Membership of trade unions, right of association
Membership of public employees to trade unions is based on legislation from 1986 on collective wage agreements of public servants. Membership of trade unions is tied to professions/work. The law states that only one trade union shall have the right to negotiation with the same employer for the same sector. This means that if an employee accepts a job for which a specific trade union makes wage agreements, the employee in question pays a membership fee to that association. However, the constitution states that individuals cannot be compelled to become members of an association. This means that employees can choose to stand outside of associations. Nevertheless, those who choose to do this must continue to pay premiums to the association if they have a proxy agreement because of the job.
Operations/treatment – right to salary
Right to salary due to surgery/treatment, plastic surgery, infertility, in vitro fertilization (IVF) and assisted reproduction, etc.
In employment law the interpretation is such that absence due to elective surgery is not categorized as sickness as the word is defined in collective wage agreements. Employees who are absent from work because of such surgery can be expected to need to use their vacation or request unpaid leave for the time they are away from work. How individual institutions approach employees in situations like this varies somewhat, but many institutions have set their own rules regarding such cases.
Alcohol or narcotics treatment
Whether an employee receives wages during alcohol treatment is a matter of agreement between the employee and the institution. Usually the institutions have certain rules that they set themselves regarding such matters, e.g. that the employee has worked for the institution for a certain period of time and also whether the institution pays for treatment once or more than once, or even not at all. The right to wages due to alcohol treatment is not protected in the sickness section of wage agreements. This is because alcohol treatment is not considered as an illness in employment law. Consequently, employers are not obligated to pay wages while an employee is undergoing alcohol treatment.
Driving and travelling expenses
Information on driving expenses and travelling expenses can be found here (Icelandic):
The right of public institutions to advertise
In general, all jobs in the public sector must be advertised. The obligation to advertise has arisen to provide citizens with equal rights to apply for jobs and similarly to be conducive to the state having the best choice of the most capable applicants.
There are some exceptions to this rule:
• An employee may be hired temporarily in a job without advertising it.
• Vacant jobs that are only intended to be for two months or less do not have to be advertised.
• Jobs which are temporary, e.g. because of vacation, illness, childbirth leave or study leave, do not have to be advertised, provided that the temporary job is not intended to be for more than 12 consecutive months.
• Jobs that have been advertised within the previous six months, where it is mentioned in the advertisement that the application is valid for six months.
Bullying and harassment at the workplace
• Sexual and gender-based harassment and violence in the workplace – Booklet from 2018 (English)
• No one should put up with bullying, harassment or violence – Guidance for employees (English)
• Regulation on bullying at the workplace (Icelandic)
Changes to jobs, working hours or termination of work-related factors
Changes to jobs
According to the Government Employees Act an employee is obligated to accept changes in her/his job or area of responsibility from the time s/he began work. Managers and directors have the day-to-day governing right regarding arrangements for employees’ work. Included in this is organization of what work shall be done, in what way, when and how. Directors have the right to transfer people as long as a similar job is at issue. Decisions about changes to jobs or areas of responsibility of an employee shall be communicated in writing. The letter shall include when the changes will happen, what they will entail and whether they will affect terms of employment or other employee rights. If the changes do not affect terms of employment, work location or job percentage, four-weeks’ notice shall be considered adequate.
Changes to job percentage
Work percentage cannot be changed unilaterally by an institution. If a supervisor wants to change the job percentage of an employee, agreement must always be sought from the employee beforehand. An example of this is when an employee is in 70% employment and is requested to change her/his work percentage up to 100%. An employer must terminate a work percentage with three months’ notice. If an employer changes a work percentage without notice and without the agreement of the employee, it is equivalent to termination of a job contract.
Termination of shift systems
Changes to fixed shifts which affect an employee’s terms of employment shall be terminated at equally long notice to the employee’s right of notice. Generally, this is three months’ notice. The same applies for other changes to terms of employment that affect a decrease in wages.
