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Icelandic companies want to introduce equal pay standard ahead of time

Icelandic companies want to introduce equal pay standard ahead of time

| Text: Guðrún Helga Sigurðardóttir, photo: Friðrik Friðriksson

Icelandic companies are hard at work preparing to meet demands introduced in equal pay legislation presented at the start of the year. Several of them want to adapt the equal pay standard before the deadline. But the amount of work is greater than expected, and the first ones out must start from scratch.

The CenterHotels chain introduced the equal pay standard as early as last year. 18 companies already have the certification. Head of HR Eir Arnbjargardóttir says the equal pay standard clearly outlines for their 260 staff what is what when it comes to equality and wage issues.

“The legislation means we must do a lot of monitoring, assessments and much work in order to keep the certification. The introduction was more demanding than we realised,” she explains. 

When CenterHotels started introducing the standard, there were no consultants who had any experience of the equal pay standard, so the introduction meant the companies had to put a lot of effort into this. Now, more and more companies have gained that experience, and consultants have started offering their services.

The shipping transportation company Eimskip is one of Iceland’s largest companies with more than 1700 staff. Specialist Falasteen Abu Libdeh says Eimskip aims to be one of the first companies to introduce the equal pay standard in Iceland. But much work remains before that aim has been achieved.

Photo: Friðrik Friðriksson

“We decided to go through everything from scratch, map and coordinate the entire company plus our staff, gather information on wages and so on. Right now we are gathering information about all the training we do within the company,” explains Falasteen Abu Libdeh.

Building on the Icelandic experience

Just under 2000 people work for Eimskip across 20 countries. Around half of their staff are in Iceland. The company’s vision for the future is that all wages are equal, including for those who work in other countries.

“But we will finalise the introduction of the equal pay standard in Iceland first, before we start mapping and planning for introducing the standard elsewhere. When we have introduced the standard in Iceland, we can build on that experience,” she says.

The largest companies first

The payment solutions company Valitor also operates in other countries. Some 220 people work in Iceland while 125 people work in Denmark and the UK. The equal pay standard is being introduced in stages, with the largest companies coming on board first.

Since Valitor’s Icelandic workforce only counts 220 people, the company is not legally obliged to introduce the equal pay standard until next year. But the company has chosen to do it already this year.

Photo: Friðrik Friðriksson

Randver Fleckenstein is in charge of introducing the equal pay standard for Valitor together with the company’s head of HR. He says Valitor has been preparing for the standard for some time, but was waiting for the final go-ahead from the company’s CEO.

“We have only just began, but believe we can manage to finalise the process within the given timeframe. We think this is a very exciting task and that the company will benefit from the equal pay standard. We are happy and look forward to doing this,” says Randver.

Suspicions disappear

He points out that the equal pay standard also works as a tool for informing the company’s staff and answering their questions, meaning any doubts or suspicions can disappear. 

The equal pay standard only applies to companies and staff in Iceland. Valitor also employs staff in Denmark and the UK. The idea is to introduce the standard there too, but it is still not clear when this work can start. Like Eimskip, Valitor wants to gain experience from Iceland first.

“We start working with Valitor abroad when we have finished with Iceland,” says Randver Fleckenstein.

The equal pay standard also leads to new companies being set up.

Offering advice

Since 2013, Gyða Björg Sigurðardóttir has worked with companies which are introducing the equal pay standard. She has now set up her own consultancy firm which offers help with the introduction of the equal pay standard. 

She leads a group which will organise visits to companies that have already introduced the standard. She will also organise conferences and meetings where company representatives can learn from each other’s experiences, ask questions and discuss the equal pay standard.

Equal pay standard

Icelandic legislation makes it compulsory for all companies employing more than 250 people to introduce the equal pay standard by 2019.

Iceland has 80 companies employing 250 people or more. 



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