Equality is a basic and human right that is based on international and national regulation and agreements. Everyone has the right to be treated equally in a work community without a fear of becoming discriminated.

The aim of the Equal Opportunities Act is:

  • to prevent discrimination based on gender
  • to prevent discrimination based on gender identity or the expressions of gender
  • to promote equality between women and men and to improve with this purpose
  • women’s position in working life in particular

What is discrimination?

Discrimination is the worse treatment of a person due to some characteristic. Discrimination is forbidden regardless of whether it is based on a fact or an assumption concerning the person in question or another person. In addition to direct and indirect discrimination, it includes harassment, denial of reasonable accommodation and an instruction or order to discriminate.

It is important to actively promote equality and to ensure that all courses of action and attitudes at the workplace prevent anyone from becoming discriminated already in advance. All employers are obliged to promote equality regardless of the line of business, the size of the workplace or any other matter.

More is required of larger employers; at workplaces employing at least 30 people the employer, together with the personnel or its representatives, is obliged to compile a written equality plan.

According to the Equal Opportunities Act no-one should be discriminated on the basis of:

  • age
  • origin, nationality or language
  • religion, conviction or opinion
  • political activity
  • trade union activity
  • family relations
  • state of health or disability
  • sexual orientation
  • or another reason relating to a person

By our conduct and example we can all have an impact on how equal the work community is. An equal work community benefits all — it increases the wellbeing and coping at work.

The non-discrimination ombudsman

In Finland we have a non-discrimination ombudsman who takes care of equality matters. The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman is an autonomous and independent authority. The task of the Ombudsman is to promote equality and to prevent discrimination. The Ombudsman also supervises removal from the country and is the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings. The Ombudsman further works towards improving the rights and status of foreign nationals. Read more on syrjintä.fi.


Harassment is systematic and continuous negative action or conduct that can harm or jeopardize an employee’s health.

Harassment involves e.g. repeated threats, intimidation, mean and insinuating messages, disparaging and ridiculing speech, unfounded criticism and hindering of working, questioning someone’s reputation or position, excluding someone from the work community and sexual harassment.

Harassment can also involve the abuse of management powers. This may include e.g. repeated unfounded interference with one’s work, unfounded changing of the quality or quantity of duties, changing agreed working conditions illegally, inappropriate use of management powers or giving orders in humiliating manner.

Inappropriate treatment

A workplace must have zero tolerance to inappropriate treatment. Inappropriate treatment must not be understated and you must interfere with it immediately. The employer is obliged to make sure that no-one becomes target of inappropriate treatment at their workplace. It is important to notify the employer of inappropriate treatment as quickly as possible so that the employer can address the problem and take action.

Those who have become targets of inappropriate treatment should remember that they have done nothing wrong.

If you feel you have become target of discrimination, harassment, bullying, mental or physical abuse or other inappropriate treatment, you must act immediately. Employees must, if possible, clearly explain the person who is treating them inappropriately that they do not approve of their action and deny them from continuing it. It is also important to record all incidents and save potential evidence such as disturbing email messages.

Employees are supported and helped in dealing with the case e.g. by their own supervisor, the occupational safety delegate or shop steward at the workplace, by occupational healthcare or their own trade union. Those who have become targets of inappropriate treatment should remember that they have done nothing wrong. The employer is obliged to make sure that no-one becomes target of inappropriate treatment at their workplace.