The Brussels Parliament on Friday debated a bill aimed at combatting employment discrimination. The bill was expected to be approved by a large majority later in the day, since the discussions in parliament on Friday morning left little doubt as to the outcome. The ordinance will authorize regional inspectors to conduct situation tests by sending employers two CVs that are identical except for the criterion they want to test, and to use the mystery-shopping criteria (false client, false jobseeker) if there are strong suspicions that a company engages in discriminatory practices.
The opposition Ecologist party, Ecolo, had worked actively on the issue, submitting a draft anti-discrimination resolution in July 2015, whereas a certain skepticism had reigned within a section of the majority. The draft was defended by Economic Affairs Minister Didier Gosuin of the DéFi party, who had been skeptical at first, but was later convinced, particularly by the analyses made by the Council of State.
The Council found that Brussels was involved in a “salutary, avant-garde combat that contributes to stronger social cohesion and co-existence”.
The draft ordinance is based on the observation that the employment rate among people of Belgian origin (71%) was higher than that of people of other-European and Middle-Eastern origin (less than 35%). It is one of 10 measures in a plan adopted last winter by the Brussels Government to fight against hiring discrimination in the Capital Region. Other measures relate mainly to incentives aimed particularly at encouraging diversity in companies.
The head of the Ecolo group in parliament, Ms. Zoé Genot, described the text as an “excellent signal” following the hearing of law professors and constitutional experts, conducted with the support of a marked civic mobilization.
Marion Lemesre of the Mouvement Réformateur (MR – Reformist Movement) found that the bill meant that the majority was going it alone against Wallonia and Flanders and was creating a heavy climate of stigmatization of employers, also denounced by the Union of Middle Classes.
Flemish liberal Stefan Cornelis (Open Vld – majority) argued that the measure would need to be evaluated regularly, while for Cieltje Van Achter of the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), the fight against discrimination would not be won through sanctions but through mentality change.