You may remember the fanfare when President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as one of his first acts in office. And no doubt you recall all the think-pieces about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 50/50 gender split cabinet when he took office in 2015. But Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson of Iceland has bested them both.
Iceland has just become the first country to require that employers prove that they pay their female employees the same rate as their male employees. The rule will apply to all companies with 25 or more employees, and companies subject to it will undergo inspections every three years to ensure that they continue to adhere to it, or face a daily fine.
As goes Starbucks, so does Chipotle: change may finally be here for many of America’s low-wage workers.
Increasingly, large corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s are buckling under pressure to better support their employees. The long overdue yet somewhat lackluster result: these companies have started to offer their low-wage workers slightly higher wages and a few basic benefits. Walmart, for example, announced in February that it would raise wages for its lowest paid employees to at least $9 an hour, and McDonald’s announced in April that, in addition to increased wages, employees may now accrue up to five days in paid time off per year. These concessions are certainly improvements for low-wage workers, but the recent financial crisis has created somewhat of a “rearview mirror effect.” In other words: Warning— victories may be smaller than they appear.
But as the economy strengthens and employers find themselves in a buyer’s market for low wage jobs, companies like Walmart will need to act more aggressively to keep their employees happy—especially with the increasingly attractive benefits, including tuition reimbursement, offered to employees of Starbucks and Chipotle.