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Employment Law in Norway

Norway’s main item of employment legislation is the Working Environment Act (Lov om arbeidsmiljø, arbeidstid og stillingsvern mv, or arbeidsmiljøloven, AML) which covers most aspects of the individual employment relationship. The Act came into force in 2006 and has been amended on various occasions since. The principal law governing collective employment relations (though statute plays a relatively limited role in this area) is the Labour Disputes Act (Lov om arbeidstvister, or arbeidstvistloven). Other relevant laws include the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act (Lov om likestilling og forbud mot diskriminering, or likestillings- og diskrimineringsloven), the Holidays Act (Lov om ferie, or ferieloven) and the General Application of Collective Agreements Act (Lov om allmenngjøring av tariffavtaler mv, or allmenngjøringsloven), While not a member state of the European Union (EU), Norway is part of the European Economic Area (EEA). This means that it must implement EU Directives on employment matters, and its national legislation is in many areas strongly affected by EU provisions. Case law interprets employment legislation, especially that of the Supreme Court (Høyesterett) and Labour Court (Arbeidsretten).

Collective bargaining has an important role in governing the employment relationship, with industry-level collective agreements setting pay and conditions for around two-thirds of the workforce. A distinctive feature of the Norwegian labour market is the important role played by “basic agreements” (hovedavtalene) between national confederations of trade unions and employers’ associations in both regulating industrial relations (eg, rules on collective bargaining, industrial action and company-level employee representation) and setting rules on some substantive issues (eg, aspects of redundancy and lay-offs). In the private sector, the most influential basic agreement is that between the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisasjonen i Norge), the largest union confederation, and the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (Næringslivets Hovedorganisasjon, NHO), the largest employers’ confederation. Other important basic agreements in the private sector include those between: LO and the Enterprise Federation of Norway (Virke), which represents mainly service sector employers; NHO and a smaller, mainly white-collar union confederation, the Confederation of Vocational Unions (Yrkesorganisasjonenes Sentralforbund, YS); and Virke and YS. In this article, when giving examples of the provisions of basic agreements (which are all quite similar), we refer to the current 1998–2021 version of the LO-NHO agreement.

While not being formally classified as collective agreements, local agreements between individual employers and trade union shop stewards are significant in some respects. Such agreements are required in order for employers to obtain derogations from some of the AML’s rules, or to make use of certain flexibility options within the legislation. This applies especially in areas such as working time, rest periods and work on Sundays and bank holidays.

Individual employment contracts are another important source of employment law, though their provisions cannot conflict with employment legislation or any applicable collective agreement.

This topic deals only with the private sector.

Employment Law in Norway: Quick Facts
  • Employers are required to inform their employees and the public employment services about vacancies arising. Recruitment and Selection

    • There is a statutory maximum probationary period of six months. Recruitment and Selection

    • With the exception of citizens of other European Economic Area countries (plus Switzerland), foreign nationals generally require a residence permit in order to be employed in Norway. Recruitment and Selection

    • All employment relationships must be based on a written employment contract, setting out the main terms of the relationship. Employment Contracts

    • Fixed-term contracts of longer than one year are permitted only if there is a specific justification, such as to perform work of a temporary nature or replace temporarily an absent employee, while temporary agency workers may be used only where justified by the circumstances. Employment Contracts

    • In general, wages must be paid monthly by bank transfer, accompanied by a payslip, and only certain types of deduction may be made. Pay and Benefits

    • There is no statutory national minimum wage, though there are binding minimum pay rates that apply in certain industries, such as construction, hospitality and cleaning. Pay and Benefits

    • An employee’s normal working time must not, in general, exceed nine hours per day and 40 hours per week, but there are a number of exceptions and permitted flexibility arrangements. Working Time, Rest and Holidays

    • Employees must not generally work more than 10 hours of overtime per week, 25 hours over four consecutive weeks and 200 hours within a one-year period, and are entitled to a pay supplement of at least 40% for overtime work. Working Time, Rest and Holidays

    • Employees must be granted a rest break if they work more than five-and-a-half hours, and are entitled to a daily rest period of at least 11 hours and a weekly rest period of at least 35 hours, generally including Sunday. Working Time, Rest and Holidays

    • Employees are entitled to at least 25 working days of annual leave per year, during which they generally receive special holiday pay. Working Time, Rest and Holidays

    • In respect of each child, working parents may between them take 12 months of leave, during which they receive a National Insurance benefit — up to 18 weeks of this entitlement is pregnancy/maternity leave taken by the mother and the remainder is parental leave that may be taken by either parent (though certain amounts of leave are reserved for the father or mother). Parenthood and Work-life Balance

    • Employees are entitled, where relevant, to extended parental leave, paternity leave, educational leave and various forms of leave to care for children or close relatives Parenthood and Work-life Balance

    • Employees are entitled to sick leave and benefits for up to 52 weeks if they are unable to work owing to illness or injury. Parenthood and Work-life Balance

    • Discrimination in relation to employment is prohibited on grounds including sex, pregnancy, leave in connection with childbirth or adoption, care responsibilities, ethnicity (including national origin, descent, skin colour and language), religion, belief, political views, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and trade union membership. Equality and Discrimination

    • Employers must make active, targeted and systematic efforts to promote equality and prevent discrimination, and seek to prevent harassment, sexual harassment and sex-based violence. Equality and Discrimination

    • Workers have the right to form, join and leave trade unions and are protected from discrimination in on grounds of union membership. Industrial Relations and Collective Rights

    • Trade unions are entitled to demand negotiations with an employer or employers’ association with a view to entering into or revising a collective agreement, and to call a strike if the employer or employers’ association does not negotiate or the negotiations do not lead to an agreement Industrial Relations and Collective Rights

    • Shop stewards elected by trade union members are the main channel of employee representation at workplace level, while employees are entitled to board-level representation in companies with more than 30 employees. Industrial Relations and Collective Rights

    • Employers must carry out “systematic work” to safeguard their employees’ health, safety and working environment, and have numerous detailed obligations in this area. Occupational Health and Safety

    • Safety representatives must be elected by employees at all undertakings while those with at least 50 employees must have a working environment committee. Occupational Health and Safety

    • An employer may dismiss an employee only if this is “objectively justified” on the basis of circumstances relating to the undertaking, the employer or the employee; the employer is generally required to give notice of objectively justified dismissal, but summary dismissal is permitted for gross misconduct. Termination of Employment

    • Before deciding to dismiss an employee, the employer must generally discuss the matter with the employee and employee representatives, and an employee who believes that their dismissal is unfair or unlawful has a right to demand negotiations with the employer. Termination of Employment

    • In some circumstances, employers must give preference in recruitment to former employees who were made redundant. Termination of Employment

    • Undertakings with 11 or more employees must have in place a set of “staff regulations” laying down rules for work procedures and for employee conduct. Other Key Issues