The reception of VR union will be closed from Monday, March 16. The Icelandic authorities have declared the highest alert level as a result of COVID-19, an emergency phase, and VR will only offer members services on-line. This is done in the interest of members‘ wellbeing.

All information on VR‘s services can be found on the union’s website. All inquiries by phone (phone number 510 1700) will be answered as soon as possible during office hours between 8:30 am and 4:00 pm as well as inquiries sent to our email address, vr@vr.is, or VR‘s Facebook page.

Below you will find FAQs on members rights due to COVID-19 and information on VR´s services.

Please note that work on the site is in progress.

FAQ´s on members rights due to COVID-19

According to the three-year contract period, the next salary increase should be implemented from April 1st 2020. Is that still supposed to be implemented despite the circumstances?

Yes, it will be implemented as agreed upon in the three-year collective agreement. For further information on wage increases, see more here.

The employer wishes to make changes to my recruitment terms?

These unheard-of circumstances that are the result of the effects of COVID-19 on society do not affect your legal position. You have a period of notice according the collective wage agreement.
The parties may agree on a change in terms, but because of our current situation, it is right to evaluate the overall situation which might include agreeing to a temporary change in the employment rate, provided payments from the Unemployment Insurance Fund are offset.

Temporary changes have been made to the Unemployment Insurance Laws for these measures to be valid. This makes it possible to negotiate a temporary change of terms without having to resort to termination.

The main points of the law are:

  • A prerequisite for payment is that there is a written agreement between you and the company stating what the change in the employment rate is and for which time period, see draft agreement here.
  • The cut in your employment rate must be at least 20 percentage points. So if you are in 100% work and the reduction is 20% you go to 80%. Since the reduction cannot be less than 20% that means that if you have an 80% employment rate then the employment rate will become 60%.
  • Also, a minimum of 25% employment must always be maintained after a reduction in the employment rate.
  • If your job rate is less than a 45% before the reduction you will not be eligible for this solution. It is your right to keep your normal working hours and your usual wages unchanged. Amendments to these things are subject to the termination provisions of our collective agreement. If this applies to you and you need more information, we suggest you contact VR.
  • The unemployment compensation is paid in proportion to the reduced work rate, see calculator here.
  • Wages from your employer and the added unemployment benefits shall amount to a maximum of 90% of your wages before the reduction in the employment rate – and up to a maximum of ISK 700,000.
  • If wages based on full-time employment before the reduction in the employment rate amounted to ISK 400,000 or less, they are paid in full.
  • If wages based on full-time employment before the reduction in the employment rate exceeded ISK 400,000 then wages from your employer and the added unemployment benefits shall not be lower than ISK 400,000.
  • Such special agreements for reduced employment rates do not reduce your rights to the usual income-related unemployment benefits, should you lose your job later.
  • Students are eligible for unemployment benefits in part, if they meet the requirements of the law and must, for example have at least a 45% job ratio.
  • Employees' rights in the Wage Guarantee Fund are secured in the event of company bankruptcy.
  • Self-employed persons are also entitled under the law.

The law is in effect from 15. March 15. to 1. June 2020.

Some points to we want to emphasize:

  • Should a company ask its employees to reduce the employment rate with the associated reduction in wages without a notice period, an employee may refuse and demand that the notice period be upheld.
  • An employer is not allowed to demand a work contribution from an employee in excess of the agreed employment rate.
  • The right to these unemployment benefits due to a reduced employment rate applies to all employees, e.g. students regardless of their rights in other respects.

Further information and application forms can be found on the Directorate of Labour's website, see here.

VR would like to emphasize that you read carefully the agreement contract that is placed before you and if there is any doubt about your legal position to contact us at VR. If you are terminated during the period of such a contract, you should terminate the agreement and get paid according to the original employment rate during the period of notice of termination.

I have already made an agreement with my employer on a reduced employment ratio. However, my employer wants me to work more hours than the ones stated in our agreemnet. Can my employer do that?

No he can´t. Your employment ratio is now the one stated in the agreement with your employer. If your employment ratio is 25% you are only supposed to work 25%. Employers do not have the right to ask employees to work longer hours/period of time than stated in the agreement on part-time work. This is in accordance with the temporary law passed by the Parliament on reduction in employment ratio.

It has been decided to close down my workplace because of COVID-19, what is my legal position?

If an employer decides to temporarily close down the workplace due to special conditions in society, payroll payments will not stop. You are entitled to your wages while your workplace is closed. The parties may be able to negotiate work from home, but you must be in a position to do so and the employer must give you the relevant tools.

I am working part time and my employment ratio is less than 45%. Therefore, I am not entitled to the resources of the Directorate of Labour. My workplace is reducing the opening hours so my employment ratio is decreasing. What rights do I have?

The employer cannot change the employment relationship without a contractual notice of termination. Change in opening hours should not lead to reduction in your employment rate/employment terms. If you are not entitled to the resources of the Directorate of Labour, your employer must pay you full wages.

If I become infected with COVID-19, what are my rights to wages?

If you become ill, you are entitled to sickness leave in accordance with collective wage agreements. Once this right expires, you may be entitled to payments from a Sick Pay Fund.

Can I refuse to have a colleague come into work if he/she is coming from a defined risk area or is ill?

No – however, you may not be placed in a position of working with a person who has been diagnosed with an infection or who the authorities have ordered into quarantine. Your employer is under obligation to ensure a safe and healthy environment for his/her employees.

What do I do if my employer requests that I submit a medical certificate for my absence when I am in quarantine?

According to the decisions of the authorities, the instructions of the Chief Epidemiologist for a person to be quarantined are the equivalent of a medical certificate for absence from work. A certificate of work capability contravening such instructions cannot be issued.

What are my rights if I have to work from home because the nursery school is closed?

You are not entitled to wages. If other care is not available, you can send notification of legitimate absence on the basis of the Act on Family Responsibilities No. 27/2000 (Icelandic only). In some cases, it could be possible to apply for parental leave according to Section 7 of Act No. 95/2000 on Maternity/Paternity Leave and Parenting Leave (Icelandic only). According to the Act, parents may be absent from work to take care of their children for up to 4 months until the child reaches the age of 8. Keep in mind that this is not paid leave.

Discussions with the authorities are underway as to whether employers can apply for payments from Iceland Health Insurance to cover the wages of employees if nursery schools are closed due to quarantine according to a decision made by the Medical Director of Health. A conclusion thereto will probably be reached soon.

I am forced to remain at home because of a relative who cannot attend day-care due to COVID-19. What right to wages do I have?

You are not entitled to payments from your employer, except in the case of a child under the age of 13 who is ill, as provided for in collective wage agreements. Or in the case of a child under the age of 16 who is in hospital for at least one day. If the relative in question is other than stated above, the employer is not obliged to pay wages. An absence could, however, be considered necessary on the basis of Act No. 27/2000 on Family Responsibilities. Such absence is without pay and is considered to be a legitimate absence. In this case, the employee must notify the employer / immediate superior of the circumstances.

If public transport is discontinued or not running, am I then not legitimately absent and should receive wages?

Employees are responsible for transporting themselves to the workplace. Article 3.4 of the collective wage agreement states that during such time as public transport is not running, travel to and from the workplace must be paid by the employer. This article is based on normal schedules and not when external circumstances cause routes to be cancelled, such as due to risk of infection or the weather. If public transport is not running, you will need to find another way to get to work. You should, however, notify your employer of the circumstances as soon as possible.

I work for a company that organises events. Due to the ban on public gatherings, the company has decided to close the workplace – what right to wages do I have?

The employee’s duty to work and entitlement to wages remains in effect if the company decides to close. The company still has duties regarding the employees' wages and must there for still pay the wages even if the company decides to close the workplace.

Can the company order me to do work for which I was not recruited?

The company cannot order you to undertake work for which you were not recruited and which is subject to the terms of your employment contract. In some cases, the working environment of employees may change due to COVID-19. In such cases, the parties must reach an agreement for changed work arrangements.

I now work from home, and as a result, I do not have access to the company’s staff cafeteria – what rights do I have?

If you are supposed to be working at home, it is probably not a good idea for you to go to the workplace to eat in the company’s cafeteria. On the days in which you are at home working, no deductions should be made from your pay for the costs you would normally incur in the workplace.

What rights do I have if I am stuck overseas due to border closures?

If you are on vacation, you are there at your own risk and must notify your employer as soon as possible that your homecoming will be delayed. Your absence will not be regarded as a violation of your employment relationship, as such circumstances are beyond your control.

If you are travelling on behalf of your employer, your employer bears the cost and you should not suffer any wage reduction.

Can an employer send me on leave?

An employer is not allowed to send you unilaterally on holiday, it has never been allowed, and it is no different today, despite this current situation our society faces today. The only possibility is in the case of vacation that must be taken before May 1st. and in such a case, however, the time limits must be observed as stated here below.

Regarding the decision to take holiday leave, consultations on that shall be made in accordance with Act. no. 30/1987 of the Law. (Icelandic only) A decision on holiday leave shall then be made no later than one month before the holiday shall commence according to para. 5. of the Law on holiday leave.

Holiday rights are earned between 1. May and 30. April each year. The holiday in the summer of 2020 ie. to be taken after May 2nd. is the holiday you are then earning from May 1., 2019 to April 30., 2020 and is not available for that time period.

I have winter leave, can the employer send me on that holiday without reservation? 

The answer is no, he must not send you without notice on winter leave. In the case of a winter holiday there must be an agreement and some reservation. In light of the circumstances, how ever, it is appropriate that you consider the situation and assess whether the company can be accommodated.

On termination of employment

I was laid off, what are my legal rights?

If you received a notice of termination after you agreed on a reduction in the employment ratio, in accordance with the resources of the Directorate of Labour, you have the right to withdraw that agreement and are entitled to a notice period for termination according to your previous employment ratio. The purpose of the resources of the Directorate of Labour is to maintain jobs, but if you have been laid off then that prerequisite no longer exists. You must inform the employer in writing how you consider the situation now that you have been laid off. If you have any questions about this, please contact VR by email, kjaramal@vr.is or by phone, 510 1700.

I have already received a notice of termination from my employer and I am currently working my notice period for termination. Do I have to agree to the reduction of employment ratio?

The reduction of employment ratio is an agreement between the employer and the employee and cannot be made without the consent from both partners. As stated above, the purpose of this resource is to maintain jobs. In your case, you have already been laid off and therefore this resource does not apply to you.

Can my employer withdraw the notice of my termination and offer me an agreement on a reduced employment ratio instead?

Yes, the employer can withdraw the notice of termination and offer an agreement on a reduced employment ratio instead. However, this can only be done with the consent from the employer.

See all relevant information about termination of employment and termination terms here on the VR web.

The company is going bankrupt, what is my legal position?

It is important to get in touch with VR immediately. See all information here on the VR web.

Can my employer use the resources of the Directorate of Labour retroactively?

Employers do not have the right to ask employees to work longer hours/period of time than stated in the agreement on part-time work - unless there is a pay rise to match the increase in working time. This is in accordance with the temporary law passed by the Parliament on the entitlement to the payment of unemployment benefits alongside reduced employment ratio due to temporary company recessions. The legal provisions are available on the Parliament’s website here (Icelandic only):

The Disbursement (Payment) office of the Directorate of Labour/ The Unemployment Insurance Fund (?) does not pay for hours worked. That is in contradiction of the law, Act no. 55/1980 (Icelandic only) and the collective agreement.

More information on the reduced employment ratio and the resources can also be found on the website of The Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ASI) here.

Quarantine/Isolation

What legal status applies to wage payments during quarantine/isolation?

An agreement was reached between ASÍ, SA and the government to the effect that SA will recommend that employers continue to pay the wages of employees who are in quarantine, see the agreement terms here.

I am put in quarantine/isolation by my employer: you are entitled to full wages.

I am put in quarantine/isolation by the Medical Director of Health: Your rights are in accordance with an agreement that entities in the labour market are working on organising according to the joint declaration issued by the Office of the Prime Minister, ASÍ and SA. Hopefully the result of such work and the amount of payment will be made known soon. There is work in progress on a new legal bill at the Parliament that will deal with methods of payment and amounts.

I quarantine/isolate myself: You cannot make a unilateral decision to quarantine/isolate yourself. If you believe yourself to be at particular risk, you must inform your employer and you should be able to reach an agreement on what is the best course of action. In all cases, you must discuss the matter with your immediate superior. In some instances, it is possible to work from home. See question on if I work from home. If no agreement can be reached with regard to working from home and you have placed yourself in quarantine/isolation, you do so at your own risk and expense, as you cannot make a unilateral decision regarding your employment relationship. We recommend, therefore, that you discuss the matter with your immediate superior.

If I am in quarantine and I am ill: you are entitled to sick leave according to collective wage agreements. Once this entitlement expires, you may be entitled to payments from a Sick Pay Fund.

If I am put in quarantine, do I need to work from home if I am asked to do so?

You cannot unilaterally be ordered to work from home. VR, however, wishes to point out that we should all do our best against this danger if we are to keep society and the economic sector working. Such decision, in the opinion of VR, is always a matter of negotiation between you and your supervisor.

In such cases, your employer shall supply the equipment and connections necessary.

 

What are my rights if I feel I cannot come to work due to anxiety about COVID-19?

If you decide on your own to enter into quarantine, you do so at your own risk and expense.

Anxiety can also be an “illness” within the meaning of collective wage agreements and may activate the entitlement to sick pay. A medical assessment, however, must be obtained, i.e. a certificate.
In the event of no contributing illness that causes anxiety, you will have to contact your employer and reach an agreement with him/her as regards absences in order to ensure that such absence will not be regarded as illegitimate.

If a child is placed in quarantine/isolation, what are the rights of the parent to stay at home?

The rules of collective wage agreements apply to the absence of a parent due to ill children, provided the child is ill. Once the sickness rights of the child expire, the Sick Pay Fund takes over.

As regards children who are not ill but are quarantined by the order of the Medical Director of Health, employees are entitled to payments, if the child is under the age of 13. All information is available at the Directorate of labour web site here.

My spouse is classified as a person at risk, and I believe I have to protect his/her health – what are my rights?

If, due to family circumstances, you do not feel able to attend work due to fear of infection, you must discuss this with your immediate superior. This decision is then in fact regarded as a self-decided quarantine/isolation.

You cannot make a unilateral decision to quarantine/isolate yourself. If you believe yourself to be at particular risk, you must inform your employer and you should be able to reach an agreement on what is the best course of action. In all cases, you must discuss the matter with your immediate superior. In some instances, it is possible to work from home. See question on if I work from home. If no agreement can be reached with regard to working from home and you have placed yourself in quarantine/isolation, you do so at your own risk and expense, as you cannot make a unilateral decision regarding your employment relationship. We wish to emphasise that you must negotiate such matters with your immediate superior.

 

Reduced employment ratio calculator

Various information due to COVID-19

VR Sick Pay Fund

Members can apply for sickness payments via My Pages on VR´s website. Please send all necessary documents along with your application.

In order to apply for death benefits, you can access an application form here. Please scan the form and the necessary documents and send to sjukrasjodur@vr.is. Please apply for benefits due to the death of a members’ child/children via My Pages. More on benefits here.

Members can scan and send applications, documents, certificates and other necessary information to sjukrasjodur@vr.is.

VR Contingency Fund and vocational training funds

You can apply for grants from the VR Contingency Fund and the vocational training funds via My Pages.

Assistance by VR‘s specialists

You can contact VR´s advisors for assistance regarding employment terms and collective wage agreements by phone, 510 1700, or email kjaramal@vr.is

Holiday cottages

You can book and pay for holiday cottages on My Pages or send inquiries to orlofshus@vr.is

VIRK

Individuals receiving services provided by a VIRK counsellor will continue to do so. Counsellors will be in touch to coordinate interviews.