Discrimination and Equality

Document | 01 September 2010

Discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favorably than others because of characteristics that are not related to the person’s competencies or the inherent requirements of the job. All workers and job seekers have the right to be treated equally, regardless of any attributes other than their ability to do the job. Discrimination may occur before hiring, on the job or upon leaving.

Freedom from discrimination is a fundamental human right. It is essential for workers to be able to choose their employment freely, to develop their potential to the full and to be rewarded based on merit.

There are numerous international labour standards addressing discrimination. The 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work calls on all member States to promote and realize within their territories the right to be free from discriminatory employment practices. It identifies as fundamental conventions the Discrimination (in Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111) and the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100).

Convention 111 identifies as bases of discrimination race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction, social origin. Other ILO instruments list additional grounds: HIV/AIDS, age, disability, family responsibilities, sexual orientation, and trade union membership or activities. Convention 100 promotes the principle of equal pay for work of equal value.

The 1998 Declaration and the MNE Declaration also call upon enterprises to help promote equality of opportunity and treatment in employment and occupation. Company managers and workers should review their hiring and other employment practices for any bases of discrimination which may result in treating some jobseekers or workers less favorably than others because of characteristics that are not related to the person’s competencies or the inherent requirements of the job.

Companies should make qualifications, skills and experience the basis for the recruitment, placement, training and advancement of their staff at all levels.

Q&As on Business, discrimination and equality

  • General description and prohibited bases for discrimination
  • Advantages of a diverse workforce
  • Development of a corporate non-discrimination and equality policy
  • Sexual harassment in the workplace
  • Discrimination in remuneration