The Gender Equality Act shall promote gender equality and aims in particular at improving the position of women." Women and men shall be given equal opportunities in education, employment and cultural and professional advancement. The law is based on the principle of non-discrimination, which is the cornerstone and basis for promoting gender equality.
Since coming into effect, the Norwegian Gender Equality Act required that public authorities advance gender equality in all areas of society. Since 2002 this requirement also applies to the private sector. The duty to work toward gender equality implies a requirement to avoid discrimination and to actively implement concrete steps to promote gender equality. In the private sector this requirement applies only within enterprises (personnel and wage policies).
Direct or indirect differential treatment of women and men is not permitted. A job vacancy must not be advertised as being restricted to one sex only, and affirmative action in favour of one of the sexes can be permitted. In accordance with the broader purpose of the Act, affirmative action will as a main rule be used in favour of women. The Act was amended in 1995 to explicitly allow for affirmative action in favour of men, limited to certain professions related to the care of children and to teaching.
The Act prohibits discriminatory treatment of women during pregnancy, breastfeeding and in their use of their right to leave that is specific to the one sex. This also includes fathers who take out their father-quota leave.
The provision in The Gender Equality Act states that women and men have the right to equal pay for work of equal value. Through an amendment in 2002 it was made explicit that this provision gives access to comparable pay across professional or vocational boundaries, or wage agreements. The amendment also includes central elements salient to the determination of which types of work are of equal value. These elements provide a foundation for the use of work evaluation as a tool for equal pay.
The Gender Equality Act was revised in 2013, with small changes.
The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud and the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Tribunal shall monitor and contribute to the implementation of the Act.