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SELK and Inspection Service put hot labor issues on the carpet

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ΣΕΛΚ και Υπηρε σλα Επιθεωρorσεων

The Corporate Social Responsibility Committee of the Association of Chartered Accountants of Cyprus (SELC) in collaboration with the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance recently organized a successful Conference with labor issues as the central protagonist. The subject matter included a wide range of current issues, such as the equal pay and treatment of Men and Women in employment, the new directive on salary transparency, the operation of the Inspection Service as well as other issues and new applicable Legislation.

The Mr. Dimitrios Chiureas, Presidentof the Corporate Social Responsibility Committee of SELK and partner at Grant Thornton Cyprus, pointed out in his welcome that we are not just meeting as participants in a conference, but as champions for change, united in our commitment to remove the barriers that prevent the realization of equal opportunities for everyone. At the same time, he said that gender equality is not only a moral imperative, but a strategic necessity for a prosperous and resilient society. It is a cornerstone for innovation, economic growth and social harmony.

ΣΕΛΚ και Υπηρε σλα Επιθεωρorσεων

Δημήτριος Χιουρέας, Πρόεδροςτης Επιτροπής Εταιρικής Κοινωνικής Ευθύνης του ΣΕΛΚ και συνεταίρος στην  εταιρεία Grant Thornton Cyprus

In a world struggling for progress and equality, it is disappointing that the gender pay gap remains a stark reminder of the work that still needs to be done. Our goal is to create tangible solutions that will pave the way for a future where no person faces discrimination based on their gender. It is our collective responsibility to meet the challenges head-on, promote dialogue and catalyze action that will lead to a more just future.

ΣΕΛΚ και Υπηρε σλα Επιθεωρorσεων

Γενικός Διευθυντής του Υπουργείου Εργασίας και Κοινωνικών Ασφαλίσεων,  κος Αντρέας Ζαχαριάδης

The Director General of the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance, Mr. Andreas Zachariadis< /strong>, said in his welcome that compliance with labor legislation is a necessary condition for a labor market in conditions of healthy competition.

A modern working environment cannot but guarantee to every worker the conditions for equal participation in the labor market, equal opportunities for growth and advancement, equality in pay, the possibility of a healthy balance between work and private life, as well as protection against harassment of any kind. form.

Also, he recalled the commitment of the Government and the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance in particular, to substantially strengthen the institutions that govern labor relations and the continuation of cordial cooperation with all the agencies involved.

ΣΕΛΚ και Υπηρε σλα Επιθεωρorσεων

Specifically, the following topics were briefly presented:

(1) Establishment and operation of the Inspection Service

ΣΕΛΚ και Υπηρε σλα Επιθεωρorσεων

Άντης Αποστόλου, Αναπληρωτής Διευθυντής του Τμήματος Εργασιακών Σχέσεων και Προϊστάμενος της Υπηρεσίας Επιθεωρήσεων καθώς και Έφορος Συντεχνιών

Mr. Andis Apostolou, Deputy Director of the Department of Labor Relations and Head of the Inspection Service as well as Superintendent of Trade Unions, stated that the Service  was established in the year 2017 and carries out any necessary control in a private or public workplace in order to ensure the implementation of provisions 30  of Labor Laws, which include, in addition to undeclared work and undeclared wages, various other provisions concerning, among others, the  on Equal Pay between Men and Women for the Same Work or for Work of Equal Value Law, the Equal Treatment in Employment and Work Law, the Equal Treatment of Men and Women in Employment and Vocational Training Law, the  on the Minimum Wage Limit Law, the Wage Protection Law, the observance of working conditions in accordance with the Transparent and Predictable Conditions Law.

Mr. Apostolou clarified that “undeclared work” means  insurable employment of an employed or self-employed person, which has not been declared to the Director of Social Insurance in accordance with the current Regulations. Encouraging result of the work of the Inspection Service  is that based on the available data, there has been a reduction in undeclared employment in Cyprus, from 14% in 2017 to 6% in 2023. 

On an annual basis, the Inspection Service carries out more than 7,000 workplace inspections in various economic sectors and  meets more than 16,000 employees, while at the same time it cooperates with other State Services, such as the Cyprus Police and the Department of Population Records and Immigration of the Ministry of the Interior, to carry out joint inspections.