Termination of fixed overtime
If the employer is thinking of terminating fixed overtime, this must be done formally. A letter must be sent to the employee in which the reason for the change is specified. Overtime must be terminated with the same notice as the employee’s right to notice, usually three months, though notice can be longer for employees aged at least 55 who have obtained the right to a longer period of notice.
Termination of a driving agreement
The period of notice for driving agreements is one month.
Ban on overtime
An institution has the right to impose an overtime ban. Such a ban must be communicated with adequate notice, so that it does not take effect before the overtime period beginning after the announcement. If there is a need for an employee to work overtime at an institution where an overtime ban prevails, the employee shall ensure that before s/he works overtime, s/he has authorization for the overtime from a supervisor and that s/he is paid for the overtime.
December bonus and vacation benefits
An employee working in the first week of November is paid a December bonus based on full-time work for the period of 1 January to 31 October. The December bonus is a fixed amount in kroner and does not increase, according to Article 2 of the collective wage agreement. It shall be paid out not later than 15 December each year. If the employee has worked part-time or worked for part of the year, s/he shall be paid based on the job percentage, see the relevant wage agreement for more details. Employees working at time rates are also entitled to a December bonus. Vacation pay is not included when calculating a December bonus. Time-rate workers must have worked 1,504 daytime hours during the period 1 January to 31 October to receive 100% December bonus. A time-rate employee working fewer hours during that period is paid proportionately accordingly.
The amount of the December bonus varies according to wage agreements. If you can read Icelandic, it is best to study the wage agreement under Kaup og kjör/kjarasamningar.
An employee who works for the whole vacation year, i.e. 1 May to 30 April, is paid vacation benefit on 1 June. If the person in question works part-time or works for part of the year, s/he is paid vacation benefit in line with job percentage or period of service. If an employee has left work during the vacation year due to age or after at least 3 months’ (13 weeks’) continuous work in the vacation year, s/he shall be paid a vacation bonus proportional to the time worked and job percentage. The same applies if the employee was absent from work due to sickness after the employer’s payment obligation ends or due to maternity/paternity leave of up to six months.
The amount of vacation benefit varies according to wage agreements. If you can read Icelandic, it is best to study the wage agreement under Kaup og kjör/kjarasamningar.
Parents obtain the right to payment from the Maternity/Paternity Leave Fund after having been in the Icelandic labour market for six months continuously prior to the birth of the child or from the time that a child comes into a home due to adoption or permanent fostering. The job percentage for each month must be at least 25%. All information and application forms can be found at www.fædingarorlof.is
(Note in particular that the length of the current maternity/paternity leave is due to be extended 2019-2020).
The phone number of the Maternity/Paternity Leave Fund is 582 4840.
Remember the X!
When applying from the Maternity/Paternity Leave Fund, it is necessary to fill out a form from the Directorate of Labour (Vinnumálastofnun). There are boxes on the application form where the applicant has to put X where applicable, such as whether the applicant wants the trade union fee to be subtracted from payment from the Maternity/Paternity Leave Fund. Those who put an X in this box are considered members of the trade union in question. On the other hand, the legal position of those who choose not to put an X in this box is not the same. They are not considered members during their maternity/paternity leave and consequently lose the right to a support and sickness fund, vacation fund and vocational training fund. In other words, to maintain entitlement to funds during maternity/paternity leave, it is necessary to pay the trade union fee. If that is paid, the Family and Support Fund (Ice. Fjölskyldu- og styrktarsjóður, FOS) pays a complementary contribution to BSRB funds and fund members retain all their rights and continue to earn rights during their maternity/paternity leave. There is no legal authorization for the Directorate of Labour to deduct trade union fees unsolicited from maternity/paternity leave payments. Thus it is unavoidable to have a question on the form regarding payments due to maternity/paternity leave and whether the applicant wants to remain in her/his association and consequently pays the appropriate fees to the association. It is therefore necessary to remind members to protect their rights and union membership and cross the appropriate box.
