Last month, legislators in France introduced a number of proposals aimed at eliminating gender-based wage inequality and preventing sexual assault in the workplace. The draft bill, entitled “For the Freedom to Choose One’s Professional Future,” presents a series of measures that, if approved, will require companies to adopt a results-oriented approach in reporting activities taken to promote gender equality. It will also offer employers additional training and resources for stopping sexual violence among employees and ensuring equal opportunity between genders.  

The proposal would require businesses with over 50 employees to use a dedicated software system to analyze employees for wage inequality between equivalent positions. Women found to be underpaid would be granted a wage-catch up package included in future pay negotiations with trade unions. Companies that fail to balance wages accordingly within three years may face a penalty fee of up to 1% of total payroll.

Greater transparency in efforts to promote pay equality would also be mandated under the new bill. Organizations would have to publish the results of endeavors toward reducing company-wide pay gaps online, and a national database of wage equality information by job category would be made accessible to company representatives. In addition, the directorial boards of large corporations would receive an annual report on gender diversity among their company’s top 100 executives.

Since 2005, companies who demonstrate exemplary efforts in combating gender inequity have been awarded an “Equality Label,” however the proposal would offer added perks to organizations that obtain the label. 80% of all part-employees in France are women, so the new rules also suggest extending the rights afforded by a full-time personal training account to part-time employees. A quota for gender equality audits performed by labor authorities is another tenant of the new legislation; authorities would be mandated to conduct at least 7,000 audits per year nationwide.

To combat sexual violence on the job, the bill puts forth a five-tiered approach centered around promoting prevention, training, information, accompaniment and punishment. Interprofessional regional joint committees will be charged with taking a preventative role, and training on how to deal with gender-based assault in the workplace will be made available to labor inspectors, occupational health professionals, shop stewards, staff representatives and labor tribunal judges.

Lastly, informational resources would be opened to management and HR departments of large and medium-sized companies; small business owners would be alloted similar access as well. Victims of gendered violence would be counseled on how to proceed by trained experts, chosen from a pool of staff representatives and occupational health specialists. Perpetrators found guilty of violence or harassment would be subject to sanctions according to their specific violation, up to and including job termination and criminal charges.