Assessment of equality

Tool for the assessment of equality

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What is assessed?

yhtenvertaisuus-03The contents of the Non-Discrimination Act are related to the promotion of equality (Chapter 2), prohibitions of discrimination (Chapter 3) and the legal rights of victims of discrimination.

The contents of the assessment of equality may be divided into two sectors:

1) Identifying discrimination and intervening with it
2) Fostering equality.

Identifying discrimination and intervening with it

One of the key objectives of the Non-Discrimination Act is to prevent discrimination. Identifying discrimination is a key element of assessing equality. When conducting an assessment, you should be aware of the following: what does discrimination in various forms mean according to the Non-Discrimination Act, what is prohibited discrimination and what is legally permissible different treatment, what does positive discrimination mean, what does reasonable accommodation mean and what kinds of discrimination do various population groups encounter.
Under the Non-Discrimination Act, nobody may be discriminated against on the basis of their age, origin, nationality, language, religion, beliefs, opinions, political activity, trade union activity, family relationships, state of health, disabilities, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics. Discrimination is prohibited, regardless of whether it is based on a fact or assumption concerning the person him/herself or another. In addition to direct and indirect discrimination, harassment, denial of reasonable adjustments as well as an instruction or order to discriminate constitute discrimination as referred to in the Non-Discrimination Act.

The evaluation of discrimination may target both HR policy and activities. The assessment may, for instance, seek answers to the following questions:

  • Does discrimination in various forms occur in the organisation or in its services?
  • How has the discrimination been observed?
  • Which groups face discrimination?
  • What kinds of procedures are applied to intervening in cases of discrimination?
  • How efficient are they?
  • What kinds of other measures are applied to the prevention of discrimination? (influencing attitudes etc.)
  • What kind of information on discrimination is available in the organisation’s line of business?
  • Are persons with disabilities provided with appropriate and reasonable accommodation?
  • Is non-discrimination taken into account in job advertisements?

The Non-Discrimination Act also defines permissible different treatment. According to the Act, not all different treatment based on a personal characteristic, such as state of health, age, citizenship or the equivalent, constitutes discrimination. Pursuant to section 11 of the Non-Discrimination Act, different treatment does not constitute discrimination if the treatment is based on legislation and otherwise has an acceptable objective and the measures taken to attain the objective are proportionate. For example, legislation on tobacco, alcohol and traffic contains provisions on different age limits and requirements.

Even different treatment which is not based on legislation may have an acceptable objective with regard to fundamental and human rights. For instance, measures preventing the social exclusion of young people, promoting the equality of language groups or subsidies granted to religious minorities do not constitute discrimination because they strive towards a goal which is acceptable from the perspective of fundamental rights. Such goals may include the promotion of linguistic and cultural rights, non-discrimination, equality, and the rights of children and minorities.

According to section 9 of the Non-Discrimination Act, positive discrimination that aims de facto promote equality, or to prevent or eliminate the disadvantages attributable to discrimination, does not constitute discrimination. Positive discrimination must have an acceptable objective in terms of fundamental and human rights, and must be planned, proportionate and temporary. Positive discrimination includes, for instance, recruitment measures aimed at increasing the proportion of persons belonging to a disadvantaged group (such as immigrants). Positive discrimination may not, however, constitute discrimination against other persons.

Pursuant to section 12 of the Non-Discrimination Act, different treatment at work and in employing personnel is justified if the treatment is founded on genuine and determining requirements concerning the type of occupational tasks in question and their performance, and the treatment is proportionate to achieving the legitimate objective. When hiring a priest, for example, it is permissible to require membership in a certain church, or workers with a Chinese background may be sought for a Chinese restaurant.

In the Non-discrimination Act, discrimination is defined as follows:


Direct discrimination (section 10):
a person is treated less favourably than another person was treated, is treated or would be treated in a comparable situation.

An entrepreneur refuses to allow a disabled person enter their business premises.

Indirect discrimination (section 13):
an apparently neutral rule, criterion or practice puts a person at a disadvantage compared with others on the grounds of personal characteristics.

An employer demands that job applicants have a perfect command of the Finnish language, even though this is not necessary for the performance of the duties in question.

Harassment (section 14):
Behaviour that is a deliberate or de facto infringement of the dignity of a person, creating a degrading or humiliating, intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for that person.

Examples of harassment include racist jokes made with the intention of insulting someone or calling a fellow worker, who is a member of a sexual minority, names.

