Legislation Protecting Whistleblowers Passed in Iceland

The Icelandic Parliament has passed its first-ever comprehensive legislation protecting whistleblowers. The act protects employees in both the public and private sectors who in good faith provide information or disseminate data on their employer’s violations of law or other noteworthy conduct. The legislation takes effect at the beginning of next year.

According to the legislation, the dissemination of information or data, subject to the conditions of the legislation, is not considered an infringement of the employee’s duty of confidentiality or professional secrecy. Furthermore, it does not make the employee subject to penalties or liable for damages nor can it lead to administrative penalties or a reduction of the employee’s rights.

The legislation makes a distinction between whistleblowing within an organisation and publicly, and assumes that public whistleblowing is normally not permitted unless the employee has brought the issue to light within the company first and the case involves a violation that warrants imprisonment or is of extreme public interest.

Companies Return COVID-19 Aid Funds to Icelandic Government

origo

Six Icelandic companies have announced they will either return or stop taking advantage of the government’s partial unemployment funds intended to help companies avoid layoffs due to the economic impact of COVID-19. Mbl.is reports that none of the companies are facing operational difficulties and as a result have decided to pull out of the initiative, whereby the government pays up to 75% of employee salaries.

Computer support and services company Origo put 50 employees on the partial benefits scheme on the same day it announced an ISK 425 million ($2.9 million/2.7 million) first-quarter profit. Origo then backtracked on the decision to seek government support last Monday. Company Esja Gæðafæði ehf. decided to repay the ISK 17 million ($117,000/€107,000) it had received from the government through the initiative. Seafood company Brim, fuel company Skeljungur, and retailer Hagar have also decided to repay the government funds they received. Retail company Festi also decided to stop its participation in the scheme.

Iceland’s Directorate of Labour was criticised for failing to monitor whether companies who were taking advantage of the government funds had in fact lost profits and therefore required the funds to pay salaries. The organisation’s director has stated that the Directorate’s efforts were focused on minimising layoffs, but a review of companies who have participated in the scheme will begin in the fall at the latest.

Icelandic Government Invests ISK 1.5 Billion in Tourism Ad Campaign

tourist selfie jökulsárlón

To counter the economic impact of COVID-19, Iceland’s government has hired two advertising agencies to create a campaign promoting the country as a travel destination. The country will invest ISK 1.5 billion ($10.3 million/€9.5 million) towards the initiative. Iceland’s Prime Minister announced yesterday that the country would reopen its borders no later than June 15 and provide coronavirus tests to arriving travellers.

The campaign is titled “Ísland – saman í sókn,” loosely translated as “Iceland – onward together.” According to a notice on Promote Iceland’s website, the aim of the campaign is to “strengthen Iceland’s image, increase demand, and maintain Icelandic tourism’s competitiveness” in select foreign markets.

A team of two advertising agencies, the UK-based international M&C Saatchi and Icelandic agency Peel presented the winning bid for the project. Notably, M&C Saatchi made headlines last year due to an accounting scandal that led to the resignation of four executives at the company, as reported by mbl.is. Fifteen bids were received for the project, which was advertised across the European Economic Area.