Parental leave - division between parents

Parents are entitled to parental leave consisting of six months for one parent and six months for the other. Of those six months, twelve in total, six weeks can be exchanged between parents.

Parental leave is both for individuals that are working and for students. More information on the amount of payments and detailed rules can be found on the Maternity/Paternity Leave Fund’s website

What is the role of the Complaints Committee

Individuals, enterprises, institutions and non-governmental organizations, either in their own name or on behalf of their members who consider that they are the victims of violations of this Act, may submit their case to the Gender Equality Complaints Committee.

What is equal pay certification?

  • Certification of any management system (in this case, an equal pay management system) is a formal confirmation by a third party that the company or institution operates an management system that meets the requirements of a certain management standard (in this case, of the Standard ÍST 85). 
  • Equal pay certification performed by accredited auditors is intended to confirm that when decisions on wage are taken, they are based on relevant considerations. 
  • For this, the company or institution undergoes a particular certification process in order to establish that its equal pay management system and the way it is implemented meet the requirements of the Standard ÍST 85. Certification is then granted by an accredited certification body. This means, among other things, that wages paid by the company or institution in question are at all times determined in the same way for women and men, and that the considerations on which decisions on wage are based do not involve discrimination on grounds of gender.
  • Definition in the regulation: A written statement from the certifying body which is provided with a certification certificate, following the certifying body’s audit of a company’s or institution’s equal pay system, in which it is stated that the equal pay system and its implementation meet the requirements of the ÍST 85 Standard.
  • More info here.

What are the aims and goals of equal pay certification?

  • Aim: To reduce gender-based pay discrimination and promote greater equality in wages between women and men, equality of economic standing which will result among other things, eventually, in more equal pension payments for women and men.
  • Goal: The equal pay certification process should increase general job satisfaction and a feeling among workers that the human resource management policy followed by their employer is professional and that it will make managers aware of issues regarding staffing and pay, so promoting good relations with employees and facilitating decisions on wages. The end result of this should be a more transparent and a juster pay system.
  • Equal pay certification is intended to apply current legislation, which prohibits the payment of different wages to women and men for the same work, or work of equal value, unless such differences can be justified by relevant considerations. 

What companies and institutions must acquire certification?

  • Companies and institutions employing 25 or more workers, on an annual basis. The calendar year is used as the reference period.
  • The Act applies to about 1,180 employers and 147,000 employees, which represents about 80% of those who are active on the labour market.


When is the deadline for companies and institutions to acquire certification?

  • Workplaces with an average of 250 employees, or more, on an annual basis – no  later than 31 December 2019.
  • Workplaces with an average of 150-249 employees, on an annual basis – no later than 31 December 2020.
  • Workplaces with an average of 90-142 employees, on an annual basis – no later than 31 December 2021.
  • Workplaces with an average of 25-89 employees, on an annual basis – no later than 31 December 2022.
  • Public institutions, funds and companies that are half-owned or more than half-owned by the state with an average of 25 employees, or more, on an annual basis, shall have acquired certification by 31 December 2019.
  • Furthermore, the Icelandic Government Ministries shall acquire certification by 31 December 2018.

Does equal pay certification mean that all employees in the same company or institution must be paid the same wage?

  • No. Certification of the fact that a certain company or institution meets the requirements of the Standard ÍST 85 does not prevent it from paying different wages on the basis of relevant considerations, e.g. taking account of each individual’s educational qualifications, experience, knowledge, responsibility, the pressure under which they work or other circumstances of employment. Nor does certification prevent taking individual factors into account when determining wages where these have an effect on how the employee is able to do his or her job, or involve an assessment of his or her success in the job.
  • Thus, differences in the wages paid to individuals are not prohibited as such, but where different individuals receive different wages, the difference must be based on relevant considerations in which gender plays no part whatsoever.

What is involved in the certification procedure?

  • The company or institution applies for certification of its equal pay management system by a competent body.
  • A certification body directs and carries out an audit of the equal pay management system of the company or institution. 
  • When the certification body has completed examination establishing that the equal pay management system of the company or institution meets the requirements of the Standard  ÍST 85 (i.e. that its equal pay management system and the way it is applied meets the requirements of the Standard ÍST 85 and, consequently, that the handling and setting of wages in the entity concerned does not involve gender-based discrimination), the certification body takes a decision on certification and issues a certificate in confirmation thereof. 
  • The certification body then informs the Directorate of Equality of the outcome of the audit and sends it a copy of the certificate, together with a report on the outcome of the audit. Such reports contain details of how the company or institution has met the requirement of the Standard ÍST 85 and also confirm that the company or institution has set itself an equal pay policy and documented rules of procedure on its application, and that a review by the management has taken place and that measures have been taken where they were considered necessary.
  • As a means of further securing the aims of the legislation in the long term, companies and institutions are required to have their equal pay certification renewed every three years. 
  • When the Directorate of Equality has received a copy of the certificate confirming that the equal pay system of the company or institution, and the way it is applied, meets the requirements of the Standard ÍST 85, it confers the equal pay symbol on the company or institution.

Where can a list of entities that have acquired certification be found?

The Directorate of Equality maintains a register of companies and institutions that have acquired certification and publishes it in an accessible manner on its website.

Is there still a gender pay gap in Iceland?

  • A large number of salary surveys and studies of gender-based wage discrimination have been carried out in Iceland. Recent survey findings indicate unequivocally that the gender pay gap has still not been abolished, even though some important progress towards this goal has, undeniably, been made in the past year or two. The report by the Minister of Social Affairs and Housing, on the situation and outlook in gender equality matters for 2013-2015, stated that surveys and studies made in the preceding years had shown that the gender pay gap was running at 5.6%-13.7%. Even though the figures on wage differentials were not all consistent, the point in common between all these surveys and studies was that there is a gender pay gap, with women receiving lower wages.
  • The findings (in Icelandic) of two recent studies carried out by working group on gender equality on the labour market, appointed by the Government and the organizations of the social partners, may be found in the comments to the bill which was passed as Act No. 56/2017.
  • In 1961, when the first act on equal wages for women and men was passed in Iceland, it was believed that the major obstacle would be to change people’s attitudes towards the positions of the sexes, while the easiest thing would be to abolish the gender pay gap, and that this would disappear within a few years. Now, nearly 60 years later, the gender pay gap is still in existence. 
  • The proportion of women who are active on the labour market in Iceland is one of the highest in the OECD countries. In the fourth quarter of 2016, 79.4% of women aged 16-74 were in employment; elsewhere in the Nordic countries, the figure was about 70%. In the light of this, measures to combat gender discrimination in wages and establish wage equality are seen as an urgent priority.