Instruction or order to discriminate (section 8):
Advisories, directives or requirements that are tantamount to discrimination or foster discrimination.

A manager at a restaurant orders the doormen to make sure that persons belonging to certain population groups cannot enter the restaurant.

Denial of reasonable adjustments (section 15):
An authority, education provider, employer or provider of goods and services who fails to make due and appropriate adjustments necessary in each situation for a person with disabilities to secure the non-discrimination of disabled persons is guilty of discrimination.

An employer refuses to make reasonable adjustments necessary which a disabled job applicant would need to attend a job interview.

Prohibition of discriminatory work advertisements (section 17):
When advertising an open position, public service office or post, an employer may not unlawfully request information on the personal characteristics or qualities referred to in this Act from applicants.

A bus company requires Finnish citizenship from applicants in a job advertisement for the position of a bus driver.

Prohibition of victimisation (section 16):
A person must not be treated unfavourably or in such a way that they suffer adverse consequences as a result of pleading the rights or obligations provided for in the Non-Discrimination Act, participating in the clarification of a matter concerning discrimination, or taking other action to safeguard equality.

An employer transfers an employee to other, less demanding duties after the employee reported an experience of discrimination to an occupational safety and health authority.

Monitoring of discrimination and the ban on processing sensitive data

When collecting information about discrimination, regulations on privacy protection should be observed and understood. The Personal Data Act secures basic rights related to the protection of private life and other privacy protection when processing personal data. The Act applies to the processing of personal data and, among other things, includes a prohibition on processing sensitive data. The Personal Data Act does not, however, prevent the collecting of information on discrimination, as long as such information is not personal data by nature.

The following therefore applies to the assessment of equality:

  • Information collected through various channels may not constitute personal data or a personal data file.
  • Equality surveys must be anonymous.
  • Such surveys must ensure that the responses cannot be linked to a certain person by any factor other than the person’s name.

What is personal data?

  1. personal data means any information on a private individual and any information on his/her personal characteristics or personal circumstances, where these are identifiable as concerning him/her or the members of his/her family or household;
  2. processing of personal data means the collection, recording, organisation, use, transfer, disclosure, storage, manipulation, combination, protection, deletion and erasure of personal data, as well as other measures related to personal data;
  3. personal data file means a set of personal data, connected by a common use and processed automatically in part or full, or sorted into a card index, directory or some other manually accessible form so that data pertaining to a given person can be retrieved easily and at a reasonable cost.

Sensitive personal data

Personal data is deemed to be sensitive if it is related to or intended to be related to:

  1. race or ethnic origin;
  2. the social, political or religious affiliations or trade-union membership of a person;
  3. a criminal act, punishment or other criminal sanction;
  4. the state of health, illness or handicap of a person or treatment or other comparable measures directed toward the person;
  5. the sexual preferences or sex life of a person; or
  6. the social welfare needs of a person or the benefits, support or other social welfare assistance received by the person.

Discrimination among various population groups

Any person may have to confront discrimination or prejudice on the basis of some reason related to them, such as age, religion or state of health. Persons who belong to groups which face negative stereotypes or prejudice are particularly susceptible to discrimination. Although the mechanisms of discrimination are often similar, the situations in which discrimination occurs vary between groups. Knowledge of special issues affecting different groups can be useful in identifying discrimination. Examples of discrimination and factors influencing equality with regard to the grounds for discrimination are as follows:

Examples of experiences of discrimination among various population groups

Roma people

  • Prejudice directed at Roma people diminishes their equal opportunities for finding employment.
  • Roma children face more bullying at school than other children.
  • Special conditions apply to Roma families when they lease a residence, or no rental residence is granted at all.
  • A Roma employee or customer is often the first to be blamed for a theft at a workplace or in a shop.

Sámi people

  • A municipality refuses to provide day care or care for the elderly in Sámi language, even though it would have the necessary resources.
  • Hate speech is directed toward Sámi people over the Internet.
  • Sámi youths experience discrimination due to their cultural background.


  • Racist name-calling and violence in public places is directed at persons who are members of visible minorities (with dark skin or an otherwise different appearance to the majority of the population).
  • Demands for language skills are set as a requirement for jobs where they are not necessary with regard to the performance of the work in question.
  • People who have a foreign name or who speak Finnish with an accent find it harder to find employment than ethnic Finns.

