The Equality Act is applied to rental advertisements. The Equality Act is applied to publicly available services relating to the sale and rental of apartments. Therefore e.g. letting agencies offer a publicly available service which falls under the scope of the Equality Act.
Estate agents and letting agents often accept assignments which include conditions set by the landlord which the future tenant must meet. Such conditions are often related to the tenant's way of life, tidiness, reliability or gender, for example.
A letting agent will not be discharged from their liability for prohibited discrimination based on gender by simply referring to the fact that the discrimination was based on conditions set by the landlord.
Letting or selling an apartment in a person's own use is often excluded from the scope of the Equality Act in the same way as e.g. a subtenancy or subletting an apartment.
Offering accommodation services professionally and as a commercial activity does, however, fall under the scope of the Equality Act, and it also applies to offering an investment property for rental to the public.
(TAS 270/2007; TAS 165/2008; TAS 39/2015)
Choosing a tenant for shared accommodation
Provision of accommodation exclusively or mainly to representatives of one gender is allowed if it is justified in order to achieve a legitimate objective and this objective is sought to be achieved by appropriate and necessary means. The reason for the different treatment of women and men in the letting of accommodation may, for example, be based on considerations of modesty in a flat share arrangement.
Letting agents may, for example, look for a female tenant for a free room in a shared flat if the flat only has one bathroom, and the other tenants in the shared flat are women.
The offer "two ladies for the price of one" treats men less favourably than women. An ongoing offer for e.g. two cruises for the price of one for women treats men less favourably because of their gender.
The supply of goods or services solely or mainly to representatives of one gender is permissible if it is justified in pursuit of a legitimate objective, and appropriate and necessary means are used in order to achieve that goal. The financial interests of the business cannot be construed as such an objective.
Offering a cruise and the included price reduction only to women treats men less favourably than women because of their gender, so it violates the Equality Act.
(No. 42/39/03; TAS 137/2008)
The gender-based pricing of chat lines presents a conflict with the Equality Act.
Gender cannot be a deciding factor when it comes to the pricing of chat lines. Men who call chat lines often pay e.g. a fixed fee and a local call charge for the call, while the number that women can call only charges the local call charge.
The entrepreneurs who maintain these chat lines justify their gender-based pricing by the fact that this practice is essential in order to activate women to use the service.
This kind of justification is not comparable to the objectives mentioned in the Equality Act which justify a deviation from equal treatment. This justification is obviously connected to the entrepreneur's financial interests, which does not constitute a reason based on which it would be allowed to treat one gender less favourably than the other.
If, however, the entrepreneur can demonstrate that these are two different types of services, even though they may be advertised in the same advertisement, then the conduct cannot be seen as a violation of the Equality Act.
(TAS 464/2007; TAS 385/2013)
The Equality Act permits gyms and gym sessions which are aimed solely at one gender.
Entrepreneurs can choose the contents of the service they want to offer and the clientele that they want to offer a specific product to, as long as their conduct does not violate the prohibition of discrimination based on gender, which is a guaranteed fundamental right which has been specified in the Equality Act.
The Equality Act does not prohibit differential treatment in cases where it is justified to offer goods or services exclusively or mainly to one gender on the grounds of a legitimate objective and the measures are appropriate and necessary.
An established opinion of the Ombudsman for Equality is that health and fitness centres can refer to the consideration of modesty as a legitimate objective based on which they can restrict men's access to the gym during a women-only session. Separate women-only sessions are a suitable and appropriate solution to this. Similarly, a women-only gym or an area of a public gym which is reserved only for women does not contradict the Equality Act.
Municipal health and fitness centres can also refer to the consideration of modesty as a legitimate objective based on which they can restrict men's access to the gym during a women-only session. It is because of women-only gym sessions that it has been possible to lower the threshold for many women to start training at a gym, as they have felt that joint exercise and gym sessions with men have been a barrier to this.
Reasons of modesty can equally be the justification for organising men-only fitness sessions.
It is not, however, allowed under the Equality Act for a gym to base their pricing on gender.
According to the Equality Act, offers targeting only one gender are acceptable only if they are infrequent and of a relatively low monetary value. A discount or benefit that is continuously offered to one gender by a business, association or sports club, for example, does not comply with the Equality Act.
(No. 6/31/2003; TAS 380/2006; TAS 349/2007; TAS 95/2008; TAS 46/2013; TAS 55/2013; TAS 45/2014; TAS 29/2015)
The pricing system used by barbers and hair salons cannot be based on the customer's gender
The Equality Act does not prevent business owners from only offering their services as a barber or a hairdresser, or from pricing their services according to the amount and quality of the work. Neither does the Equality Act require business owners to complete additional training or purchase new tools. The Equality Act only requires a barber or hairdresser to offer their services to both genders, and that the pricing is based on the work done to the customer's hair, not on the customer's gender.
