Non-discrimination - Yleistä


General information on topic


Equality means that all people are equal regardless of their gender, age, ethnic or national origin, nationality, language, religion or belief, opinion, disability, state of health, sexual orientation or other personal reasons. 

The employer must actively promote equality among employees and discourage discrimination at the workplace. An employer with regularly 30 or more employees must have a plan in place to promote equality at the workplace. 

Read more: Promoting equality


‘Discrimination in working life’ is defined as treating job applicants or employees differently on the basis of a characteristic or feature of the person himself/herself or a family member of theirs. Such characteristics and features are known as prohibited grounds for discrimination. Prohibited grounds for discrimination specifically listed in the Act are 

  • age
  • origin
  • nationality
  • language
  • religion
  • belief
  • opinion
  • political activity
  • trade union activity
  • family relationships
  • state of health
  • disability
  • sexual orientation
  • any other personal characteristics.

Gender discrimination in the workplace is prohibited. There are provisions on gender discrimination in working life in the Act on Equality between Women and Men and the compliance with the Act is supervised by the Ombudsman for Equality.

Read more: Discrimination in working life

Employment and work by disabled persons must be supported

It is more difficult for a disabled person to find employment than it is for one who has no disability or injury restricting work performance. A ‘disabled person’ is defined as a person with a permanent or chronic physical, mental, intellectual or sensory disability. This disability may prevent them from participating in working life fully or equally with other workers. Such a disability may be congenital or caused by an accident. 

In order for a disabled person to find employment and perform their job duties, it may be necessary for an employer to make certain arrangements to working hours or working conditions, acquire certain tools or make structural changes to the workplace to ensure accessibility. Such measures are known as adjustments.

Read more: Disability and adjustments that enable work

Yhdenvertainen kohtelu ja syrjintäkielto - Lainsäädäntö



Non-discrimination - oikeuden päätöksiä


Court decisions and precedents

According to the Supreme Court's ruling (KKO:2019:35, in Finnish), after an employee refused to get acquainted with the job due to an industrial conflict, the employer was not obliged to accept from them a job that would have involved only sorting and distribution work. As work was not prevented for reasons at issue with the employer, but because of an industrial conflict, the employer was not obliged to pay wages during the period during which the work was prevented from working. By its procedure, the employer had not discriminated against the employee because of their participation in trade union activities.

According to the Supreme Court ruling (KKO:2018:31, in Finnish), the employee had worked at X Oy in numerous short fixed-term contracts as a temporary docker. On the grounds of the Supreme Court judgment, it was considered that the company had discriminated against the employee on the grounds of health when it had stopped offering them a job because of their sick leave. The company was sentenced to pay damages to the employee on the basis of Chapter 12, Section 1 of the Employment Contracts Act. 

In its ruling (KKO:2016:53, in Finnish), the Supreme Court assessed a case in which the warden did not extend the tenure of a fixed-term deputy prison warden after learning that the deputy prison director was dating a former inmate. The Supreme Court considered the question of whether the warden had committed employment discrimination and breach of duty by discriminating against the deputy prison director on the basis of family relationships.

In its ruling (KKO:2016:48, in Finnish), the Supreme Court considered the calculation of the time of the claim for compensation and the impact of the notice period on the calculation of the application period. The employees demanded compensation under the Non-Discrimination Act on the grounds that the employer had directed redundancies made on production and financial grounds against the prohibition of discrimination in Section 6 of the Non-Discrimination Act. The claim had been filed within two years of the termination of employment. The claim was filed in time.

In its ruling (KKO:2015:41, in Finnish), the Supreme Court dealt with a discrimination case concerning a job interview. During a job interview, an employee elected as editor-in-chief of a non-attached provincial newspaper published by the company had been asked whether they or their spouse was politically active. The employee had answered the question with 'no' and, in so doing, in the case of their spouse, in an untrue manner. The employee, who was in a registered relationship with another woman, had also failed to correct the perception in the interview that their spouse was a man. Before the start of the position, the CEO of the company had terminated the director's contract concerning the employee's employment relationship. The question was whether the CEO had committed employment discrimination on the basis of family relationships and sexual orientation. 

According to the Supreme Court's ruling (KKO:2014:47, in Finnish), the employer had not acted in violation of the prohibition of discrimination in the Employment Contracts Act by not providing the same support to employees entitled to additional days of earnings-related daily allowance as to employees who had been disadvantaged. Based on their age, the employer was considered to have put the employee at a disadvantage, but this procedure had a legitimate objective under the Non-Discrimination Act.

According to the Supreme Court's ruling (KKO:2013:11, in Finnish), the city had not placed employees in an unequal position when using the arrangement provisions in such a way that employees covered by the General Public Service and Collective Bargaining Agreement of the Municipality had been paid more than employees working the same work under a separate agreement between the Municipal Labour Market Institute and Tehy Ry (Tehy protocol). However, on the basis of the requirement of equal treatment under the Employment Contracts Act, the City was obliged to bridge the wage differences created as far as possible.

According to the Supreme Court ruling (KKO:2010:93, in Finnish), the company had the right to unilaterally change the performance bonus system. However, the terms were not allowed to infringe the mandatory provisions of the Employment Contracts Act. It was also considered discriminatory that the financial loss caused by industrial action found to be illegal was deducted from the performance bonus of those involved in industrial action. However, since the difference in treatment was not due to the opinion or ideological conviction of the employees, they were not entitled to compensation under the Non-Discrimination Act.

In the Supreme Court's ruling (KKO:2010:1, in Finnish), the procedure of a male CEO who approached and touched several young women at work was considered to fulfil the characteristics of sexual abuse within the meaning of the Penal Code. In addition, he was found guilty of occupational safety offences and employment discrimination.