Iceland has been touted as “the best place in the world to be a woman” in recent years, for many reasons. Its education system helps to empower girls from an early age and the Nordic nation has topped the World Economic Forum’s gender pay gap index for the last eight years. We already wanted to emigrate there – and now there’s another reason to browse Skyscanner for the next flight to Reykjavik. (And this is before we even consider the country’s beautiful scenery.)
Now, Iceland has become the first country in the world to pledge to make companies prove they offer employees equal pay, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or nationality, The Independent reported.
Announcing the new law on International Women’s Day, the government said every company with 25 or more staff would need a certificate to show it pays them equally. Similar schemes exist in Switzerland and in Minnesota in the US, but Iceland is the first to make the requirement mandatory.
The certification requires these companies to “not only offer equal pay for equal work, but also equal pay for work of the same value,” Iceland’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Equality said.
“The Equal Pay Standard, on which the certification requirements are based, does this by assessing a company’s pay policies, classification of jobs according to equal value and wage research on the basis of the classification, as well as formalising policies and processes related to pay decisions.”
The move aims to help the small but powerful nation achieve its goal of tackling the gender pay gap by 2022. The pay gap in Iceland currently stands at 14 to 18% on average, compared with 17.5% in the UK and an average of 15.5% among the OECD group of industrialised nations.
Thorsteinn Viglundsson, Iceland’s Equality and Social Affairs Minister, said the country had not yet made sufficient progress towards eradicating the pay gap, “despite taking steps such as introducing dedicated paid leave for new dads and 40% quotas for women on boards of larger companies... It is the right time to do something radical about this issue.”
Viglundsson added: “We want to show the world that eradicating the gender pay gap is an achievable goal and we hope other nations will follow suit in adopting the Equal Pay Standard in years to come.”
Last October, thousands of women in Iceland left work early to protest against the gender pay gap. They walked out of their workplaces at 2.38 pm, the time in an eight-hour day from which they effectively stop being paid for their work.
If the new legislation passes through parliament as expected, the government hopes to implement it by 2020.
Viglundsson acknowledged that not everyone supports the new law, claiming it would create additional bureaucracy for companies, but he said any opposition would be worth it. "It is a burden to put on companies to have to comply with a law like this," he said.
"But we put such burdens on companies all the time when it comes to auditing your annual accounts or turning in your tax report. You have to dare to take new steps, to be bold in the fight against injustice." Too right.