The Ombudsman has many different ways to promote equality and tackle discrimination. In practice the work involves counselling, investigating individual cases, promoting conciliation between the parties, providing training, gathering information, as well as influencing legislation and the practices of the authorities.
Discrimination is treating one person less favourably than others on the basis of a personal characteristic. All human beings are entitled to equal treatment, and discrimination is prohibited by many of our national laws, the Non-discrimination Act, the Criminal Code, as well as international human rights conventions.
Age, origin, nationality, language, religion, belief, opinion, political activity, trade union activity, family relationships, state of health, disability, sexual orientation and other personal characteristics are grounds for discrimination prohibited by the Non-discrimination Act.
In a just and fair society, person-related factors such as disability, sexual orientation or skin colour, should not impact a person’s access to education or services, or their job prospects. Fundamental rights belong to everyone.
The purpose of promoting equality is to prevent discrimination, ensure the de facto equality of all people and remove inequality due to discrimination in the society. The authorities, private parties with public administration duties, education providers and employers are obliged to promote equality in their activities.
Public authorities, private actors performing public administrative functions, education providers and employers must assess and promote equality in their activities and prepare equality promotion plans to promote equality.
Anyone can be discriminated against. Discrimination takes place in different areas of life and in many ways. Discrimination can take place for example in private services, health care, school, renting an apartment or in employment.
Discrimination against an asylum seeker during recruitment – the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman contributed to conciliation
The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman contributed to conciliation in a case where an asylum seeker was discriminated against in connection with recruitment. The employer has apologised for what happened and paid EUR 7,500 to the person who was discriminated against as compensation for the discrimination.
The job seeker was offered work in a restaurant owned by Compass Group Finland Oy. However, the job seeker was later notified that the restaurant cannot hire him because the job seeker does not have a residence permit due to his status as an asylum seeker. The job seeker had the right to work in Finland as an asylum seeker pursuant to the Aliens Act. The job seeker contacted the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman who transferred the case to be assessed by the occupational safety and health unit of the Regional State Administrative Agency. The occupational safety and health authority stated in its inspection report that the employer is guilty of discrimination.
In the inspection report, the authority stated that a person's status as an asylum seeker constitutes grounds for discrimination as referred to in the Non-Discrimination Act. The employer did not hire the job seeker because the job seeker is an asylum seeker.
- This case shows that asylum seekers face various obstacles when looking for work. Expanding and simplifying the right to work would make it easier to hire asylum seekers, but prejudices and discrimination are also a significant problem, states Non-Discrimination Ombudsman Kristina Stenman.
Based on the inspection report of the occupational safety and health authority, the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman contributed to the conciliation between the job seeker and the employer. As a conclusion to the conciliation process, Compass Group Finland Oy will pay the job seeker EUR 7,500 as compensation for discrimination in violation of the Non-Discrimination Act and commits to making efforts to hire the job seeker, who has expressed his willingness to work for Compass Group. Compass Group commits to complying with the prohibition of discrimination, pursuant to the Non-Discrimination Act, as a service provider and an employer and to paying special attention to equality and non-discrimination in its hiring practices in the future. Compass Group commits to training its personnel, particularly managers and people responsible for recruitment, in non-discrimination in order to promote equality and prevent discrimination.
- We are very sorry about what happened. The incident was based on a misunderstanding related to the prerequisites for hiring asylum seekers. We are a socially responsible company and do not approve of discrimination against employees on the basis of origin, nationality or other personal characteristics under any circumstances. We have employed dozens of asylum seekers and constantly employ hundreds of people with various immigrant backgrounds, states Anu Takanen, People manager, Compass Group Finland Oy.
- The incident shows that it is important to simplify complicated regulations related to the employment of asylum seekers in order to make their recruitment as easy as possible for companies, People manager Takanen adds.
The task of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman is to foster equality and respond to discrimination. The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman is an autonomous and independent authority You may refer to the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman if you have experienced or observed discrimination on the basis of age, origin, nationality, language, religion, belief, opinion, political activity, trade union activity, family relationships, state of health, disability, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics. The Ombudsman further monitors the removal of foreign nationals from the country and is the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Being.
Section 8 Prohibition of discrimination
Under the Non-Discrimination Act, no one may be discriminated against on the basis of age, origin, nationality, language, religion, belief, opinion, political activity, trade union activity, family relationships, state of health, disability, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics. Discrimination is prohibited, regardless of whether it is based on a fact or assumption concerning the person him/herself or another.
In addition to direct and indirect discrimination, harassment, denial of reasonable
accommodation as well as an instruction or order to discriminate constitute discrimination as referred to in this Act.
Section 22 Tasks and powers of the occupational safety and health authorities
Compliance with this Act in employment relationships and service relationships under public law, and in traineeships and other comparable activities in the workplace as well as in employing persons, shall be supervised by the occupational safety and health authorities in accordance with the provisions of this Act as well as the Act on Occupational Safety and Health Enforcement and Co-operation on Safety and Health at Workplaces (44/2006).
The Occupational Safety and Health Authority shall take action provided for in the Act on Occupational Safety and Health Enforcement and Co-operation on Safety and Health at Workplaces that is required as a result of a complaint about discrimination made in an individual case, and notify the complainant of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman's task to assist the victims of discrimination.
The Occupational Safety and Health Authority may request a statement on the interpretation and application of this Act from the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman or the National Non-Discrimination and Equality Tribunal.
Section 23 Compensation
A person who has been discriminated against or victimised is entitled to receive compensation from the authority, employer or education provider or supplier of goods or services who has discriminated against or victimised the person contrary to this Act.