Act on Maternity/Paternity Leave and Parental Leave (English) This Act specifies requirements for payments, minimum hours, reference period, maximum payment, a parent who is not in the domestic labour market during the refence period, whether the death of a parent is at issue, and corrections to payments from the Maternity/Paternity Leave Fund.
Don’t forget to also apply for a maternity/paternity grant from Sameyki.
Maternity/paternity grants are disbursed from the Styrktar-og sjúkrasjóðir Sameyki (Mínar síður) – Union of Public Servants and Styrktarsjóður BSRB, depending on whether members were previously in SFR – Union of Public Servants or Reykjavik's municipal employees’ association (Starfsmannafélag Reykjavíkurborgar).
Work during pregnancy
Maternity care and pregnant women
Article 11 of the Act on Maternity/Paternity Leave and Parental Leave states that the employer has an obligation to allow an assessment of risk factors to be carried out concerning working conditions and work organization in regard to the health and safety of pregnant women, a woman who has recently given birth or a woman who is breastfeeding. These obligations, together with their implementation, are then elaborated further in Regulation No. 931/2000 (in Icelandic) on measures to increase health and safety at the workplace for women who are pregnant, have recently given birth or are breastfeeding.
Notification obligation of pregnant women
Women who are employees and are pregnant, have recently given birth or are breastfeeding must notify their employer of their condition, otherwise they are not covered by the Regulation. Such notification is thus a prerequisite for them to be able to enjoy the rights conferred by the regulation.
Temporary changes to work requirements, etc.
When jobs can entail risks due to pollution, work procedures or work requirements, the employer must assess the nature of the risk for the women who fall under the regulation. The employer must either carry out an assessment or allow an assessment to be made. If the assessment brings to light that a risk might be involved, the employee is obligated to resort to measures to exclude the risk. The employer must also present the results of the risk assessment to the woman as soon as they are available. But what measures should the employer take if a risk is involved?
a) The first step is to temporarily change working conditions and/or work hours of the woman.
b) If that is not possible, the woman should be assigned other tasks.
c) If that is not possible either, she shall be granted leave of absence from work.
A pregnant woman may not be obligated to work at night during pregnancy or even for up to six months after childbirth, if this is necessary for health and safety reasons and the woman has confirmed it with a medical certificate. The woman, like the employer, can seek opinion from the Directorate of Labour before a decision is taken on changes to working conditions, working hours or tasks.
The changes that are deemed necessary to working conditions and/or working hours, or changes to tasks, shall not result in a reduction of an employee’s wages or affect other job-related rights. In other words, the employee retains full pay and work-related rights despite the changes.
Leave from work
If neither changes to work conditions nor transfer to other tasks is possible, the employer shall grant the woman leave of absence for as long a time as considered necessary to prevent her health and safety. A pregnant woman who is granted leave of absence for health or safety reasons has the right to payment of maternity leave from the Maternity/Paternity Leave Fund according to the rules pertaining to it, without impairing the right to maternity/paternity leave in other ways. It is important to bear in mind that the rights of pregnant women, according to the above, are based on the employer having been verifiably notified of the pregnancy.
Right to payment for examination at an ante-natal clinic
The collective wage agreement contains clauses that recommend the right of pregnant women to necessary absence from work due to ante-natal care without deductions from fixed pay, if such examination needs to be done during work time.
Payment due to leave of absence for health and safety reasons
A pregnant woman who needs leave of absence for health and safety reasons has the right to payment from the Maternity/Paternity Leave Fund in the same way as if she was on maternity leave, without it impairing maternity leave after childbirth. According to Act on Maternity/Paternity Leave and Parental Leave, No. 95/2000, monthly payments amounting to 80% of average total wages are made from the Maternity/Paternity Leave Fund. These payments shall be based on a 12-month continuous period that ends two months before the first day of maternity leave. Changes to work hours, working conditions or tasks do not result in a reduction in wages or other employee-related rights, according to the above law.
