreements and
monitoring workplace practices, including data
collection, litigation (strategic and other) and conflict
resolution. The network were also asked to look into
initiatives across various countries regarding awareness
raising and guidance, as well as good practices and
debates related to discrimination on the
aforementioned grounds.2 In addition, the research set
out to examine the current situation in relation to issues
of discrimination in the workplace on different grounds
and existing legislation/case law and policy, including
the main trends and challenges.
This report summarises the information gathered
through a literature review and the inputs provided by
the Network of Eurofound Correspondents to the ad hoc
request in early 2020.
Definitions used in the research
Direct discrimination: when a person is treated less favourably than another is, has or would be treated in a
comparable situation on the grounds of race or ethnicity, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.
Indirect discrimination: where an apparently neutral provision would put persons having a particular race or
ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation at a disadvantage compared with other
persons, unless that provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim.
Harassment: any form of discrimination when unwanted conduct related to any of the grounds of discrimination
takes place with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and creating an intimidating, hostile,
degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
Source: Council Directive 2000/78/EC, Articles 2(a), 2(b) and 3
2Sex discrimination is not specifically covered by this report. However, gender identity or transgender discrimination is addressed in several places; also,
sex discrimination may be included under intersectional measures (addressing various grounds of discrimination).