Work carried out on women's hair is usually more professionally demanding. This is not, however, always the case. Therefore the average differences in the work carried out on women's and men's hair do not justify pricing based on gender.
Acceptable factors that pricing can be based on are the time spent, the level of professional skill that was required, or the products and the amount of products that was used. When the time spent is used as a basis for pricing, it has to be based on the actual time the work took, rather than an average time for women and men.
(Press release from the Ombudsman for Equality of 22 April 2010)
A woman can also be a barber's client
The Ombudsman for Equality was asked to determine whether a barber shop has acted in accordance with the Act on Equality between Women and Men when refusing to serve a female client. The barber shop had maintained that it only provides services for men for reasons related to privacy and modesty.
The Act on Equality between Women and Men does not prohibit the provision of separate barber and hairdressers' services. Entrepreneurs in the hairstyling industry can provide services according to their business concept, vocational skills and available tools. An entrepreneur in the hairstyling industry can therefore only provide barber's services. However, the Ombudsman for Equality found that barbers and hairdressers cannot select their clients on the basis of their gender.
The Ombudsman for Equality stated that the privacy and modesty related reasons presented by the barber shop did not apply to hair care related services. The Act on Equality between Women and Men determines that entrepreneurs in the hairstyling industry must provide services to both women and men. For this reason, a woman can also be a barber's client. When refusing to provide services to a female client, the barber shop acted contrary to the Act on Equality between Women and Men.
Offering beauty salon services based on gender
The principle of equal treatment does not require that men and women are always offered the same conditions. The requirement is that services may not be offered to one gender in a more favourable way.
According to the Equality Act, the prevailing cultural practice and reasons of modesty may be a justifiable basis for different treatment.
In the beauty industry a business owner can refer to modesty reasons as a legitimate objective based on which women working in the field cannot be required without their consent to perform certain beauty treatments which require a person of the opposite gender to expose their intimate areas. Therefore a woman working in the beauty industry can refuse to carry out certain beauty treatments on men when the treatment requires a client of the opposite gender to expose their intimate areas.
(TAS 316/2008; TAS 359/2013)
A restaurant has to treat their customers equally.
A restaurant keeper may be guilty of discrimination prohibited in the Equality Act when serving female and male customers differently or under different conditions based on gender.
Entry into a restaurant
Charging men an entrance fee while letting women in for free, or letting two women in for the price of one, violates the Equality Act, as this practice treats men less favourably than women because of their gender.
It is also a violation of the Equality Act to set different age limits for women and men as a condition for entry.
Checking in bags to a cloakroom
A restaurant keeper has the right to restrict their customers' right to take bags into the restaurant based on safety reasons or to maintain order. These restrictions must be directed at both women and men in an equal way.
Therefore men must be allowed to bring a bag into the restaurant which is of the same size as what is allowed for women. Women and men must also be treated equally when it comes to e.g. checking the contents of bags.
(TAS 284/2008; TAS 8/2013; TAS 284/2013; TAS 23/2009; TAS 291/2013)
Gender cannot influence the price of insurance policies granted to consumers. The European Court of Justice made a preliminary ruling in this matter in March 2011. The ruling states that gender-based pricing of insurance policies granted to consumers must end by 21 December 2012.
The directive on equal treatment of men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services gave European Union member states the opportunity to deviate from the directive in the pricing of insurance policies. The condition was that the actuarial data and statistics must be reliable, regularly updated and publicly available. Finland took advantage of this opportunity.
When the directive in question was being drafted, the Ombudsman for Equality was already of the opinion that gender should not be used as an actuarial factor at all, and that the pricing of insurance policies should be the same for men and women.
In Finland it is still allowed to use gender as an actuarial factor for insurance policies granted before 21 December 2012. In insurance policies granted after this date it is no longer allowed to use gender when calculating insurance premiums or benefits, or to have different premiums or benefits based on gender.
(Press release from the Ombudsman for Equality of 08 June 2011)
Mother's Day, Father's Day and International Women's Day offers are possible. The purpose of the Equality Act is not to prevent all different treatment of men and women, only different treatment which is clearly unfair. When the Equality Act was reformed in 2008, the parliamentary Employment and Equality Committee decided that e.g. Mother's Day, Father's Day and International Women's Day offers are still possible, as long they are infrequent and of a low monetary value.
When considering the context and the legitimate objective, different treatment in these circumstances is not of the kind which should be seen as discriminatory towards the other gender.