What does the Commissioner do?

The institution of the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner has been created in order to help people protect their rights and to avoid any form of discrimination. The Commissioner stands up for women and men having equal rights and opportunities in all aspects of public life. The Commissioner also endeavours to ensure that people in various minority groups are not treated unequally.

The task of the Commissioner is also to draw attention to any inequalities that may be present in society and to their causes. For example, the Commissioner has drawn attention to the wide gender pay gap and the low rate of employment for disabled persons, and has also considered whether these need to be dealt with by the government or state institutions. The Commissioner therefore has the right to make proposals to the government or to make recommendations to amend the law. This means that the Equality Commissioner is an expert who advises on how to make society fairer, how to lessen inequality and ensure a situation where everyone can develop their abilities and contribute to public life. In order to achieve these goals the Commissioner also undertakes promotional activities to change people’s attitudes, and counter possible preconceptions and outdated stereotypes.

The Equality Commissioner is an independent and impartial official, an expert who monitors compliance with the requirements of the Gender Equality Act and the Equal Treatment Act. The Commissioner carries out surveillance in both the public and private sectors.

Any persons who suspect that they have been discriminated against – due to their sex, nationality (ethnic origin), race or skin colour, religion, views, age, disability or sexual orientation – can consult the Equality Commissioner. The Office of the Commissioner can also assist if persons have been treated less favourably due to their being a parent or having family obligations, or because they belong to a trade union.  The Equality Commissioner advises and assists persons who suspect that they have experienced discrimination. The Commissioner also provides assistance in compiling a submission or a claim to a court or a labour dispute committee. In the case of suspected discrimination, the Commissioner may initiate an investigation that results in a legal assessment: the Opinion of the Commissioner. An investigation can also be directly initiated by the Commissioner – that is, even without a complaint from the public.

The Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner is appointed by the Minister of Social Affairs for a 5-year term. The Equality Commissioner submits an annual report
to the Constitutional Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament).

The Commissioner works with the assistance of the Office of the Commissioner. The activities of the Commissioner and the Office are financed from the state budget.