Disabled persons

  • A person in a wheelchair cannot enter inaccessible shops, workplaces or classrooms, even though access could be arranged through reasonable measures.
  • A person who is hard of hearing cannot hear a discussion in a noisy environment during a meeting and is prohibited from using an induction loop.
  • A visually impaired person cannot attend an admission examination at a university because the exam is based on eyesight, even though the person would be able to study and graduate from the institution.

Sexual minorities

  • Out of fear of discrimination, a person dare not reveal to the work community that he or she has a spouse who is of the same gender.
  • Hate crime targets homosexuals.
  • A young person or an adult who is a member of a sexual minority has to listen to insulting jokes at school or in the workplace.

Children and young people

  • Children and young people are not heard when decisions are made concerning their lives.
  • Young people are at a disadvantage in the labour market.
  • Discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment occurs in schools.

Elderly and aged people

  • Elderly people feel that they are deemed sick or incapable of affecting solutions that concern their own lives
  • Aged persons face discrimination in the labour market.
  • The needs of the elderly are ignored when designing electronic services.

People with religious and other convictions

  • Factors related to a person’s clothing or religious worship are regarded as obstacles to employment when, in fact, they are not.
  • Persons in religious minorities face prejudice and have more difficulties finding employment.
  • Hate crime (violence and vandalism) is targeted at religious minorities.

Multiple discrimination

  • An elderly Romani person is discriminated against as both a Romani and an elderly person.
  • A disabled immigrant is not accepted on a labour-related integration course because his or her employment opportunities are deemed to be poorer than other people’s.
  • Children of an immigrant background face a higher risk of being bullied in day care and at school.
  • The partner of an elderly person who belongs to a sexual minority is not acknowledged as a family member in health care or care for the elderly.

Fostering equality

Fostering equality is a broader-based complex of issues than discrimination and intervention in cases of discrimination. Equality and fostering equality can be assessed from perspectives such as equality between population groups (based on grounds for discrimination), organisational activities or good relations between population groups. When assessing equality, attention should be paid both to formal and actual equality in the work community and within activities.

Formal equality

Formal equality means that people are treated in the same way in similar situations, without discrimination.

Actual equality

The active fostering of equality may involve deviations from the principle of equal treatment in order to implement actual equality for disadvantaged groups. This requires a change in the conditions that prevent equality.

Positive discrimination

Positive discrimination is a way of implementing actual equality and preventing or eliminating the disadvantages attributable to discrimination. It facilitates attention to personal characteristics in recruitment, student admission or service provision for example. In practice, positive discrimination involves measures that improve the position and circumstances of a certain disadvantaged group (such as children or minorities). Employment services for young people, an accelerated procedure for the elderly in the assessment of the need for social services, or language quotas in educational institutions are examples of positive discrimination. Positive discrimination must be in proportion to its objectives and may not constitute discrimination against other groups.

Reasonable accomodation

Reasonable accommodation secures the actual equality of disabled persons in various situations. Allowing reasonable accommodation is an obligation under the Non-Discrimination Act, which, if neglected, is considered a form of discrimination. According to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ‘reasonable accommodation’ means any necessary and appropriate modifications and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, taken to ensure that persons with disabilities can enjoy or exercise the full range of human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with others.

Group-specific review

The purpose of group-specific assessment is to consider whether persons of different backgrounds have equal opportunities to act within an organisation, or to use the services it provides. In connection with such an assessment, certain methods can be identified of promoting equality between persons of different backgrounds. The prerequisite for conducting an assessment is that the organisation has sufficient knowledge of and competence in the special issues affecting the groups. Awareness can be enhanced through measures such as training staff and involving non-governmental organisations, representing different groups, in the assessment.

The questions in the following table may help in getting started with an assessment.

