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Report: Health most common basis for workplace discrimination complaints in Finland

Occupational safety watchdog have received calls where employees suspect they were terminated due to sick leave.

Mies pakkaa tavaroitaan työpaikalla.
Approximately 300 inspections In Finland revealed employers who failed to comply with the Non-Discrimination Act. Image: Viacheslav Iakobchuk / AOP

In 2018, Finland's Occupational Safety and Health Authority received approximately 500 calls reporting discrimination in workplaces. Authorities investigated around 200 cases — one in three of these cases related to discrimination on the basis of health, according to a report published by the watchdog.

Discrimination on the basis of health is becoming the most common reason stated in inspection requests, according to Jenny Rintala, senior occupational safety inspector at the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland.

"However, not all calls lead to investigations," she clarified.

The report explained that in the majority of situations where an employer had terminated a job contract, the employee suspected that the reason had been absences due to illness.

300 inspections reveal breach of Non-Discrimination Act

The authority carried out 1,250 workplace inspections last year to monitor enforcement of non-discriminatory and equal opportunity policies. Approximately 300 inspections revealed employers who failed to comply with the Non-Discrimination Act, according to the report.

The agency reported 21 suspected cases of workplace discrimination to the police in 2018.

"The report covers a wide range of inspections including oversight of foreign labour recruitment and possible wage discrimination. It also reveals for instance, workplaces that have neglected to establish an equality plan, which is considered a shortcoming. The third topic was discrimination in job advertisements," Rintala explained.

In addition, inspections were carried out on the basis of requests to investigate alleged discrimination against an individual worker or jobseeker.

The report also said that most often, the caller wanted information about how to raise the issue in the workplace or sought an expert opinion on whether or not their experiences constituted discrimination.

Religion, political activity and sexual orientation as grounds for discrimination gave rise to the fewest complaints in 2018.

However, inspections also revealed 17 discriminatory work advertisements, where ethnic origin, language and nationality were the most common forms of inequality.

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