West Iceland’s Largest Workplace


We are proud of the economic importance of Norðurál and our part in the utilization of one of Iceland’s most important resources: the clean and environmentally friendly energy harnessed from rivers and geothermal heat. But we are no less aware of the social importance of the company as by far the largest workplace in the region. We want to create a good and safe workplace for all our employees and take an active part in a wide range of socially important projects.




Norðurál is West Iceland’s largest workplace, and we strive to be a desirable place of work where varied and challenging work for all genders is provided. In 2021, Norðurál had 576 permanent members of staff, 19% of them women and 81% men. The average age is 40.2 years, 40.6 years for men and 38.2 years for women. The average length of employment is 8.5 years, 9 for men and 6.4 for women. Most of the workforce, about 70%, lives north of Hvalfjörður, thereof around 60% in Akranes. Around 30% of employees live in the Reykjavík area.

*The figures reflect the status of permanent staff at year-end 2021. The average number of full-time equivalent positions during the year was 601.


Staff turnover in 2021 was 7.7%, and the gender ratio of those who terminated their employment was consistent with the overall gender ratio. In 2021, we welcomed 76 new employees to permanent full-time positions. We also welcomed 200 young people who substituted for permanent employees during the summer. There were 106 first-time summer employees, while 92 had worked for the company before and were returning for their second, or even the third, summer. The company wanted half of the summer workers to be female, and while this was not achieved, 42% of those employed for the summer of 2021 were women.


Gender-equality goals are of prime concern in all recruitment, and efforts are made to hire people of the gender that is underrepresented in the position in question. This means that there are opportunities to recruit more women as production workers, craftspeople, engineers, and technical specialists.


Norðurál received an Equality Scale from the Association of Women Business Leaders in Iceland (FKA) in 2021. This recognizes companies that have taken steps to correct the ratio of women among senior executives and that have been able to correct gender ratios in senior management. The goal is for the ratio between men and women in the executive management of Icelandic companies to be at least 40/60 by 2027. Three out of seven members of Norðurál’s executive management are women.


Norðurál has a certified equal pay system in accordance with the equal pay standard ÍST 85:2012 and has also received a Gold Certificate in PWC’s equal pay audit for three years in a row, or since the equal pay audit was first carried out. In 2021, BSI conducted a maintenance audit of the equal pay system, which confirmed that the equal pay system is designed to achieve the objectives of the company’s equal pay policy. The unexplained gender pay gap at Norðurál is 0.9%.


A large majority, or 85%, of Norðurál’s workforce belongs to the trade unions VLFA, FIT, RAFIS, StéttVest, and VR. A collective agreement between Norðurál and the unions was signed in October 2020 and will remain in effect until 2025.


Focus on working environment and health


Norðurál is committed to providing good facilities and a safe working environment. The company’s values of economy, unity, and integrity reflect the company’s focus on human resources, the environment, health, and safety.


Transport is provided between the plant and Akranes, where 60% of employees reside. The employment area of the company is considerably larger, however, with about 20% of staff commuting daily from the Reykjavík area. The company provides carpooling vehicles for employees who live south of tunnel and in Borgarnes. Norðurál owns or rents around 44 cars that are used for carpooling to and from work every day. Electric carpooling vehicles already account for 38% of the company’s fleet, thus supporting the company’s energy-saving plans and objectives. Norðurál’s premises at Grundartangi have 28 charging stations where employees can charge their vehicles free of charge.


Norðurál has partnered with Vinnuvernd to provide health checks and annual occupational health inspections. The purpose of these inspections is to monitor the health of staff with regard to any potentially unhealthy effects of the working environment, to improve the working environment where applicable, remind employees of the importance of good health, and encourage lifestyle improvements. Every year, Vinnuvernd submits a report on the general health and lifestyle factors among the staff. Due to Covid-19, the results of the health report could only be presented for about 20% of employees in 2021. All processing of data by Vinnuvernd take place according privacy laws, and Norðurál only receives information related to the capacity for work of employees at any given time.


Norðurál is a drug-free workplace, and all new recruits must undergo a drug test. Random drug tests are also carried out at the work site to ensure that no one is under the influence of illegal substances in the workplace.


The majority of Norðurál employees, around 460 people, are employed as production or maintenance workers according to a collective agreement. Managers, middle managers, specialists, and some office workers have employment contracts that are not linked to a collective agreement. The notice period for permanent staff is one week during the trial period, one to three months during the first year of employment, and at least three months after that. Under the collective agreement, employees leave the employ of the company in the month when they turn 67 years old. Five retired due to their age in 2021, and 24 will turn 67 years old in the next three years.


61 went on paternity leave in 2021, 20% of them women and 80% men. Of these, 7% resigned after the end of their leave, 25% of them women. 44 went on paternity leave in 2020, 11% of them women and 89% men. Of these, 95% are still employed with the company.


