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Sweden to strengthen preventative work against discrimination

Sweden to strengthen preventative work against discrimination

| Text: Kerstin Ahlberg, photo Tomas Gunnarson

Many employers are not aware that they must work on active measures to promote equal rights and opportunities for their employees. So says the Swedish government, which has appointed a commissioner tasked with coming up with proposals for how to make the monitoring of the discrimination act more effective.

The discrimination act does not only prohibit discrimination. It also makes employers responsible for working on active measures in order to achieve equal rights and opportunities for all, regardless of sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation or age. These rules have been fully implemented since 1 January 2017, which means employers are expected to work systematically to prevent such discrimination, just like they work to prevent ill health and accidents and to create a good working environment in line with the work environment act.  

The Swedish Equality Ombudsman (DO) is responsible for making sure employers follow the letter of the law. If they fail to do so, the DO can force through measures with the threat of penalties. 

It turns out employers are not familiar enough with the new rules, and that these have failed to lead to the expected new ways of working. A survey carried out by the DO showed less than half of employers were aware of the rules, and that just one in six believed they needed to work on active measures. Despite this, it is unusual for the DO to force through measures by using the threat of penalties.  

In the wake of #metoo, many stories about sexual violence and harassment in the labour market and in schools also came to the fore, writes the government in its instructions to the commissioner. This illustrates the need for clearer sanctions for those who fail to follow the discrimination act’s demands. An action plan for equal life income, passed by the government in that same year, also presupposes more efficient sanctions linked to the compliance of the rules on active measures, including pay surveys. 

The government-appointed commissioner will therefore analyse whether the current rules on the monitoring of active measures are fit for purpose, and then propose any changes to the law deemed necessary.

Agneta Broberg

is the Swedish Equality Ombudsman, DO, an authority tasked with working against all kinds of discrimination. Now a commissioner will develop proposals for how the authority can be given greater powers to make sure employers also work on preventative measures.

Read more about DO here:


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