International mechanisms to revalue women's work: research

The report reviews different approaches to redress the undervaluation of women’s work and assesses their applicability to the Scottish employment context. The report finds that undervaluation of women’s work is a driver of the gender pay gap and makes recommendations to alleviate this disparity.

Appendix 1 – Case Study 2 – Belgium: Job Evaluation Schemes in Equal Pay Legislation

Belgium has one of the lowest GPGs in Europe. In 2019 women’s gross hourly earnings were 5.8 % less than men’s overall compared to a European average of 14.1% [84]. The GPG based on annual pay is wider, reflecting the impact of part-time work. There has been no noticeable GPG narrowing since 2012. Collective bargaining covers 96% of employees[85]. Belgian legislation calls for parties to private sector collective agreements to establish evaluation/classification schemes free of gender bias. Technical guidance and support from the federal Institute for Equality between Women and Men (IEWM), has also been acknowledged as important to implementation. Further legislation requiring gender mainstreaming in employment practices, annual pay audits and biennial analyses of pay structures – followed by action plans to rectify unequal pay – all contribute to the low GPG.


In 2006 Belgium introduced the Equal Value Project to establish analytical and gender-neutral job evaluation (JE) schemes. The Institute for Equality between Women and Men (IEWM) was given responsibility for this work and for producing guidance and training on JE for employers and trade unions. The IEWM is a semi-independent body, under ministerial control from an administrative perspective but remains autonomous with respect to legal action or the provision of advice to government and other public authorities. A specific unit within the IEWM is responsible for gender mainstreaming processes at federal level. A checklist was designed to detect gender discrimination in job classification (JE) schemes and highlight the factors that ensure a gender-neutral job classification system.

This work was followed by the 2007 Gender Act, which focused on gender mainstreaming and discrimination in employment reinforced by a 2007/08 cross-industry agreement that encouraged the social partners to develop and use gender-neutral JE. In 2008, Collective Agreement Number 95 called for further measures to secure equal treatment in employment, followed by the 2012 law, which focused on the GPG and required annual pay audits, biennial gender analysis of wage structures in companies with more than 50 employees and the requirement for action plans where women earn less than men and where wage bills covering women workers are lower than those for men. Companies must provide data broken down by gender to the National Bank. The law also requires the Federal Labour Service (SPF) to check and sign off job classifications on the basis of their gender neutrality.


JES that include attributes of female-dominated jobs, for example, emotional demands involved in care work, and that ensure gender-free weighting of job factors have been widely acknowledged in Belgium as crucial to achieving equal pay for work of equal value and narrowing of the GPG. However, there is still an absence of sanctions in several areas of the law in Belgium with questions raised about the completion of Social Balance Sheets, the National Bank unable to sanction employers, and no requirement for the enforcement of action plans[86]. A further weakness is the fact that confidentiality over pay persists. Interpretation of work of equal value is based on classifications of functions and limited to work conducted within the same sub-sector, the same company, with the same job title and seniority. Small companies and the public sector are excluded[87].

In 2019 it was proposed to strengthen legislation: Where remuneration structures were unequal action plans would be compulsory, as would the appointment of a mediator – an employee of the company appointed to find a compromise with the employer if an employee claims to be the victim of gender pay inequality. Companies would have to publish gender pay analysis reports on a website, and would be awarded a label on the basis of those analysis reports, which would be publicly accessible.


Although progress in developing JE schemes has been slow in Belgium, the focus on development of gender-neutral JE in the private sector and accompanying guidance and training provided by IEWM, suggest a model that could be adopted by the SG. If properly resourced and empowered such a body, located within government, the third sector or a university, could demonstrate the value of JE to private sector employers and help with its implementation.



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