6. International labour standards, supranational law and national law
This guide focuses on women workers' and gender equality rights derived from international law (see sections 2-5). International labour standards may describe general principles such as equal pay, equal opportunity and treatment between men and women, and/or minimum standards. Individual countries may go further and provide a higher level of protection, such as a longer period of maternity leave, or other more favourable provisions. The law applicable in an individual case might therefore derive from international and from national law.
In addition, supranational law might be relevant. The European Community has adopted a number of directives concerning equal pay, equal treatment of women and men at the workplace, statutory social security, occupational pension schemes, maternity protection, parental leave, part-time work and the burden of proof in sex discrimination cases. European equality law ranks higher than national law and is valid throughout the Member States of the European Union. The same applies to a large number of rulings of the European Court of Justice in the field of equality between men and women. There is thus an interplay between the law on equality at three different levels.
Other regional or subregional initiatives, apart from legally binding instruments, may influence legal development at national levels. In the Caribbean, for instance, several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) model laws with regard to equal opportunities and treatment for women and men have been adopted; these instruments are used as a reference for law reform. In South Asia, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is discussing a draft convention on trafficking in women and children.
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