Work life balance

Iceland FlagIcelanders on average work 1697 hours a year, which is still less than the average of 1749 hours in OECD countries. However, the OECD work-life index suggests that when it comes to balancing working life and leisure time, things seem to be much better in other Nordic countries. Almost 11% of Icelanders are reported to work very long hours and in comparisons with all 36 OECD countries, Iceland ranks in 26th place when it comes to time spent at work. When it comes to time devoted to leisure and personal care, Iceland’s ranking among the OECD countries is only 32nd. Icelanders do work long hours; the average for men is 47 hours and for women 37 hours per week. Women, who represent 45.5% of the Icelandic workforce, also represent the highest number of women in the labour market among the OECD countries.

Taking all this into consideration, finding a balance between work and leisure time is a challenge for Icelanders, especially for those with children. What is interesting is that in spite of this with each woman having 2,1 children Iceland has one the highest fertility rates in Europe.

For Icelanders, combining business with pleasure is quite common. Personal relationships are formed easily, and business partners are invited to business dinners, which are seen as a form of entertainment.

Iceland is not too different from other Nordic countries when it comes to the role of family and kinship patterns. Women play an important role in families, and in the case of multicultural marriages, children often pick up more of their mother’s heritage than that of their fathers. Equality of rights and opportunities are much the same for women and men. Formal marriage is not such an important institution as it is in many other countries yet Iceland has the highest divorce rate in Europe. However friendships and other connections such as kinship are highly valued.

National holidays

Working Icelanders have a minimum of 24 days of paid leave a year and in addition they also benefit from 13 public holidays. The most common time for Icelanders to take their holidays is in July and August so this must be taken into consideration when planning business trips to Iceland. At those times business will slow down just like at Christmas and Easter time.

Working hours

Iceland is a very expensive country and in order to maintain high living standards, Icelanders are used to working long hours. Men work 47 hours a week on average and women 37 hours. Working overtime is quite common in Iceland and employees are often paid for the extra hours they put in. In cases where employees have a fixed salary, overtime is compensated by time off in lieu. Working hours have to be compatible with laws and wage contracts. Generally speaking, the maximum working week including overtime should not exceed 48 hours. During every 24-hour period employees are entitled to a period of 11 hours of continuous rest.

Generally Icelandic business hours are from 9 am to 5 pm and during the summer months (June, July and August) from 8 am to 4 pm.

Health insurance

The Icelandic medical care system is high quality, and good medical treatment is available if needed. However, outside the largest cities there are only a limited number of services available. The medical system covers the expenses of the residents only, which means that visitors must pay their medical bills themselves. Luckily in the case of emergencies, visitors with a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) are entitled to free medical care. Therefore you should make sure to carry your  EHIC card with you.

However as mentioned earlier, when travelling to Iceland, you should get travel insurance. The EHIC Card comes in handy but there are many expenses that it does not cover. Expenses caused by medical care that is on-going or urgent, usage of air ambulances, medical repatriation, costs caused by travel problems such as cancellations and lost/stolen luggage are all costs that are best covered by travel insurance.

In the case of emergency, dial 112. For non-emergency medical treatment in the Reykjavik area during business hours dial 544-4114. When outside of business hours, the number to dial is 1770.

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