Employers must be able to prove that women’s lower wages are attributable to their lesser experience and professional skills due to their generally shorter service time, the Court of Justice has ruled.
The Court of Justice ruled that, as a general rule, employers can use service time to determine their employee’s payment level without any further justification, because “recourse to the criterion of the length of service is appropriate to attain the legitimate objective of rewarding experience acquired which enables the worker to perform his duties better”.
However, a payment scheme based on service time is not necessarily in contradiction to the principle of equal payment for men and women. However, if a worker raises doubts as to length of service time being a valid criterium for determining workers’ experience and professional skills, the employer must justify why he thinks it is valid.
In any case, statutory maternity-leave counts as working time, whereas additional periods of time taken off, for instance for the purpose of raising children, do not.