Anti-Discrimination Laws in Finland

1. Brief Description of Anti-Discrimination Laws

The Employment Contracts Act, the Non-Discrimination Act and the Criminal Code (39/1889) set out the main statutory provisions prohibiting discrimination. In addition, the Act on Equality between Women and Men lays down provisions on gender equality.

2. Extent of Protection

The employer has a general obligation to treat all employees equally unless there is an acceptable reason to treat certain employees differently due to their duties or position. The principle of equal treatment does not require that all employees should have the same benefits and terms of employment, but the employer is prohibited from exercising any unjustified discrimination against employees on the basis of age, health, disability, national or ethnic origin, nationality, sexual orientation, language, religion, opinion, belief, family ties, trade union activity, political activity or any other comparable circumstances. Both direct and indirect discrimination are identified.

Proportionate different treatment that aims to promote de facto equality (affirmative action), or to prevent or remove the disadvantages attributable to discrimination, does not constitute discrimination.

3. Protections against Harassment

Employees are protected under the Non-discrimination Act against deliberate or de facto infringement of the dignity and integrity of a person or group of people by the creation of a degrading or humiliating, intimidating, hostile or offensive environment (harassment).

An employer’s actions are to be considered as discrimination if the employer, after having been informed that an employee in their employment was subjected to harassment as referred to above, neglects to take action to remove the harassment.

4. Employer’s Obligation to Provide Reasonable Accommodations

The employer shall make due and appropriate adjustments necessary in each situation for a person with disabilities to be able, equally with others, to gain access to work, as well as to manage their work tasks and to advance their career. In assessing the reasonableness of such adjustments, the employer shall devote attention, in addition to the needs of the person with disabilities, to the size, financial position, nature and extent of the operations of an actor, as well as the estimated costs of the adjustments and the support available for the adjustments.

5. Remedies

An employee who considers that he/she has been discriminated against or victimised may bring a matter concerning discrimination or victimisation to be handled by the National Non-Discrimination and Equality Tribunal. The National Non-Discrimination and Equality Tribunal may forbid the party in question from continuing or repeating the discrimination or victimization, or order the person to take action within a reasonable time to fulfil the obligations provided for in the Non-discrimination Act. The Tribunal may also impose a conditional fine to enhance its prohibition or order.

An employee who considers that he/she has been discriminated against or victimised may bring an action in the district court within two years from the prohibited action in question. In case of discrimination, specific indemnities may be claimed on the basis of the Non-Discrimination Act and Act on Equality between Women and Men. Discrimination may also lead to criminal sanctions and personal criminal liability for the representatives of the employer. An employer may be sentenced for work discrimination to a fine or to imprisonment for at most six months.

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