Work accidents and insurance
What is a work accident?
An accident is defined as an unexpected, extrinsic event that causes bodily injury. A work accident is an accident that occurs in connection with an employee’s work. Work accidents are discussed in Section !V of the Social Security Act No. 100/2007. There, it says that a person is in work when s/he is at the workplace at the time that s/he is meant to be at work, as well as during lunch breaks and coffee breaks, running errands for the employer or in necessary travel to or from work, on condition that only journeys made same day between the workplace and home or dining facilities are at issue. The same applies to longer journeys of this kind if the employee is being paid by the employer during the trip.
An accident is not considered to be work-related if it is the result of activities which are not related to work in any way yet and result in injury. If for example an employee leaves the workplace at midday for a private errand and becomes injured, it is not considered a work accident.
Work accidents are notifiable
All work accidents and mishaps must be notified and recorded. A work accident that causes absence due to illness which accounts for more than one day in addition to the day of accident or is liable to cause serious health damage is notifiable to the Administration of Occupational Safety and Health in Iceland (AOSH, Vinnueftirlit ríkisins) and Tryggingastofnun.
The employer is responsible for sending in the notification to AOSH and Icelandic Health Insurance (Sjúkratrygging Íslands) when a work accident occurs. The injured party, or others who want to make a claim for compensation, must make sure that the notification is made. Assistance may be sought from the police if the employer neglects to report the accident. If notification is neglected, there should be nothing in the way of the injured party making a claim for compensation. However, the claim must be received within a year from the accident.
Wages during absence due to a work accident; accident compensation
An employee is entitled to wages as per illness rights of the wage agreement from the beginning of absence when a work accident or accident on a direct/normal route to or from work is at issue.
If an employee is incapable of work for at least 10 days, Tryggingastofnun pays a per diem allowance (accident compensation) from and including the 8th day after the accident. The institution/employer has the right to this payment for the time the person concerned is still being paid, but after that it runs to the employee. Notification of a work accident needs to have been received by Tryggingastofnun from the employer for the per diem (accident compensation) to be paid.
Expenses incurred due to a work accident
The employee must be paid the costs incurred due to the accident which are not compensated by social security’s accident compensation.
Notification of a work accident must have been received by Icelandic Health Insurance in order to compensate for the part of the employee’s expenses for which it is required to compensate, according to statutory requirements. An application form needs to be filled out in regard to how the institution chooses to settle an employee’s expenses due to w work accident. This can be done in two ways: either in such a way that Icelandic Health Insurance pays the employee what it has to pay and the institution pays the rest of the expenses incurred, or the institution pays all of the expenses incurred and is refunded by Icelandic Health Insurance for their part.
General accident at work or on a direct route to or from work
An accident at work or on a direct route to or from work which cannot be attributed to the employer creates the same entitlement to payment in the case of absence from work as other sickness. Moreover, daytime wages can also be paid for up to three months. The employer pays for the transport of the injured person to her/his home or to a hospital and pays the normal medical expenses while s/he receives wages, other than that which Tryggingastofnun pays.
Work accidents for which the employer is liable to pay compensation
Work accidents that can be attributed to an employer or other party for which the employer is responsible are liable for compensation. This means that all financial and non-financial damage (harm) is paid, whether it is temporary damage (loss of wages due to absence) or permanent (disability).
The employer must pay all medical and transport costs, other than those that Tryggingastofnun pays. If the wage earner is partly responsible for her/his damage, it can result in blame being split between her/him and the employer. It is essential to keep all receipts from expenses incurred and damage to property.
Most accidents cause harm to the body and health. Some consequences take longer to emerge and young people often consider that they have suffered less harm than later comes to light. In most cases, guidance must be sought from trade unions, their employees and lawyers in order to ensure proof and that all rights according to appropriate wage agreements, insurance and legislation are maintained.