10 Mar 2022

Gender Equality Act – New obligations for employers

On June 1st 2021, the new Gender Equality Act (the “Act”) entered into force and  Serbia finally has a modern act to address this issue.

The Act regulates the concept, meaning and policy measures for achieving and promoting gender equality, as well as measures for combating and preventing all forms of gender-based violence, violence against women and domestic violence.

We emphasize that discrimination based on sex and gender was prohibited even before the entry into force of this Act. The Act confirms the current principles of equality of employees in employment rights and the prohibition of discriminatory behaviour of employers, while paying special attention to discrimination based on gender and sex and prohibits it not only at work but in all other areas of social life. Therefore, the Act is not aimed solely at improving the position of women, as is often mistakenly considered, but rather proclaims equal treatment and equal opportunities for women and men in all aspects.

One of the novelties is the introduction of the term – sexual blackmail. This means that any conduct of one who blackmails another, with or without the intention of committing an act of a sexual nature, that, in the case, they refuse to abide by what is requested, against them (or against others close to the person), one will harm their honour or reputation. This expands the meaning of the term sexual harassment and strengthens the protection of individuals in this regard.

In addition, it is important to note that the Act especially protects women on leave from work due to pregnancy and childcare. In that sense, the transfer of an employee who is on leave due to pregnancy, maternity leave, leave from work for childcare and leave from work for special childcare, to other jobs or referral to work with another employer is prohibited if less favourable for the employee. Also, absences due to the reasons stated cannot constitute a ground for denying the right to professional training, promotion and a transfer to a higher position. Moreover, after maternity leave, the employer is obliged to assign the employee to the same position where she worked before her maternity leave or to appropriate (other) jobs, but not under less favourable conditions.

It is important to emphasize that the employer must strive to provide an equal number of men and women in management and supervisory bodies, considering the specifics arising from the nature of work, service or activity, place and working conditions prescribed criteria for selection and appointment and other objective reasons. That is why employers who have more than 50 employees have been obliged to determine and implement special measures within the annual plans or work programs, which must also contain a section related to achieving and improving gender equality. In addition, employers are required to compile biennial reports on gender equality.

In essence, the Act emphasizes proscriptions that have existed so far, while strengthening the penal policy. Specifically, the fines for employers who violate the legal provisions on the prohibition of discrimination have increased to as much as RSD 2 million. Clearly, it has been recognized that the current penal policy has not yielded satisfactory results and that it is necessary to make it stricter.

It remains to be seen how the implementation of the Act will proceed. However, it was written in accordance with the highest of EU standards, and we believe that its adoption is a step in the right direction in ensuring the long-proclaimed fairness and equality among individuals.


Milica Novaković, Teodora Ristić