The Inspection Service provides information, advice and training employers and employees on the provisions of the Laws as well as on how to apply them. Also, the Service has excellent cooperation with Trade Unions and Employers' Organizations.

ΣΕΛΚ και Υπηρε σλα Επιθεωρorσεων

(2) On Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Law and on Protection of Wages (Amendment) Law

Mr. Xenios Mamas, Senior Labor Relations Officer at the Ministry, presented two very important Laws:

(A) On Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Law of 2023

With the entry into force of the Law on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions on 13.04.2023, the obligation to provide information to employees was strengthened while at the same time strengthened  the rights of workers.

More specifically, the provision of information changes in such a way that the time allowed for employers to inform employees of the basic terms of employment is reduced from one month to seven days. Employers must now update the components of the remuneration (basic salary, allowances, overtime, etc.) and the method of its payment. Also, the right is now provided for electronic information for employees, so that businesses are also facilitated.

In relation to the increase in workers' rights, it is noted that the labor institutional framework is enriched with new provisions. The most important of these is the reduction of the duration of the probationary period, which now cannot exceed six months instead of the two years previously applicable. Also, employers who employ employees with fluctuating and unpredictable hours must provide a framework for hours and guaranteed pay so that employees know in advance what their employers expect of them. Also, parallel employment is allowed for two or more employers, provided that certain conditions provided by the Law are met and additionally, custom contracts (with the piece) are limited only to cases of casual employment.

Finally, the Legislation creates permanent institutions for the timely out-of-court settlement of disputes arising from the non-implementation of provisions of the Law as well as social dialogue mechanisms for examining the results of the implementation of the Law.

(B) On Protection of Wages (Amendment) ) Law of 2022

With the entry into force of the amending Law on the Protection of Wages 2022 on 16.12.2022, the protection provided by the labor institutional framework in relation to the protection of wages was further strengthened, while at the same time , transparency also increased in relation to payroll. 

It is noted that the strengthening of wage protection is achieved through the obligation of employers to pay wages by bank transfer or by check. In this way, it proves to be easier to pay the salary which is beneficial for both employers and employees. The Law covers some exceptions from the above obligation which concern the time period required for opening an account and when credit institutions refuse to open accounts for employees. Also, an exception is provided when employees are paid on a weekly basis, meaning that this is provided for by a collective agreement or other signed agreement.

In relation to transparency in payroll, this is enhanced through the obligation of employers to prepare and send payroll statement. Through this provision, employees will know and claim their salary. They will also know the  deductions from salary  as well as the employer's contributions.

(3) Equality Statistics of Cyprus and comparison with the EU

ΣΕΛΚ και Υπηρε σλα Επιθεωρorσεων

Νίκη Χριστοφή , μέλος της Επιτροπής Εταιρικής Κοινωνικής Ευθύνης του ΣΕΛΚ και Μέντορας σε θέματα Επιχειρηματικότητας

Ms. Niki Christofi, member of SELK's Corporate Social Responsibility Committee and Entrepreneurship Mentor, presented equality statistics of Cyprus in relation to the EU and pointed out that based on the Gender Equality Index (“Gender Equality Index”) , which is a tool used by the EU to measure equality in each member state, significant progress is being observed in our country. Although Cyprus is in 21st place in the EU, in 2005 it had a score of 38.5 points out of 100, while in the year 2023 it had 60.7 points, almost twice that.

The main reasons that Cyprus has a low position are as the positions of Women in leadership positions  they are fewer than Men. Also, Women spend much more time on care  of the home and children.

According to the statistics presented by Ms. Christofi, 12% of the members of the largest administrative/supervisory boards in Cyprus are Women and 88% are Men. 

With reference to the Public Service, on the A14-A16 scale, the  Men, with a percentage of 55%. Notably, the  year 2000 the percentage distribution of women in the Council of Ministers was 0%, in 2015 8.3% and in 2023 it reached 35.3%. It is encouraging that while in 2006 the percentage distribution of female judges in Cyprus was only 34.4%,  in 2023 it rose to 55.6%.