No cases of work-related illness were reported during the year. According to Vinnuvernd’s report, the majority of Norðurál staff do not have difficulties carrying out their work due to work-related discomfort (74%). Around 26% have experienced problems doing their work (rarely/sometimes/often) due to work-related discomfort. A large majority of employees is satisfied with the social environment in the workplace.


STNA, the Norðurál staff association, is highly active and organizes numerous events every year, including organized hikes and various events for employees and their families. The company also subsidizes various forms of entertainment for staff, including cinema and theater tickets, offers in various shops, and various activities in West Iceland.


Employees are offered subsidized memberships for gyms in West Iceland and World Class in the Reykjavík area.


Workplace analyses and surveys


A workplace analysis has generally been carried out every two or three years. At the end of October 2021, a workplace analysis was conducted in collaboration with Gallup. The aim of such surveys is to learn about how employees feel in the workplace and their attitudes towards matters that are important to the company, such as safety issues. A survey was also conducted among substitute workers in the summer of 2021, where they were asked about various aspects of their reception, training, and facilities at Norðurál.


It is important to continue working with the results from the job satisfaction survey so they can be used to develop a healthy and satisfying working environment. The results of the survey could be expected to reflect the situation in which the company and society as a whole lived during the pandemic, with Norðurál’s premises being divided into areas for disease prevention, which had a considerable effect on communications between management and staff. ocializing was also minimal, and events such as the annual staff party were not held. In addition to this, there was limited access to training and education throughout the period. The average of employee engagement was 3.58, as measured by Gallup, compared to 3.75 in 2017, which are considered good results.


Bullying and harassment


Norðurál has procedures on how to respond to bullying, sexual and gender-based harassment, and other forms of violence. These processes are available to all staff. They are communicated to new employees and at regular intervals after that. These factors are also factored into workplace analyses.


Under no circumstances will bullying, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, or other forms of violence be tolerated in the workplace. Bullying, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, and other forms of violence are violations of professional obligations and unacceptable behavior in the workplace.


All complaints of bullying, sexual and gender-based harassment, and other forms of violence are thoroughly investigated. Five cases were reported in 2021. Two cases resulted in a reprimand, one in a job transfer, and one was due to lack of training and communication skills. n one case, the allegations were not substantiated.




Management and staff faced major challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic, both in 2020 and, to no less extent, in 2021. Extensive disease-prevention measures were implemented, and traffic between different departments limited to the greatest extent possible. The company was divided into 22 areas, and there was a great focus on increased cleaning and cleaning schedules for each one. Gloves and masks were obligatory in the canteen, and access was limited for a period where production workers and craftspeople had priority. For a period, those who could do so worked from home, but the focus was on not compromising service during production.


The changing working environment called for new communication channels and, in early 2021, the communication application Teams was introduced to support the changes in meeting procedures and communications within the company. Teams has proved its usefulness, not least as a powerful information provider for shift workers in the production areas who do not have constant access to computers.


Safety First


Norðurál places great emphasis on safety and occupational health safety so that accidents and incidents can be prevented. To ensure the safety of staff, contractors, and visitors to the site, all those who work on and visit Norðurál’s premises must familiarize themselves with the safety rules. The rules apply to all those coming onto Norðurál’s premises. Our motto is “All for one!”, as safety is a collaborative project between everyone employed with Norðurál. We look after each other and help to solve all tasks as sensibly and safely as possible.


Organization and management of health and safety matters


Norðurál’s Managing Director heads the company’s Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Committee. The committee includes members of Norðurál’s executive management and safety officers. The committee advises on policy development and setting goals and seeks ways to make improvements and implement preventive measures in health, safety, and environmental matters. The committee shall, pursuant to Act No 46/1980, consider matters relating to facilities, hygiene, and safety within the company. The committee elects a chair and secretary alternately from among the safety officers and other committee members.


The statutory role of the HSE Committee is to

  • participate in the preparation of a risk assessment and follow up on it along with the employer
  • familiarize workers with occupational health and safety risks and ensure that staff are properly trained
  • make sure that bullying does not occur in the workplace
  • make sure that machinery and technical equipment, hazardous substances, and work procedures do not pose a risk to employees
  • make sure that personal protective equipment is available, in good condition, and used according to applicable rules
  • monitor the reporting of accidents, incidents, and occupational illness


The HSE Committee appoints professional councils for safety and risk management, employee engagement and communications, site inspections, facilities, the well-being of employees, and environmental issues. The councils meet regularly and interact with the staff, both to learn from them and to impart knowledge. They consult with the HSE Committee on a regular basis.


Norðurál’s Security Department employs a group of experts specializing in fields such as risk assessments, risk management, and incident investigation. The company’s safety management system is based on the philosophy of continuous improvement and follows ISO standards.


Risk management and incident investigations are part of Norðurál’s key management system processes reviewed in internal audits. Meetings with management are held on a weekly basis, where incident handling is reviewed. Risk analyses are reviewed regularly, and guidelines for regular jobs are based on such analyses.


