On 24 March 2007 a new Equality Act came into force in Spain, aimed at promoting equal treatment for women in the boardroom and the political arena.

The new legislation gives women a number of new employment rights, including the right to reduce their working hours to take care of any children under eight and an additional two weeks’ maternity leave for mothers of disabled children. Fathers will also benefit under the Act. They will now be entitled to take 13 days’ paternity leave. The Government has indicated that this will increase to one month’s leave within 6 years.

The Act also places new obligations on employers. Businesses with more than 250 employees will be expected to negotiate with workers’ representatives to implement an “Equality Plan” containing measures to effect the principle of equal treatment and to outlaw all discrimination against women. Large employers will also have to take steps to include more women at board level in response to Government concerns that they are seriously under-represented at a senior level. Boards will be expected to have at least 40% women within 8 years.

It remains to be seen whether these legislative measures will have the desired effect.