Headlined as a "worthy national cause" by French President Emmanuel Macron, the drive towards gender equality in France's workplace has been demonstrated by the 2018 Act, "The Freedom to Choose One's Future Occupation".
This act has introduced a new obligation for companies with at least 50 employees to publish annual indicators relating to potential pay gaps between women and men, and includes a duty to "achieve results" in terms of equal pay.
The new system requires qualifying organisations to take three main steps.
Firstly, they need to use a gender equality index to measure where the organisation stands in terms of equality in the workplace. The French government has issued a scoring system based on 4 or 5 criteria (depending on headcount) for companies to use to measure gender pay inequalities on a yearly basis.
The score is based on:
- salary gaps between men and women, based on the comparison between the average remuneration of women and men of comparable age and equivalent positions (40 points)
- the difference between women's and men's rates of individual salary increases, which are not related to promotions (20 points)
- the percentage of women who received a salary increase in the year following their return from maternity leave, provided that salary increases were granted during their absence (15 points)
- the number of female employees amongst the 10 highest salaries (10 points)
- the difference between women's and men's promotion rates (15 points).
Companies are required to obtain at least 75 points every year.
Secondly, organisations must publish their overall score on their website every year (by 1 March at the latest). Detailed results for each criterion must also be submitted to employee representatives.
Finally, organisations are obliged to take corrective measures where results are insufficient. If companies fail to reach a minimum of 75 points, they will need to negotiate and implement adequate corrective measures and, if need be, financial measures, to resolve unjustified discrepancies. Companies will have three years to narrow the potential gender pay gap.
Where results are unsatisfactory at the end of this 3 year period, companies will be liable to a financial penalty of up to 1% of their wage costs (although efforts made in trying to improve gender equality may be taken into account to determine the exact amount of the penalty).
It is worth noting that more than 46 years after the implementation of the "equal pay for equal work" principle between women and men, there is still a 9% pay gap. This gap reaches 37% at the end of an employee's career.
The new reporting obligation has been in effect since 1 March 2019 for companies employing over 1,000 employees (report result for 2018). By the end of May 2019, only half of companies concerned had published their equality performance results.
According to, French Minister of Labour Muriel Pénicaud: "Those who did best immediately realised it was a competitive advantage" as it had generated "positive competition between employers keen to improve their reputations and attract the best staff".