Remarkable  that in the Education Service of Cyprus, Women predominate with a percentage of 75%, as 25% of Teachers in Cyprus are Men.

Ms. Christofi announced that 40%  from the total of  of Women in Cyprus are graduates of higher education, while the corresponding percentage of Men is 35%, based on the European Institute for Gender Equality.

Regarding  the pay gap, Ms. Christofi pointed out that Cyprus has less of a gap compared to the EU. 

Ms. Christofi informed that based on the latest data available from the Cyprus Statistical Service, in the Accounting/Auditing Profession in Cyprus, Women are paid monthly  €30  less  in relation to Men. For mathematicians and actuaries the gap  amounts to €64, at  For the legal profession the gap is €13 and for Human Resources Managers the gap amounts to €201.

Ms Christofi especially thanked the Statistical Service of Cyprus for providing the statistical information.

(4) Equal Pay between Men and Women for the Same Work or for Work of Equal Value and new Directive on salary transparency

Ms. Iota Kambouridou, Labor Relations Officer A' in the Labor Relations Department of  Ministry, presented the Law regarding equal pay between Men and Women for equal work or work of equal value. He stated that gender pay equality is a priority at the EU level. since 1957 when it was enshrined through the Treaty of Rome, and explained the main reasons that maintain the gender pay gap to this day.

 Through her presentation, she emphasized that the principle of equal pay does not only concern equal work, but also work to which “equal value” is attributed and explained the criteria provided by the Law for the purposes of comparing the value of work which are between others: the qualifications, skills and experience required to perform the work, the degree of responsibility, the conditions in which it is carried out and the effort it requires.

Referring to the most recent developments around the issue at the EU level, Ms  Kambouridou informed the participants about the new Directive (EU) 2023/970, the purpose of which is to strengthen salary transparency and which has a harmonization deadline of June 7, 2026. Specifically, he stated that through the Directive, obligations arise for all employers, regardless of size , such as e.g. the obligation to have salary structures in place, to establish and use gender-neutral professional evaluation and ranking systems, to provide information to candidates for employment about the starting salary or its range, to make the criteria for determination easily accessible to employers of remuneration etc.

He further noted that the Directive also provides protection to both job candidates and employees since it prohibits the employer from investigating in any way the candidate's salary history, but also prohibits inclusion in employment contracts of clauses that limit the ability of employees to disclose information about their remuneration.

Finally, Ms. Kambouridou referred to the obligation of employers, who employ more than 100 workers, to provide the competent authority with indicators regarding the wage gap in their organization. Said indicators shall be published by the competent authority in a manner easily accessible to the public and in a manner that allows comparisons between employers and economic sectors.

(5)  Equal Treatment of Men and Women in Employment and in Vocational Education

Ms. Alexia Chatzikoumi, Officer  of Labor and Equality Inspector of the Department of Labor at the Ministry, reported that the Equal Treatment of Men and Women in Employment and  in Vocational Training Laws 2002 to 2022 fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor. They are fully harmonized with Directive 2006/54/EC (recast) and aim to ensure and promote the principle of equal treatment of men and women in employment and vocational training (access to vocational guidance, training and terms and conditions of their provision, vocational promotion and the terms and conditions of dismissal). 

Ms. Hatjikoumi pointed out that gender discrimination includes harassment and sexual harassment which is prohibited in article 12 of the Laws in question and defines as primarily responsible for dealing with sexual harassment (preventive and repressive) at work the employer or co-responsible as a whole with the person who proceeds with it.

The above legislation is directly linked to the Maternity Protection Laws of 1997 to 2021 since discrimination due to pregnancy or due to family status respectively against a working woman constitutes direct discrimination due to gender and is also examined based on the provisions of the Equal Treatment of Men and Women in Employment and Vocational Education Laws.  

The mechanism of the chief inspector/inspectors of the Department of Labor constitutes an important extrajudicial process with a social role at the same time as provided for in articles 26-28 of the Equal Treatment of Men and Women in Employment and Vocational Training Laws. Through the said legislation, for the first time and specifically in article 27, the extrajudicial mechanism was provided through the administrative bodies of the administration in the capacity of the Chief Inspector and the Equality Inspectors on the basis of which other legislations concerning equality followed. So through this provision of the Law, the role of the extrajudicial mechanism is achieved. In particular, the role of the chief inspector/inspector and his initial priority is to attempt to settle the dispute after informing the  complaining about possible solutions  always with its legitimate interest in mind. 

