Ombudsman for Equality’s decision on bonus schemes and family leave

12 February 2024 1 min read

At a glance

  • The Ombudsman for Equality recently assessed a bonus scheme under which employees who are absent from work for more than six months were not entitled to a performance bonus.
  • This bonus scheme was considered discriminatory.
  • An employee who is absent from work on family leave, must have a right to a proportionate share of the year's performance bonus according to the pro rata principle.
  •  Pregnancy leave must be considered equivalent to active employment.

In a recent ruling by the Ombudsman for Equality, potential discriminatory aspects of an employer's bonus program were examined. The scheme under consideration stipulated that employees who are absent from work for more than six months, irrespective of the cause, would not be eligible for a performance bonus that year. Notably, 30 days of maternity leave was deemed equivalent to active employment under this scheme.

Considering the Act on Equality between Women and Men, the bonus scheme was discriminatory and therefore was found in violation of compulsory law. The Ombudsman based its decision on the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union C-333/97 and stated that the entitlement to 40 working days of pregnancy leave (105 days prior to the family leave reform 2022) provided for in the Finnish Employment Contracts Act, must be considered equivalent to active employment. In addition, with respect to other types of family leaves, the employee on family leave must have a right to a proportionate share of the year's performance bonus, according to the pro rata principle.

The Ombudsman did not comment on whether the bonus scheme would be discriminatory with respect to other types of family leave.

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