Announced as a way to ensure that pay between men and women is equal, the government’s gender parity bill is toothless when it comes to actually enforcing it.
The text of the bill, which was sent by the Executive to the Lower House of Congress, amends Article 172 of the Labor Contracts Law, sets out equal access for job opportunities and bars gender discrimination in the workplace but does not specify any measures if companies fail to comply. In a similar way, the bill obliges employers to observe “strict salary equality,” honoring “equal pay for equal work,” and to draft a code of conduct that guarantees non-discrimination that will then be submitted to the Labor Ministry. Action to be taken in case of a failure to comply is not mentioned in the text.
Discrimination according to gender is already illegal according to the Constitution; some estimates are that the pay gap in Argentina is as high as 33 percent.
The bill also states that unions must adopt internal policies to remove gender discrimination within the unions and parties to collective wage negotiations must do the same. Enforcement mechanisms are not detailed in the law.
“We can’t allow women to earn less than men,” Macri said on International Women’s Day, following up on comments he made about closing the pay gap during his State of the Nation address on March 1. “It doesn’t make sense. There is no explanation. Equal pay guaranteed by law must become a reality. This president and his team will make it a reality.”
Just like any other bill, Congress has the option to modify the language or add clauses to the text sent by the Executive as it reviews the legislation.
In contrast to the norms on closing the gender pay gap, the Executive’s proposals on extending leave for a host of family reasons are more clear-cut. As such, new parents – irrespective of gender – will be able to take 15 straight days of leave in the case of the birth or adoption of a child. Leave can be extended for another 10 days in the cases of the birth or adoption of twins (and triplets and quadruplets, and so on). Maternity and pregnancy leave remains the same, typically 45 days prior to birth and another 45 after birth. By law, paternity leave is currently two days.
The current law states that women returning to work from maternity leave will be reinstated to their previous job with the same salary conditions as when they went on leave. The amendments proposed by the Executive maintain that right, adding that women returning from their maternity leave can be reinstated into another job with the same rank but with a reduced number of hours (pending agreement between the employer and employee, and for a period of six months).
In such a scenario, salaries will be pro-rated so that they are the same as when the woman took her leave.
Furthermore, the legislation contains such language that parents – once again, irrespective of gender – with minors of up to 4 years of age in their care can request a temporary reduction in the number of hours worked, to be matched by a proportional reduction in their wages.
Workers would also be guaranteed two straight days off work and up to 10 days a year to deal with any bureaucracy related to adoption processes; five straight days off annually to undergo assisted reproductive methods; and 10 straight days as a result of gender-based violence, per calendar year. The current Contracts Law does not specify leave in these cases.
Gender-based violence is defined by the bill as actions against any worker, regardless of gender that constitute “any behavior, action, or omission that directly or indirectly, based on an unequal power relationship, affects the life, liberty, dignity, physical, psychological, sexual, economic or monetary integrity of the person, as well as their personal security.” To be granted the leave the workers must show evidence of actions by an administrative, judicial, or medical authority.
Leave in the case of death of a child is also extended from three to 10 days.