The history of equality legislation

The Equality Act entered into force on 1 January 1987

Reforms to the law

  • in 1992 discrimination related to pregnancy and parenthood was prohibited
  • in 1995 a regulation on equality planning was introduced
    • the quota regulation was specified
    • the employer became responsible for making it easier to combine work and family life
    • sexual harassment was included
  • in 2005 there was a comprehensive reform of the Act

The Office of the Ombudsman for Equality was founded on 1 January 1987

Organisational reform 2001:

  • the Ombudsman for Equality was given a clear role as a law enforcement authority
  • a Gender Equality Unit was created at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
  • the Council for Gender Equality (founded in 1972) became permanent

Ombudsmen for Equality

Paavo Nikula 1987–1991
Tuulikki Petäjäniemi 1991–1994
Pirkko Mäkinen 1995–2002
Päivi Romanov 2002–2007
Pirkko Mäkinen 2007–

Right from the start the Ombudsman for Equality has been busy with issues related to working life, such as suspected cases of discrimination related to recruitment or pay, fixed-term contracts and problems related to pregnancy and parental leave.

Paavo Nikula

The major issues during Paavo Nikula's term were related to various pension reforms. When Finland joined the EC the different retirement ages that were used in different fields had to be harmonised.

Nikula also had to issue an opinion on whether or not one representative of the other sex – usually a woman – was sufficient on various public bodies, such as boards and committees. Back then the law talked about "female and male representation", but the representation was not defined more specifically than that.

Tuulikki Petäjäniemi

Tuulikki Petäjäniemi's particular project was on issues related to pay. Even before she took up her post as Ombudsman for Equality she was a member of various working groups discussing work assessment and issues relating to equal pay.

The main focus of the Ombudsman's work was still on working life. During Petäjäniemi's time in office more attention began to be paid to the difficulty of the job and the suitability of the applicant's experience and education for the job. They also realised that an acceptable reason to hire a person might be their specific suitability for the job.

Pirkko Mäkinen

The third Ombudsman for Equality Pirkko Mäkinen began her term on 1 January 1995, which was the day that Finland also joined the EU. A few months later the first comprehensive reform of the Equality Act took effect. The reform amended some flaws that had been discovered in the Act, and the Act was also brought into line with EU legislation. Regulations on equality planning were also introduced. A quota regulation was also included in the Act, which led to women and men increasingly taking part in equal public decision making. The share of men on the decision-making bodies in health care, social services and education has also increased.

Päivi Romanov

Päivi Romanov was the fourth Ombudsman for Equality. She emphasised the fact that equality is a fundamental right. Romanov's term was a time of change: the Equality Act had been reformed again, and the new Act took effect in June 2005. Usage of the authorities' electronic services became more widespread. The organisation for equality work had been changed in the summer of 2001: in addition to the Office of the Ombudsman for Equality and the Council for Gender Equality a Gender Equality Unit was also created. The role of the unit was to prepare, develop and coordinate the implementation of the Government's equality policy.

After Päivi Romanov, Pirkko Mäkinen continued as an Ombudsman 2007-2016.