Equality and discrimination in employment

Everyone has the right to equal treatment in working life. Discrimination in employment limits people’s rights and opportunities to participate in working life, and it also harms our whole society with regard to efficiency and solidarity.

The Non-Discrimination Act was amended on 1 June 2023, extending the mandate of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman in working life. The Ombudsman now has the mandate to monitor compliance with the Non-Discrimination Act also in individual cases of discrimination in working life.

The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman monitors compliance with the Non-Discrimination Act and promotes equality in working life. The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman also provides guidance in matters involving discrimination in working life. The Ombudsman's powers are parallel with those of the occupational safety and health authorities. You can read more about the methods available for the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman to respond to discrimination on the tackling discrimination page.

What is discrimination in working life?

Employment discrimination means discrimination in working life, job seeking, hiring employees or terminating employment. Discrimination in employment can occur in different ways, such as when:

  • a person is not invited to a job interview, because they do not have a typically Finnish name 
  • a member of a minority experiences harassment by customers or colleagues
  • reasonable accommodations required by an employee with a disability are not implemented. 

In situations that involve discrimination, the competence of a job applicant or an employee is defined by prejudice instead of experience and qualifications.

The employer is responsible for ensuring non-discrimination at the workplace and in recruitment

As an employer, you are responsible for ensuring that job applicants are not discriminated against in recruitment, and that those who are already employed are not discriminated against during or after employment. In addition to the non-discrimination legislation, employers must also be aware of the other legislation regulating working life that may also be important for compliance with the principle of equal treatment. You can read more about the legislation on yhdenvertaisuus.fi website and on the website of Occupational Safety and Health authority.

The Non-Discrimination Act prohibits discriminatory job advertisements. This means that the job advertisement cannot include unjustified requirements related to for example age or other personal characteristics specified in the Non-Discrimination Act. Discrimination is also prohibited in the selection process as well as concerning wages and other benefits. 

No discrimination may occur during the employment relationship, either, such as failing to distribute duties or training opportunities on equal grounds. The employer must also take the needs of job applicants and employees with disabilities into account by implementing accommodations in the work environment. In addition, the employer has a responsibility to address any harassment occurring at the workplace. Read more on our site rights of people with disabilities.

Employers have a duty to promote equality. If an employer regularly employs at least 30 people, the employer is obliged to draw up an equality promotion plan. 

Positive action can be implemented in hiring in order to increase de facto equality and prevent disadvantages caused by discrimination. It must be systematic and decided in advance, and it must also be stated already in the job advertisement. Read more on our site positive action.

Different treatment in working life may be allowed on certain conditions

The different treatment of people in hiring and employment relationships is allowed on certain conditions. In that case, the different treatment must be based on the nature of the tasks and the actual and critical requirements on carrying them out. The different treatment must also be proportional. Therefore, in certain situations the personal characteristics of a person can be used as a criterion for hiring, for instance.

  • For example, a registered religious community may require its employees to subscribe to a certain religion or conviction, if this is justified based on the nature of the work and carrying it out. 

Objectives related to employment policy or labour market motivation can also be justified, even if it includes an age limit or is based on the place of residence of the person. However, the treatment must also be objectively and appropriately justified in those cases. Employment campaigns aiming to prevent the exclusion of young people in the labour market is one example of such actions. The prohibition of discrimination in the Non-Discrimination Act does not apply to the age limits specified for qualifying for particular pension or disability benefits, either.