Subject of assessment Staff Equality Operational equality
  • Are employees of different ages equal in the workplace?
  • Can the strengths of people of different ages be capitalised on?
  • Are the needs of people of different ages identified in services and communication?
  • Are there differences between age groups in the utilisation rate of services?
Origin and ethnicity
  • Do members of ethnic minorities have equal opportunities to be selected when a vacancy is filled?
  • What kinds of measures are available for promoting ethnic equality during careers?
  • Have the special issues of the Sámi and Roma been considered in planning and implementing measures?
  • How can ethnic minorities’ actual opportunities to use services be promoted?
  • What kinds of measures are applied in promoting language rights in the workplace?
  • What kinds of measures are in place for supporting the Finnish or Swedish language skills of foreign language employees?
  • Can communication be improved with regard to different languages (minority languages and simple language)?
  • How do interpretation services work?
  • Has the need for using sign language been examined?
Religion and beliefs
  • Have the holidays of members of various religions been taken into account in holiday planning?
  • Does the catering at the office take account of various religious food restrictions?
  • Are the religions and convictions of various staff respected in the workplace?
  • Are the special needs of members of various religions taken into account in service provision?
  • Are representatives of various religions consulted when preparing decisions/legislation regarding the practice of religion?
Opinion, political activity and trade union activities
  • Are different opinions and political views accepted in the workplace?
  • Does having a certain opinion, or political activity, or working as an employees’ representative influence equal opportunities during careers?
  • Are divergent opinions charted when preparing policy?
  • Are persons of different family backgrounds equal in the workplace?
  • What kinds of measures are applied, for instance in reconciling work and family life?
  • Are the special needs of people of different family backgrounds recognised in the provision of various services?
State of health
  • Is state of health an obstacle to equal opportunities in the workplace?
  • Can an employee’s state of health be taken into account when planning workplace operations?
  • What kinds of measures are in place for taking account of customers’ special health issues (e.g. allergies etc.)?
  • What kind of reasonable accommodation is available at the workplace?
  • Are workplace systems accessible for all employees?
  • Are common meeting facilities accessible?
  • Has the accessibility of services been examined from the viewpoint of different types of disabilities?
  • What kinds of communication methods might enhance accessibility?
Sexual orientation
  • Can a member of a sexual minority be open about his or her orientation in the workplace?
  • What kinds of measures can be undertaken to influence attitudes in the workplace?
  • Has attention been paid to the special needs of sexual minorities in service planning?
  • Are we able to recognise special needs or is it necessary to consult, say, organisations that represent sexual minorities?

Review of the organisation’s activities

The promotion of equality can also be examined from the viewpoint of the development of organisational functions. Naturally, the functions of organisations vary between sectors. For instance, the organisational development of educational institutions from the equality perspective requires different measures to those applied when developing police functions. However, most organisations are fairly similar with respect to sectors of HR policy or, say, the service process. The purpose of function-based assessment is to examine how equal the various functions of an organisation are, how equality problems can be identified and what kinds of measures can be used to foster equality.

The following examples describe common functions related to HR policy and operations, and how equality within such functions can be purposefully fostered. In addition, the table shows examples of best practices used in trying to meet the goals set.

Fostering equality in HR policy

Operation Objectives Example practices
Leadership and management
  • Management takes staff diversity into account in the workplace.
  • Fostering equality is included in strategic objectives and organisational structures.
  • Diversity management training
  • Equality issues are taken into account in the budgeting and preparation of strategy.
  • The coordination of equality issues is allocated to a team set up specifically for the task, or a responsible person.
  • Jobseekers of different groups take an interest in positions within the organisation.
  • All qualified applicants have equal opportunities to be selected.
  • More employees of a minority background are hired.
  • Staff competence diversifies.
  • Supervision of recruitment through discrimination tests.
  • Ensuring the accessibility of the recruitment process.
  • Job advertisements encourage members of different groups to apply.
  • Recruitment of personnel with various language skills.
  • The induction and guidance of employees from diverse backgrounds is efficient, diverse and flexible.
  • The appointment of a personal mentor at the early stage of an employment relationship.
  • The induction programme pays attention to the needs of different employees.
  • Two-way induction.
Staff training
  • Better skills for employees in equality and discrimination issues.
  • Negative attitudes are eliminated.
  • Courses on equality, discrimination and different groups in staff training.
  • Participation in training provided by organisations.
  • Equality surveys
Hiring of employees, career advancement options and division of duties
  • Hiring and terms of employment are fair and non-discriminatory.
  • Equal opportunities for all employees in career advancement and e.g. access to training.
  • The division of duties corresponds to staff competencies.
  •  Preparing a human resource account and defining the qualification standards for positions
  • Performance reviews
  • Individual planning of work (e.g. flexible working hours)
  • Mentoring
  • Regular reviews of arrangement of duties
Wellbeing at work and development of working conditions
  • Better coping at work and more openness.
  • Less absences due to illness.
  • The operational preconditions of employees are improved with various aids and tools if necessary.
  • Activities that enhance wellbeing at work
  • Flexible working hour and workplace arrangements.
  • Equal treatment of various family types and dependency ratios
  • Hearing aids, lighting, electronic tools, accessibility reviews.
Occupational health and safety
  • Skills in identifying cases of discrimination are in place.
  • Efficient intervention in cases of discrimination and bullying.
  • Employee cooperation improves.
  • Occupational health and safety and other special instructions in case discrimination occurs; instructions for intervention in cases of discrimination and harassment
  • Supervision by occupational health and safety authorities and employee representatives.
Enhancing the participation and inclusion of employees
  • Better opportunities for employees to contribute to the preparation of common issues.
  • More openness and trust in the working community.
  • The entire competence potential of employees is used.
  • Cooperation groups
  • Quotas in working groups
Information and communication
  • Open, well-functioning internal communication in the organisation reaches all employees.
  • Employees are aware of the organisation’s commitment to promoting equality.
  • Attention to accessibility of communications
  • Diverse communication channels; intranet, internal magazines, staff briefings.
  • Communication on the equality promotion plan

