Equality Act

The Act on Equality between Women and Men (609/1986) is also called the Equality Act. The objective of the Equality Act is to prevent gender-based discrimination and promote equality between women and men, thereby improving the status of women, particularly in working life. Another goal of the act is to prevent discrimination based on gender identity or the expression of gender. 

Other instances of national and international regulation also affect the position of the genders. In terms of national legislation, the Constitution of Finland (731/1999) and legislation governing work, income levels, services and crimes are some of the key acts. 

The Equality Act includes provisions on discrimination and the promotion of gender equality as well as ones on monitoring of the act and consequences.

Prohibition of discrimination

The Equality Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, gender identity and expression of gender. Both indirect and direct gender discrimination are prohibited, as are sexual and gender-based harassment. The prohibition of discrimination is generally applicable, meaning it applies to all societal activities and areas of life. The act contains specific provisions on discrimination in working life, educational institutions and interest groups and in the trade of services and goods.

Promotion of gender equality

The Equality Act’s objective-oriented provisions obligate employers, authorities, educational institutions and other parties providing early childhood education and care and education and training to promote gender equality in a target-oriented and systematic manner. Furthermore, employers and educational institutions are tasked with drafting a gender equality plan. The Equality Act also includes the quota provision, which applies to state-administration committees, advisory boards and other similar bodies as well as municipal bodies and inter-municipal cooperation bodies.

Monitoring and consequences

The Ombudsman for Equality monitors compliance with the Equality Act and provides instructions and guidance on questions related to the act. The ombudsman is an independent law enforcement authority operating in connection with the Ministry of Justice. The Ombudsman for Equality can escalate a matter to the National Discrimination and Equality Tribunal, which can prohibit discriminatory practices and oblige a party to draft a gender equality plan, under threat of a fine, if necessary.   

An action can be brought in a district court for the violation of the Equality Act’s special non-discrimination provisions. Compensation for damages can be claimed. The minimum amount of compensation is regulated in the act. Sanctions also exist for the violation of the gender equality planning obligation.

Recent changes

The Equality Act was revised in June 2023 when the obligation to promote gender equality and draft an equality plan expanded to early childhood education and care. A more comprehensive reform was carried out in 2015 with non-discrimination protection of gender minorities and the equality planning and salary assessment obligations of workplaces entering to force. Moreover, comprehensive schools were included in the gender equality planning obligation for educational institutions. 

On other websites

The Ombudsman for Equality
Information and guidance on the Equality Act and its implementation.