Also on the topic of women in the workplace, and as mentioned recently in our weekly client update, new laws look likely to be proposed shortly at EU level which would require Europe’s listed companies to ensure that by 2020 at least 40% of non-executive board positions are filled by women.

Commentators have indicated that the proposals, which will require to be passed by a vote, are likely to be introduced by Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission and EU Justice Commissioner, at some point in the next month or so.

It has been reported that the proposals currently appear to apply to listed companies with more than 250 employees or with annual revenues exceeding €50 million. The penalties for companies which do not comply with the mandatory quota are likely to be monetary fines and other sanctions which, some press reports suggest could include, quite significantly, being barred from availing of state aid or partaking in state contracts.

Many companies, political representatives and other stakeholders are not in favour of mandatory quotas at EU level and the proposals could potentially prove to be quite controversial. The UK government in particular appear to be strongly opposed to any pan-European introduction of mandatory quotas and favour a more flexible voluntary approach and have indicated this to the European Commission. However some European countries have already introduced their own quotas in this area and therefore the proposal will not be regarded as so significant a culture shock in certain quarters.