All jobs at Norðurál must be carried out according to a set process that has undergone a risk analysis. All work procedures can be accessed in the Quality Manual on Norðurál’s intranet or from a supervisor. All tasks undergo a risk assessment before they commence.


All incidents, accidents, and damages are recorded in Norðurál’s reporting system. We believe that all accidents come with a forewarning, and we therefore also encourage the reporting of near-miss incidents and safety and environmental incidents. All reports are processed, and improvements made when appropriate.

*The rate of occupational accidents is given as the number of accidents per 200,000 working hours, corresponding to the work of 100 employees over the year.


Education and training


New Norðurál employees receive onboarding training focused on safety and environmental issues. The company’s policies and production processes are reviewed. The classroom training is followed by intensive training at each workstation. In 2021, each employee received an average of approximately 9.5 hours of training. In the fall months, team training for all the staff was organized. Although scheduled training days had to be canceled due to restrictions on gatherings, 90% of employees managed to complete the training. Manager training began in December, and 16 shift managers and 140 workshop foremen received 140 hours of management training last year, with training continuing until mid-2022.


New employees take a course and receive special training for their job. This includes a “lockout/tagout/test” course, a fall protection course, and a course on working in confined spaces. Training needs for permanent staff are based on skills criteria. Contractors are provided with a general presentation each year and courses as needed.


The training schedule includes refresher and retraining in various safety items, including first aid training for supervisors, incident investigation, and fall protection retraining. Production workers review guidelines for regular jobs annually. In addition to regular training, Norðurál’s policies on quality, the environment, safety, human rights, and equality are clearly visible in Norðurál’s workplace and on the company’s communication channels.


Norðurál’s safety rules extend to all persons working at the company’s workplace, whether they are Norðurál employees or contractors. Contractors receive a safety presentation and training before beginning their work.


Norðurál’s safety rules can be found here.


In September 2021, 12 students began their basic training at Norðurál’s School of Heavy Industry, where the first part of the studies is undertaken across 3 semesters. The ratio of women among students is 23%. The school was established in 2012, and 180 employees have graduated. The School of Heavy Industry is a collaborative project between Norðurál, the Center for Continuous Education in the West of Iceland, and the West Iceland Junior College. hese studies are part of Iceland’s secondary education system, and students can complete up to 45 credits at the upper secondary level for both basic and further training. The curriculum is prepared by the Education and Training Service Centre. During the training, employees gain an understanding of the company’s production process, get to know the activities of other departments within the company, go through basic upper secondary education, and ultimately work on a project to further improve the workplace and working environment.


Employee interviews, together with corrective and constructive feedback, are part of the periodic assessment of the staff’s performance and career development. Each employee has at least one review with their immediate supervisor each year. The plan is to introduce a procedure with more frequent employee reviews, which would create more trust between staff and managers, develop a common understanding of the prioritization of tasks, and increase well-being at work. As 2021 was characterized by severe restrictions on gatherings and disease-prevention measures, communications between staff and management were unusually limited. As a result, it was only possible to conduct formal reviews with around 65% of the staff.


Rights and respect


There are six representatives from the unions that are parties to Norðurál’s collective agreement, along with the primary representative. No cases related to labor law violations have been reported during the year.


On May 1, 2021, major changes were implemented in the work organization of the company’s production units, when the shift system in the pot room, casthouse, and maintenance unit changed from 12-hour shifts and four shift teams to 8-hour shifts with five shift teams. Shorter shifts, longer breaks between shifts, and reduced working hours are part of making the workplace more family-friendly, ensuring a better work–life balance, and making the workplace more attractive for women.


At the same time, the working hours of day workers changed, with hours reduced by one and a half per week as of May 1. In 2022, work will continue to reduce working hours of daytime workers even further, as various improvement projects, such as reviews of processes, will reduce waste and improve procedures and make refreshment breaks more flexible, to name just a few changes. Although not much time has passed since the changes took effect, employees were asked about their attitude towards the changes in the workplace analysis in October. The results showed that 75% had a positive or neutral attitude to the changes.


The Norðurál Tournament and various community projects


Norðurál sponsors a number of community projects, with more than ISK 20 million being provided for such projects in 2021. The company is a proud sponsor of the ÍA football club in Akranes and the Valur football club in Reykjavík, with a particular focus on young players.


In the summer, families of the youngest footballers from all over the country head to Akranes, where the Norðurál Tournament is held. This is one of Iceland’s biggest football tournaments, with 1,750 boys and girls aged 6–8 taking part in 2021, which was a record. Around 800 volunteers took part, and ÍA oversaw the management and organization as usual.


Agreements with Fablab and Leynir Golf Club were signed during the year. Contributions were also made to the Mothers’ Support Committee, the Akranes SAR team, the Akranes Swimming Association, and other parties.