Equal treatment (rules prohibiting discrimination in the workplace)

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Equal treatment (rules prohibiting discrimination in the workplace, rules on equal pay for men and women and equal pay for employees on fixed-term or under permanent employment contracts)

Rules prohibiting discrimination in the workplace

The General Act on Equal Treatment [ Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz _ AGG] entered into force in Germany in 2006. It prohibits discrimination on grounds of race or ethnicity, gender, religion or world-view, disability, age or sexual identity. 

The AGG is applied in two fields in particular. First of all, it offers protection in the world of work, for example in relation to job notices, application documents and selection procedures, and protects against discrimination in relation to training and professional development, promotions or dismissal. Secondly, it offers protection during everyday life. This includes during outings in public, for example when shopping, travelling by train or bus, or visiting restaurants, nightclubs or hairdressers. The AGG also provides protection for people when they are looking for a place to live or dealing with insurers and banks.

Harassment is also a form of discrimination. Harassment is defined as unwanted conduct in relation to a particular ground of discrimination with the purpose of violating the dignity of a person and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. This includes sexual harassment.

The AGG sets out rights and obligations for employers as well as for employees. The entire job application process, starting from publication of the vacancy notice, must be free of discrimination. Employees already in employment have a right to protection against discrimination. They can claim compensation or damages and file a discrimination complaint with their employer. To this end, all companies must set up a complaints body, and all employees must be informed of the existence of this body. Employers must ensure that any discrimination is stopped. They also have an obligation to take action against employees who discriminate against others. Possible measures range from transfers and warnings to dismissal.

If an individual accused of discrimination does not put a stop to their discriminatory behaviour, the victim must exercise their right before court. Compensation and damages must be claimed within two months. Under civil law, individuals are also entitled to demand that the discrimination be stopped in future. However, only a small number of discrimination cases are settled in court; in most cases an amicable settlement can be reached.

The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency [ Antidiskriminierungsstelle des Bundes ] offers initial advice by telephone and in writing. Any individual who feels that they have been subject to discrimination may request confidential advice from the Anti-Discrimination Agency free of charge. The consultation team will then inform them about their rights, as well as about possible claims and deadlines for making them. Moreover, advisers may refer the individual to specialist advisory services near them. Regional advisory services are listed by location in the database of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency.

Rules on equal pay for men and women

The Act on the promotion of pay transparency between women and men ( Entgelttransparenzgesetz, EntgTranspG ) entered into force on 6 July 2017.

Under the EntgTranspG , pay discrimination on grounds of sex is prohibited. Women and men must receive the same pay for equal work or work of equal value.

The aim of the Act is to support women (and men) in better asserting their right to equal pay for equal work or work of equal value.

To achieve this objective, the Act provides for the following components:

Individual right to information

_ Employees working for employers who generally have more than 200 employees are entitled to know the criteria under which they are paid. The right to information covers:

  • the criteria and procedure used to determine pay that are relevant for your own pay and for a comparative activity you have requested information about; and 
  • the amount of the comparative pay you have requested information about.

_ In addition to the average monthly gross pay, information on up to two separate pay components can be requested.

Operational checks

Private employers who generally have more than 500 employees are encouraged to take responsibility for carrying out operational procedures that are regulated with binding effect to verify and establish equal pay.

This is done with the involvement of business interest groups and information from employees.

Reporting obligation

The Act imposes a reporting obligation on equal treatment and equal pay of men and women for employers who generally have more than 500 employees if they have annual reporting obligations under the Commercial Code.

_ Companies must report regularly on:

  • measures to promote equality and their effects;
  • measures to establish equal pay, for example through the application of pay rules and work evaluation procedures.

_ The reports are to be published in the Federal Gazette as an annex to the annual report.

Further information

Rules prohibiting discrimination in the workplace

A huge range of information material on protection against discrimination is available on the home page of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency

Questions and answers about the AGG and the Anti-Discrimination Agency can be found here .

To obtain initial advice from the Anti-Discrimination Agency, visit the website .

The following database of all advisory services across Germany can help you find your nearest service.

A detailed guidebook on the AGG can be found here .

Rules on equal pay for men and women

A full range of information on the Act is available on the BMFSFJ homepage.

Responsible for the content
Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth

Federal Antidiscrimination Agency

Last update or date of publication
31.08.2020