At the end of January 2020, the Federal Chamber of Representatives approved the amendment to the Act of 10 May 2007 on combating discrimination between women and men. Articles 3 and 4 of this Act already explicitly included the following protected grounds: gender, pregnancy, childbirth, maternity, gender change, gender identity and gender expression. These are now further expanded to include the grounds of paternity, co-motherhood, breastfeeding, gender characteristics, adoption and medically assisted reproduction.
The most striking addition is the ground of ‘fatherhood’. The legislator attaches great importance to the father’s role and involvement in the family and is concerned that many fathers fear that they would jeopardise their career opportunities if, for example, they were to take their paternity leave or if they were to take on greater tasks to care for their children. Studies show, for example, that many fathers do not dare take the full paternity leave of 10 days. Parliament is also considering making paternity leave compulsory or increasing the number of days, but this does not address the root of the problem, in particular the detrimental treatment of fathers, who, currently, fail to make full use of their rights out of fear that the consequences could be detrimental to their careers. The same reasoning can be applied to co-motherhood.
Furthermore, the addition of medically assisted reproduction (ivf) and adoption offers a similar protection to these forms of ‘family extension’ as previously existed for childbirth. The legislator has also chosen to explicitly include breastfeeding, although this was already implicitly covered by the protected ground of ‘motherhood’. Finally, the ground of ‘sexual characteristics’ was added in the case of gender reassignment and gender expression in order to provide clear protection to ‘intersex’ persons (e.g. those who have sexual characteristics of both women and men).
At the time of this publication, the amendment to the law has yet to be published in the official gazette and the date of entry into force is not yet known.
For more information on these articles or any other issues involving labour and employment matters in Belgium, please contact Chris Van Olmen (Partner) of Van Olmen & Wynant at email@example.com or visit www.vow.be.