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Global employment briefing: European Union, October 2016

  • Europe
  • Employment law


A summary of European Union employment law developments from the summer months:

Religious discrimination

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is due to rule on whether prohibiting Muslim women from wearing an Islamic headscarf at work is religious discrimination under EU law: Bougnaoui v Micropole Univers and Achbita v G4S Secure Solutions. The ruling should cast more light on the extent to which employers can operate ‘neutrality’ policies that might interfere with employees’ religious practices.

Discrimination and job applications

The CJEU has held (Kratzer v R + V Allgemeine Versicherung AG) that where an individual applies for a job only in order to seek compensation for discrimination (i.e it was a sham application with no intention of actually taking up a job if offered), they will be outside the scope of both the Equal Treatment Framework Directive (2000/78/EC) and the Equal Treatment Directive (2006/56/EC).

General Data Protection Regulation

The countdown continues to the EU General Data Protection Regulation coming into force: it will apply in all member states from 25 May 2018. Read our briefing.

Employers are advised to be prepared. In relation to the UK, it appears unlikely that the UK will leave the EU before the new rules take effect and in any event they will still apply to those who provide services in the EU post-Brexit.

Women on boards: EU developments

According to the latest EU figures, women accounted for just 23.3% of board members of the largest publicly listed companies registered in the EU countries.

The Maltese government has said that advancing work on a proposed Directive on Women on Boards will be one of its priorities when it takes over the EU presidency in January 2017. The regime proposed by the EU Commission would force companies to select a female candidate for a non-executive board level vacancy in preference to any similarly qualified men, until they have met a 40% target for female representation. A number of countries, including the UK, have opposed the measure, blocking its progress. However, more and more member states are opting to bring in their own quota laws and a report suggests such quotas and targets are key drivers of increasing board gender diversity; so that resistance may well start to wane. Whatever happens it is clear that the pressure on listed companies to address the gender imbalance on boards is not going to lift any time soon.

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