New Icelandic Law Will Require Companies to Prove Pay Equality

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Way to set an example.

A man and a woman conversing at work

Remember the brave bronze little girl statue which stood in front of the charging Wall Street bull yesterday, in honour of International Women’s Day? We feel like the living version of her thanks to this news from north of the wall.

Iceland, the country named the best in the world for gender equality by the World Economic Forum eight years in a row, has scored what would probably get a ninth look in: a proposal to have every single company prove that women and men are in fact being paid the same. They’re essentially making companies put their money where their mouth is, by law.

“The time is right to do something radical about this issue. We need to make sure that men and women enjoy equal opportunity in the workplace. It is our responsibility to take every measure to achieve that.”

The new law requires any company with 25 or more staff to prove their gender pay equality, and will be given a certificate upon proving this.

“The time is right to do something radical about this issue,” equality and Social Affairs Minister Thorsteinn Viglundsson said of cultural context surrounding the new law. “Equal rights are human rights. We need to make sure that men and women enjoy equal opportunity in the workplace. It is our responsibility to take every measure to achieve that.”

Despite the fact that Iceland has been making considerable strides towards gender equality – the country already observes a minimum 40 per cent quota for women on company boards that have a staff total of over 50 employees – there is still a noticeable pay gap: Icelandic women still earn 14 to 18 per cent less than their male counterparts (15.5 per cent for other industrialised nations).

And while Thorsteinn acknowledges there are bureaucratic hurdles, he’s adamant these are necessary. “It is a burden to put on companies to have to comply with a law like this,” he acknowledged. “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.”

The law, once passed through parliament, is expected to be implemented by 2020.

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