Czech reforms aim to empower women at work and at home

Reforms for ensuring gender balance in the boardroom as well as making divorce easier represent strides towards empowering Czech women.

Expats.cz Staff ČTK

Written by Expats.cz StaffČTK Published on 13.06.2024 10:50:00 (updated on 13.06.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

In a move towards greater gender equity, the Czech government has taken significant strides on two fronts: mandating female representation in corporate leadership and simplifying the divorce and child custody process. These parallel reforms signal significant changes to empower women both in the professional sphere and within the family.

Closing the gender gap in the boardroom

Responding to an EU directive, the Czech cabinet has approved a new bill requiring large companies to ensure women make up at least one-third of their management teams. This represents a major shift, as Czech businesses have historically lagged behind their European counterparts in female representation, with women holding just 21 percent of board seats, ranking the country 20th in the EU.

“The current legal situation does not have a positive impact on the balanced representation of women and men in the management bodies of companies,” the bill’s authors noted. “It does not encourage women or support them in their efforts to become members of company boards.”

According to the draft, the requirements for balanced representation should apply to companies with more than 250 employees and an annual turnover of more than EUR 50 million (CZK 1.23 billion) or assets of more than EUR 43 million. 

Under the new rules, major firms like the state-owned power utility CEZ, banks Komercni banka and Moneta Money Bank, and manufacturers Philip Morris CR, Kofola, and Colt CZ Group, will be compelled to rectify this gender imbalance. Companies will be given until mid-2026 to meet the 33 percent target, with financial penalties for non-compliance.

Gender balance bill

  • Requires 40% women on management boards or 33% on combined boards
  • This applies to men if they are the minority
  • The selection process must be clear and neutral
  • Preference to underrepresented groups if qualifications are equal
  • Balanced boards by mid-2026, with fines for non-compliance

Make life easier at home

Alongside these workplace reforms, the government has also moved to streamline the divorce process and enshrine protections for children. A new amendment to the Civil Code will eliminate the requirement to establish fault for a marriage’s breakdown and merge divorce and child custody proceedings into a single, simplified procedure.

AGENCY PROPERTIES

“As regards the conduct of the procedure itself, it is proposed to introduce elements that will make it less formal and potentially less conflicting,” the Justice Ministry’s proposal states. For couples with minor children who agree on the terms, divorce will now be possible through a single court hearing. Mandatory questioning of the spouses would also end.

Crucially, the amendment will also explicitly prohibit the corporal punishment of children. This is a move that brings the Czech Republic in line with European standards, as it had been one of the last EU countries without such a provision. "The aim is not to punish parents, but to promote education through means other than corporal punishment," the government said.

According to the Czechia in Data project, women in the country initiate divorce more frequently than men, accounting for about two-thirds of cases. More than 60 years ago, women initiated divorce in less than 55 percent of cases. Research has shown that more accessible access to divorce can lead to women’s increased labor force participation.

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