In this way the out-of-court mechanism contributes greatly to the strengthening of the protection of social rights for this and precedes judicial review and as expressly stated in the said article “provided that the case has not been brought before a Court”. Inspectors have broad powers and responsibilities provided for in the above-mentioned articles.

(6) National Body for Certification of Businesses for the Implementation of Good Practices for Gender Equality in the Working Environment< /p>

Ms. Panagiota Arnou, Labor Relations Officer at the Ministry, presented the National Business Certification Body for the Implementation of Good Practices for Gender Equality in the Working Environment, which is under the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance and operates under the responsibility of the Department of Labor Relations.

 As Ms. Arnou mentioned, the purpose of the Certification Body is to certify companies and organizations that implement policies that ensure for their staff conditions of gender equality, equal opportunities for advancement and training, reconciliation of professional and private life, participation in human resources management issues , equal evaluation of the performance and determination of the remuneration of male and female employees, as well as prevention and protection from phenomena of harassment or sexual harassment.

Ms. Arnou emphasized that the benefits of certification are multidimensional, not only for employees, but also for employers themselves. By integrating gender equality into the actions of a company, the processes of recruitment, evaluation, promotion, remuneration, training, etc. are strengthened, thus ensuring the recruitment and retention of high quality employees.

(7) Investment in the institution of the family

ΣΕΛΚ και Υπηρε σλα Επιθεωρorσεων

Κωνσταντίνα Αχιλλέως, λειτουργός Επικοινωνίας του ΣΕΛΚ

Ms. Konstantina Achilleos, Communication Officer of SELK,  pointed out that a  woman, mother and professional, every day she is faced with thousands of challenges. The roles that you call a woman to serve today, in addition to being complex, are also extremely  demanding. 

As Ms. Achilleos pointed out, whether someone can be successful, woman or man, depends on their personal characteristics and the way they take advantage of the opportunities they encounter along the way. However, the evaluation criterion of its success must be the same. Regardless of gender, it should be based on objective criteria and measurable returns.

Ms. Achilleos addressed the Directors and the  Ministry officials saying “claim and protect equality and whatever other benefits are given in your quiver because the investment in the institution of the family,  to the new generation and the children, it is the one that will bring super profits to our country in the coming years”.

(8) Gender Equality and Women's Entrepreneurship

Ms. Alexandra Theodorou, Vice-President of SELK's Corporate Social Responsibility Committee, presented Women's Entrepreneurship in Cyprus.  He pointed out that based on the latest statistics available from the Cyprus Statistical Service, out of a total of 48,270 self-employed people working in Cyprus in all professions, 59% are Men and 41% are Women.

Ms. Theodorou, stated that the Commissioner for Race Equality, announced a national action plan for women's entrepreneurship, recognizing that women who decide to create their own businesses face much more difficulties than male entrepreneurs. In January 2024, the new national strategy for Gender Equality was presented and  came into effect immediately and includes 13 thematic and 66 actions.   The 13 themes include topics such as gender budgeting,  work,  social policy,  health,   justice, sport, innovation and digital transformation, decision-making positions and mass media.

Ms. Theodorou stated that globally, 87% of women consider adaptability as the most important success factor for the resilience of their businesses. Women face challenges with optimism, despite the crises we are going through, such as wars and the COVID-19 pandemic.

ΣΕΛΚ και Υπηρε σλα Επιθεωρorσεων

Also, in the category of the biggest risks that women in leadership positions see, inflation and recession are in the first place, followed by the risk of a shortage to find talented human resources  and political instability. The concept of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) is gaining more and more value, with companies emphasizing sustainable and ethical business practices and their ability to generate value in the long term. 47% of women worldwide expect ESG factors to have a positive impact on corporate growth. The need for reporting and transparency in its implementation is also growing, with 67% of women globally stating an increased demand for ESG reporting and transparency from stakeholders.

Source: www.philenews.com

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