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World first as Iceland makes it illegal to pay men more than women

Iceland has been at the forefront of equal pay for women and men for years (Arnaldur Halldorsson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Iceland has become the first country in the world to make it illegal to pay men more than women.

As of January 1, companies and government agencies with more than 25 employees will have to prove they do not pay women workers less than men.

They will be obliged to secure government certification of their equal-pay policies or face fines.

MORE: Women in the UK are now working for free until the end of the year

“It’s a mechanism to ensure women and men are being paid equally,” Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, told Al Jazeera.

“We have had legislation saying that pay should be equal for men and women for decades now but we still have a pay gap.”

The legislation was supported by Iceland’s centre-right coalition government, as well as the opposition, in the country’s parliament, where nearly 50% of members are women.

MORE: London now has the widest gender pay gap in the UK

Aradottir Pind told Al Jazeera: “Women have been talking about this for decades and I really feel that we have managed to raise awareness, and we have managed to get to the point that people realise that the legislation we have had in place is not working, and we need to do something more.”

In the UK, larger employers will have to reveal the scale of their gender pay gap by April.

However, as doubts have been raised whether one of Theresa May’s flagship policies is enforceable by sanctions, just over 500 of the estimated 9,000 companies obliged to submit figures have done so thus far.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission last month warned employers faced “unlimited” fines and convictions.

MORE: UK gender pay gap drops to record low in 2017 – ONS

However, Ruth Christy, an employment specialist at law firm Blake Morgan, told the Financial Times earlier this week that neither the gender pay gap regulations, nor the EHRC’s powers under current equality legislation, would allow that to happen.

On the whole, the UK’s gender pay gap has narrowed to 9.1% among full-time workers.

Iceland has been ranked the best in the world for gender equality by the World Economic Forum for nine years in a row.

The WEF ranked Britain in 15th spot last year, with a 16.9% pay gap between men and women.