Equality in operations

Operation Objectives Examples of operating models
 Development of service strategy
  • Services are equal for all.
  • The special needs of service users are identified.
  • Public services that enhance inclusion
  • Group-specifically targeted
    special services
  • Performance-based management and targeting of resources
 Customer service
  • The organisation is easily accessible and is experienced as being so.
  • No discrimination in service situations.
  • Staff training for employees in service positions
    Customer feedback mechanisms
  • Avoiding presumptions and a condescending approach
 Advice and service guidance
  • Advice and service guidance make it easy for all groups to access services.
  • Service points for immigrants and guidance in native languages.
  • Monitoring the accessibility of services
Interpretation and services in native languages
  • Customers and authorities understand each other.
  • Customers’ privacy protection ensured by using professional interpreters.
  • Use of interpreters and distance interpretation services.
  • The use of aids, tools and other means that make communication easier.
Special services
  • Know how on how to target special services correctly.
  • Services targeted at special groups and positive discrimination improve the actual equality of customers.
  • Avoiding presumptions and a condescending approach./li>
  • Services for immigrants and the disabled
  • Group-specifically targeted coaching on working life
  • Roma contact persons
Customer feedback
  • All customers have the possibility to provide feedback for the service provided.
  • Customer feedback collected in different ways
Cooperation with different population groups
  • Know how in taking customers’ needs into account and the impacts of services improve.
  • Minorities’ viewpoints are taken into account in preparing issues and decision-making.
  • Public hearings and circulation for comments
  • Non-governmental organisation strategies
  • Collecting and using customer feedback
Preventing and intervening in cases of discrimination with respect to services
  • Persons responsible for customer service do not discriminate.
  • Customers can complain when they feel discriminated against.
  • Non-discrimination discussed in performance reviews with persons responsible for customer service.
  • Complaint channels made known to customers; procedures for complaints, claims for a revised decision and appeals./li>
  • Complaint mechanisms
  • Patient ombudsman and social welfare ombudsman
  • Communication on operations is efficient, transparent and reaches all customer groups.
  • Communication includes information that is essential for minorities and does not provide stereotypical information.
  • Communication targeted at groups
  • Information materials in various languages, the use of picture materials
  • Use of diverse information channels (radio, free papers)
  • Accessible communication channels
  • Intervention occurs in cases of one-sided or incorrect information about minorities
Action to promote accessibility
  • Office premises, customer service equipment and communication are accessible
  • Accessibility reviews conducted in cooperation with organisations for the disabled
Preparation of legislation, guidelines and policies
  • Non-discrimination impacts taken into account in statute drafting.
  • Guidelines do not result in directly or indirectly discriminating structures or practices.
  • When preparing guidelines, their impacts on various minority groups are assessed.
  • Cooperation with various minority groups
Development of acquisitions
  • Equality impacts of public procurement improve.
  • Public tendering criteria take account of the equality impacts of operations.

Review of good relations

Equality can also be assessed from the perspective of good relations between people. This means analysing the impacts of the social atmosphere in the working community or society as a whole on the operational capability of people from diverse backgrounds. The key domains of good relations are attitudes, personal security, interaction with others, and participation and influence. For instance, the following aspects may be reviewed: what kinds of attitudes do members of the organisation have towards various population groups, how safe do staff feel, can individuals be openly themselves, what kinds of factors influence interaction between different groups and what kinds of experiences of inclusion and influence do people of different backgrounds have. Support materials have been developed for the monitoring of good relations, including a set of indicators for the measurement of good relations, to be used when conducting the related kind of assessment. Sample materials are available in the following section of the website:

An example of the assessment of equality by analysing the domains of good relations


The following section: