Q & A

Maternity/Paternity Leave

Maternity/paternity leave is counted as working time when it comes to assessing work-related rights such as holidays and extensions of holiday periods under pay settlements, salary increases due to seniority, sickness rights and terms of notice. Public-sector employees earn both holiday rights and the right to paid holidays during maternity/paternity leaves.

An employee on maternity/paternity leave has the right to holiday and December bonuses.

On the application form for payments during maternity/paternity leave it is possible to request that payments be made to the Icelandic Nurses’ Association, thereby ensuring that an individual’s accrued rights remain unchanged during the maternity/paternity leave, such as the right, as applicable, to allocations from the Support Fund, Vacation Fund, Education and Training fund and the Science Fund. By the same token, the individual will continue to have the right to all other services.

It is not permitted to dismiss an employee who has given notice of an intended maternity/paternity leave or is taking such a leave without reasonable cause which must be put in writing. The written justification may in no way be related to the taking of the maternity/paternity leave or intention to take such a leave.

An example of a justifiable cause for dismissal can, for instance, be if the individual’s position is made redundant.

A pregnant woman may have the right to an extension of her maternity leave for up to two months. A possible reason for such an extension can be when an expectant mother is ill during pregnancy, has fully utilised the sickness rights she has at her place of work, and there is more than a month until the expected birth of the child.

An application for extended maternity leave must be accompanied by:
  • certificate from a medical specialist justifying the need for an extension
  • certificate from the employer or Directorate of Labour, as applicable, stating when the applicant gave up work, when salary payments ceased and when the sickness right had been fully utilised.

Act on Maternity/Paternity Leave and Parental Leave no 95/2000
Regulation on measures to improve health and safety in workplaces for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or have recently given birth

Unfortunately, this regulation is only available in Icelandic, but further information can be obtained from the INA’s advisor for wages, terms and rights, tel: 540-6413. 

Monthly payments from the Maternity/Paternity Leave Fund amounts to 80% of an individual’s average gross salary for a 12-month consecutive period ending six months prior to the birth of a child.

For further information: Maternity/Paternity Leave Fund.

Parents employed in the Icelandic labour market have the right to a four-month unpaid parental leave.
The right to a parental leave ceases to apply when the child reaches the age of eight years. Each parent has an independent right to a parental leave which is not transferable.

The parental leave right is divided in such a way that each parent has an independent and non-transferable right to a four-month leave in order to take care of a child (2 x four months for each child).

All rights which an employee has already earned or is in the process of earning on the day the parental leave commences shall remain unchanged until the end of the leave together with any changes that may take place on the basis of legislation or collective bargaining agreements.

Rest Time

In every 7-day cycle an employee shall be given at least one weekly day of rest in direct continuation of the daily rest period. The working week shall be considered to begin on a Monday. An employee should thus get 35 hours of continuous rest once a week.

Whenever possible, the weekly rest day shall be a Sunday and the employee’s day off work. An institution may, however, reach an agreement with its employees to the effect of delaying the weekly day of rest when circumstances make such a deviation necessary, so that instead of the weekly rest day they get two consecutive days off in a cycle of two weeks. This applies to shift workers doing weekend shifts.

When special circumstances make it necessary to organise work in such a manner that the weekly day of rest is postponed, the rest days shall be taken together (11+24+24 hours).

Worktime shall be organised in such a manner that an employee gets at least 11 hours of continuous rest over a cycle of 24 hours.
It is not permissible to organise work so that it exceeds 13 hours in a cycle of 24 hours.
An employee is entitled to at least 15 minutes of break time if the daily work period is longer than 6 hours. Coffee and meal breaks are considered as breaks in this respect.

Accumulated holiday entitlement shall be detailed on the payslip in half or whole days..

Employees may request to have 1/3 of their holiday entitlements paid out at the rate for daytime work.

Time off shall be arranged by consulting the employee provided the accumulated leave is not less than four hours. Time off shall not be granted for periods shorter than that. Time off should be arranged as soon as possible or at regular intervals to avoid the build-up of untaken leave.

Under special circumstances it is permissible to shorten the minimum continuous rest period to 8 hours and lengthen the work period to 16 hours, that is due to unforeseeable incidents or in order to save valuables. Furthermore, if demanded by the public good and/or it becomes necessary in order to provide requisite health or safety services.

If this deviation from the daily rest period is applied, the employee shall be given corresponding rest in return. An employee shall be given 11 hours of fully paid rest following such a work cycle.

During regular shift rotations, an employee’s time of rest may be shortened to 8 hours. This applies, for instance, when changing from a morning shift to a night shift as planned on the shift schedule.

This permission to deviate from the 11-hour minimum rest period does, however, not apply when an employee finishes overtime work and starts the regular shift schedule or vice versa.

As this is a deviation from the principle of 11 hours’ minimum continuous rest, the organisation of shifts must be such that changes between different shifts are as infrequent as possible and that this deviation is generally not resorted to more than once a week. Work schedules should be as balanced as possible.

If administrators consider it imperative that an employee return to work before the minimum 11-hour rest period has been reached, holiday entitlements accumulate by 1.5 daytime hours for every hour taken off the rest period.
The accumulation of holiday entitlements is not limited to whole hours.

Employees should not return to work before the 11-hour rest period is over unless they are specifically asked to do so. An employee who returns, nonetheless, before the end of the rest period does not accumulate holiday entitlements.
Continuous rest broken by call-out – holiday entitlement takes aim of the longest break. If rest is broken once or more within a period of 24 hours based on the regular or scheduled start of the employee’s workday, the time missing in order to reach the 11-hour rest period shall be compensated in line with the longest continuous break within the work cycle by 1.5 hours (daytime) for every hour needed to make up the 11-hour rest period.

Work in excess of 16 hours.
If an employee has worked for more than 16 hours in a cycle of 24 hours based on the employee’s regular start of the workday and has not reached 8 hours of continuous rest, the employee shall without exception be given 11 hours of continuous rest after work without having the time deducted from his/her pay. Holiday entitlement of 1.5 hours (daytime) is accumulated for every hour in excess of 16 hours.

Increased holiday entitlement for continuous work in excess of 24 hours.
In exceptional circumstances when an employee is required to work for 24 consecutive hours, the holiday entitlement shall accumulate in such a way that every hour above 24 gives an entitlement which is 1.8% higher than the entitlement for the previous hour.

This is an independent rule in the sense that it does not relate to the principle of daily rest but is, instead, intended to counteract excessive workloads.


  • Employees are not obliged to use their own instruments unless there is a specific agreement to do so
  • Uniforms and protective clothing shall be supplied free of charge
  • Where employees are required, in specific treatment conditions, to wear their own clothes instead of work or protective clothing supplied by the employer, each employee shall be paid a clothing allowance amounting to ISK 3,800 per month for full-time work. The amount of this payment shall be reviewed every three months to allow for changes in the clothing component of the consumer price index.

Salary bracket is determined by several factors such as job title, work experience, education and work schedules. Salary brackets are defined in the institutional contract.

There are two types of pay agreements: collective bargaining agreements and institutional contracts which are part of the collective agreement.

Collective bargaining agreements regulate pay increases, salary tables, and more general terms and conditions such as work hours, holidays, sickness and various rights. Nurses are able to vote on collective bargaining agreements.

Institutional contracts, which are part of collective pay agreements, are specific contracts between institutions and unions on adapting certain aspects of the collective agreement to the needs of the institution with reference to the specificity of its operations and tasks. Institutional contracts specify salary structures, professional titles and more personalised features. Institutional contracts are binding and not subject to vote. These contracts are made after collective agreements have been signed, if the terms of that agreement have changed or, generally speaking, every two years.

For further information, contact the INA’s advisor for salaries, terms and rights, tel: 540-6413.

State health institutions with institutional contracts
Primary Health Care of the Capital Area
Sudurnes Hospital and Health Centre
The Health Care Institution of South Iceland
The Health Directorate of East Iceland
The Health Care Institution of North Iceland
Akureyri Hospital
The West Fjords Health Care Institution
West Iceland Healthcare Centre

Institutional contracts exist with public health care institutions and the Association of Private Health Institutions but not with the City of Reykjavik or the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities.

  • Hourly daytime rate is 0.615% of basic monthly salary in each salary bracket and covers the hours between 08:00 and 17:00 Monday-Friday.
  • Hourly overtime rate is 0.95% of basic monthly salary in each salary bracket (Chapter 2.3).
  • For SNS members the hourly overtime rate is 1.0385% of basic monthly salary.
  • The rate for hourly overtime work on high holidays is 1.375% of basic monthly salary.

On 1 June every year, an employee working until the preceding 30 April shall be paid a special one-time payment, a holiday bonus, based on full time work over the previous holiday allowance year. The amount of this payment varies proportionately to work ratio and time of employment.

An employee who has stopped working on account of age or after at least 3 months (13 weeks) of continuous employment during the holiday allowance year shall receive a holiday bonus proportionate to the time at work and employment ratio. The same applies to an employee who has been absent from work due to illness after the institution’s payment obligation ceased to apply or on maternity/paternity leave for up to 6 months.

Employees without access to a canteen but who should have one, or if the canteen is closed, shall be compensated by a food allowance.

Conditions for a food allowance:

  • Work quota must be 50% per week
  • The employee is in the same place of work from 11:00 – 14:00 minus the meal break
  • The meal break is only 30 minutes

Employees on duty when the canteen at the workplace is not open shall be compensated by a food allowance.

Payroll expenses are a special tax paid by employers on top of an employee’s salary:

  • Vacation Fund, 0.25% of gross earnings
  • Education Fund, 0.22% of gross earnings
  • Science Fund, 1.5% of basic salary
  • Support Fund, 0.75% of gross earnings
  • Rehabilitation Fund, 0.13% of gross earnings
  • Employer’s complementary pension fund contribution, 11.5%
  • Supplementary pension savings, 2% of gross earnings
  • Social security tax on gross earnings, 7.49%
  • Social security tax on pension fund contribution, 7.49%
  • Social security tax on private pension savings, 7.49%

  • Travel expenses are reimbursed by invoice.
  • Increased premium for departure and arrival times in the case of overseas travel requested by employer.
  • If an employee works in a location distant from public transport routes, the employer shall provide transport to and from the place of work or pay travel expenses. Such travel is counted as work time.
  • If the scheduled work period starts, or employees are called out, at a time when public transport is not operating, transport shall be provided or travel expenses paid. The same applies to the end of the work period.

On 1 December every year, nurses shall receive a December bonus based on full-time work from 1 January to 31 October. A nurse who has worked part-time or for part of the year shall receive this bonus proportionately for this period, on the condition that the individual has been in continuous employment at least from 1 September in the year in question.
Nurses who have left their employment must have completed at least 3 months (13 weeks) of work in order to be eligible for a December bonus.

State, SFV and Reykjalundur

01.06.2016 6,5%
A special one-time payment of ISK 70,000 paid to all employees on the basis of full-time employment in December 2018 and continuing employment in January 2019. The payment is for all employees with a permanent work contract except individuals on unpaid leave.  

City of Reykjavík

1.6. 2016:  Salary table increases by 6.0%
New salary table. Rates as defined by the collective bargaining agreement will be as shown in the accompanying table.
1.6. 2018:
Salary table increases by 3.0%
A special one-time payment of ISK 74,000 for full-time work will be paid to each employee at work in December 2018 and who is still working in January 2019. The amount is proportionate to length of employment and work ratio in December 2018.

Local Authorities

Pay increases in the collective bargaining agreement with Icelandic local authorities are based on the results of an occupational evaluation system which comes into effect on 1 June 2018.

Pay increases can be seen in accompanying documents to the collective bargaining agreement::
Salary Table I: Valid from 1 September 2015 to 31 May 2016
Salary Table II: Valid from 1 June 2016 to 31 May 2017
Salary Table III: Valid from 1 June 2017 to 31 May 2018
Salary Table IV: Valid from 1 June 2018 to 31 March 2019

Shift premium

Shift premium pay is calculated on the basis of daytime salaries, cf. Article 1.4.1. and shall be as follows:
33,33% from 17:00-24:00 Monday - Thursday
55,00% from 17:00-24:00 Fridays
55,00% from 00:00-08:00 Mondays - Thursdays
55,00% from 00:00-24:00 Saturdays, Sundays and on special holidays
90,00% from 00:00-24:00 on high holidays, cf. Art.
Proportional payments are made for fractions of an hour.

Standby premium

Standby premium payments are calculated on the basis of daytime salaries, cf. Article 1.4.1. and shall be as follows:
33,33% from 17:00-24:00 Mondays - Thursdays
45,00% from 17:00-24:00 Fridays
45,00% from 00:00-08:00 Mondays
33,33% from 00:00-08:00 Tuesdays - Fridays
45,00% from 00:00-24:00 Saturdays, Sundays and special holidays
90,00% from 00:00-24:00 on high holidays, cf. Art.
Proportional payments are made for fractions of an hour. For call-out payments when on standby see Articles and

Call-outs on weekdays between 08:00 and 24:00
Employees who are called out for work that is not in direct continuation of their daytime work shall be paid overtime for at least 3 hours unless their scheduled work hours start within 3 hours of being called to work, in which case overtime is paid from the time of the call-out until the start of the scheduled work hours. If the call-out finishes within 3 hours of regular daytime work, the employee shall be paid overtime for the period between the end of the daytime work until the end of the call-out time.

Call-outs between 00:00 and 08:00 on public and special holidays
If a call-out starts in the period between 00:00 and 08:00 from Monday to Friday, between 17:00 and 24:00 on a Friday or a public or special holiday, cf. Articles and, an employee shall receive overtime pay for at least 4 hours unless a scheduled work period starts within 3 ½ hours of the onset of the call-out. In such cases, there shall be an overtime payment of a ½ hour in addition to the hours worked.

An employ need not be specially required to stand in for his/her superior if the absence of the latter last less than 5 consecutive days.

If the principal activity of the employee is remunerated as if he/she were standing in, the employee shall receive pay in the same category as the superior, provided he/she:
  • Fills in for more than 4 consecutive weeks
  • Has been in the position of a superior for more than 6 weeks over a period of 12 months
  • An employee who is not hired as a substitute but is asked to act as such in the absence of the superior shall receive pay according to the same category as the absent employee.

In the case of a hired substitute, the terms and conditions shall be detailed in the employment contract and job description. Both parties need to share the same understanding.


Daytime work:
Meal breaks are 30 min between 11:30 and 13:30, not counted as working time.
Two coffee breaks, 15 min/20 min, counted as working time.

Shift work:
Meal breaks – 25 minutes’ overtime is paid for every shift but 12 minutes’ overtime is paid for every hour worked.
Daytime work in wards: (not applicable to SNS)
Meal breaks – 15 minutes’ overtime is paid for every shift.

If a shift schedule is changed with less than 24 hours’ notice, the employee concerned shall be paid 3 extra overtime hours. If the notice is 24-168 hours (one week) the employee shall be paid 2 overtime hours. This only applies to scheduled shifts, not extra shifts

For an extra shift arranged with less than 24 hours’ notice between 17:00 and 24:00 on Fridays, 24:00 and 08:00 Mondays-Fridays, and 00:00 and 24:00 on Saturdays, Sundays and special holidays, an employee shall be paid 2 overtime hours and proportionately for longer or shorter shifts.

Full time work is 21.67 days or 40 hours per week, which gives an average of 173.36 hours per month.  

For regular 8-hour daytime work, a fraction of the monthly salary is found by dividing the sum of the monthly salary by 21.67 and multiplying the outcome by the number of calendar days, other than Saturdays and Sundays, from the beginning to the end of the employment period.

Employment Contract

The Government Employees’ Act No. 70/1996 (Article 42) stipulates that upon hiring there shall be a written employment contract concluded between the employer and the employee.

The following information must be included in the employment contract:
  • Name, address and national identification number of institution
  • Name, address and national identification number of employee
  • Place of work
  • Occupational title and a brief description of the position’s scope and responsibility
  • Terms of employment – necessary to refer to collective bargaining agreements so that the salary will rise as provided for in the agreement (applies in the private sector)
  • Justification for placement in salary bracket by reference to institutional contract
  • Hours of work (daytime, shifts, night shifts, standby duty)
  • Employment ratio
  • Employment, i.e. temporary or indefinite
  • The beginning and end of employment if temporary
  • Reciprocal period of notice
  • Pension fund and supplementary pension savings
  • Union

For employment in the private sector, the following must be stated:
  • The collective bargaining agreement on which the salary is based
  • Holiday entitlements – collective bargaining agreement may be referred to (i.e. receives remuneration on the basis of collective bargaining agreement between the Icelandic Nurses’ Association and …)
  • The right to salary during illness – collective bargaining agreement may be referred to (right to receive salary during illness is based on Regulation no. 411/1989)

Employees should be careful not to sign employment contracts/modification notices unless they already bear the signature of a manager with powers to hire personnel.
If an employer modifies an employment contract after it has been signed by the employee it is difficult to prove the contents of the contract before the modification.
If modifications are conducted in writing, both parties need to sign for the modification.


An employer may under no circumstances put pressure on an employee to accept modifications to his/her employment contract.
It is a sensible move to ask permission to take away the documents and consult someone who is knowledgeable about the issues at hand.

The INA’s Division of Wages, Terms and Rights provides advice and assistance to nurses.


 Number of days
0 - 3 months
14 days
Next 3 months          
35 days
After 6 months
119 days 
After 1 year
133 days
After 7 years
175 days

In addition to the rights above comes the right to a salary for 13 weeks or 91 days if the inability to work is on account of an accident at work or occupational disease.
After 12 years of employment, this right becomes 273 days and 360 days after 18 years of employment.

The right of pensioners working on an hourly basis, the right is one month at a time once a year.
Rights can be earned through work for the State, local authorities or publicly financed institutions.

Salary payments during illness:
Salary according to the work report for the first week but after that an average of premium and overtime.
In case of absence due to an accident at work or on the way to work, the salary remains unchanged from the onset of the illness.

Looking after a sick child:  
12 days (96 hours)
A certificate of fitness to work must be submitted if absence due to sickness lasts more than 1 month.

Vacation and Leave

Compensations are not made for Saturdays and Sundays when a public holiday falls on those days, apart from the Saturday before Easter. All other days that are marked as non-workdays are compensated.

The cost of compensation and an 11-day leave is the same. It is up to the individual to decide which is a better option – money in the wallet or time off from work.

Psychiatric Ward Leave (applies to those employed at psychiatric wards before 2008) )
This leave is 64 hours per year for an individual in full-time employment, does not become void and the basis for calculating hours earned is the calendar year.

Public Holiday Leave
Is 88 hours per year for full-time employment, can be carried over between years and is granted to individuals in 50% employment or more. Hours are earned over the calendar year.

Standby Leave
Is 80 hours for 1200 hours on call and becomes void at the end of the year.

Vacation Rights
Never become void and up to a third may be paid out.

Unpaid Leave
No rights are earned.

No compensations are made for public holidays during a vacation. This can be a bit complicated for nurses with a 90-100% work ratio. During a vacation a total of five days off work are recorded per week. Thus, for instance Ascension Day, Summer Celebration Day or the National Day (17 June) may be counted as vacation days unless vacations days are recorded to reflect each individual’s shift plan.

Námsleyfi ávinnst eftir ákveðinni reiknireglu, en um er að ræða heimild, ekki rétt. Mikill munur er milli stofnana hvernig námsleyfi er veitt.

Námsleyfi ávinnst á eftrifarandi hátt:

1,5 dagur for every month at work 
1 month         
for every 10 months at work  
3 months
for every 10 years at work
9 months
for every 15 years at work

Compensations are paid for all public holidays which are NOT marked as work days on the shift schedule EXCEPT Saturdays and Sundays. The Saturday before Easter is the only such day for which compensations are paid. Compensations are calculated as 8 hours of overtime for full-time employment and proportionately less for part-time work.

Minimum vacation length is 192 work hours for full-time employment on an annual basis.

All contracts except with SA (Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise)
Younger than 30                         24 days 
30-37 years
27 days
38 and older
30 days 
24 days
After 5 years in same occupation
25 days
After 5 years with same employer
27 days
After 10 years with same employer
30 days


  • Vacation time may be transferred between years, subject to permission by the workplace.
  • The holiday allowance year is from 1 May to 30 April each year. Summer vacation time is from 1 May to 30 September.
  • Vacations taken outside the summer vacation period shall be 25% longer.
  • The actual vacation time is subject to agreement between management and employee.
  • Sickness during a vacation shall be reported immediately as sickness time is not counted as vacation time.

Employees taking winter holidays:
88 hours of fully-paid holiday time for full-time employment and proportionately less for a lower employment ratio.
Work on public holidays is paid with a 55% bonus on the basic daily rate.  Work on high holidays is paid with a 90% bonus on the basic daily rate.

Employees receiving compensation:
Work on public holidays and high holidays shall be paid as overtime according to 1.5.1 or 1.5.2
An employee not working on a public holiday or high holiday is reimbursed for that day with overtime. “Red days” and high holidays are paid at the overtime rate provided they are an addition to the individual’s work quota for the week in question. Employees need to inform the management at their workplaces as to their intention to take time off or be reimbursed for public holidays.

On termination of employment, all unused holiday entitlements shall be settled in the same manner as unpaid holiday allowance. Holiday entitlements never become void.
Senior management and others who are in charge of their own working hours: these individuals cannot earn holiday entitlements.

Employees may, provided their employers agree, take time off against working overtime by collecting overtime hours and using them for time off, one daytime hour for every overtime hour worked. The overtime premium is then paid out on the next regular payday.

There needs to be an agreement on this kind of holiday and it should always be organized in such a manner that it creates the least disruption in the day-to-day activities of the institution. Any holidays based on such an agreement, and which have not been taken before 15 April each year or upon termination of employment, shall be reimbursed according to the employee's daytime rate on the next regular payday.

Public Holidays

New Year‘s Day
Holy Thursday
Good Friday
Saturday before Easter
Easter Sunday
Easter Monday
Summer Celebration Day
1 May
Ascension Day
Pentecost Monday
17 June
Commercial Workers‘ Day
Christmas Eve after 12:00
Christmas Day
Boxing Day
New Year‘s Eve after 12:00

High Holidays

New Year’s Day
Good Friday

Easter Sunday
17 June
Christmas Eve after 12:00
Christmas day
New Year‘s Eve after 12:00

A nurse taking a winter holiday is paid for shifts on public holidays and high holidays according to the normal daily rate plus high holiday bonus (90% - shift premium 3).

A nurse who has selected to be compensated for extra work is paid overtime for shifts on public holidays and overtime with high holiday bonus for shifts on high holidays.

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