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Employment Law in Sweden

Sweden is notable for the major part played by collective agreements in governing the employment relationship. Around nine out of 10 employees have their pay and conditions set by collective bargaining, which occurs mainly at industry level. In many areas, employment legislation allows collective agreements to derogate from the statutory provisions — examples include probationary periods, fixed-term contracts, temporary agency work, working time, rest breaks/periods, annual leave and termination of employment. Collective agreements take precedence over individual employment contracts, which are therefore often brief and of only subsidiary importance.

Another distinctive feature of Sweden is the strong influence of trade unions. Some seven out of 10 employees are union members, and employers are obliged to negotiate with any trade union that has members among their employees.

The main item of employment legislation is the Employment Protection Act (Lag om anställningsskydd) which deals with matters such as employment contracts and dismissal. It should be noted that the Act does not apply to employees whose duties and conditions of employment are such that they may be deemed to hold a managerial or comparable position, or to domestic workers, employees who are members of the employer’s family, employees in supported employment schemes for people with disabilities, and certain apprentices. Other important laws include the Working Hours Act (Arbetstidslag) (this also excludes managerial staff), the Work Environment Act (Arbetsmiljölag), the Parental Leave Act (Föräldraledighetslag), Discrimination Act (Diskrimineringslag) and the Co-Determination in the Workplace Act (Lag om medbestämmande i arbetslivet). The case law of the specialist Labour Court (Arbetsdomstolen) interprets employment legislation.

This article deals only with the private sector.

Temporary Covid-19 crisis measures (as at 21 March 2022)

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government introduced a furlough-type instrument, known as short-time working support (korttidsarbete), to subsidise the wages of employees temporarily working reduced hours as a result of restrictions on economic activity. The scheme ended during 2021. In addition, a number of temporary changes were made to employment legislation, notably in respect of sick pay. In their first week of absence, employees are generally entitled to only 80% of the full weekly amount of sick pay (see Sick Leave) but during much of the pandemic the government covered this missing day’s sick pay and also met some of employers’ sick pay costs for the first 10 days of absence. These sick pay measures end on 31 March 2022.

Employment Law in Sweden: Quick Facts
  • Collective agreements determine pay and conditions for 90% of the workforce and generally take precedence over both legislation and individual employment contracts. Summary

  • Recruitment and selection are subject to little statutory regulation, except in relation to non-discrimination and data protection. 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, the Faroe Islands and Greenland), foreign nationals generally require a work permit in order to be employed in Sweden. Recruitment and Selection

  • Fixed-term employment contracts are automatically converted into indefinite-term contracts when the employee has been employed on this basis for a total of more than two years during any five-year period, or on successive fixed-term contracts for a total of more than two years. Employment Contracts

  • No later than one month after an employee commences work, the employer must provide them with written information on all the terms and conditions that are of material relevance to the employment contract or relationship. Employment Contracts

  • All aspects of remuneration are governed mainly by collective agreements, and legislation has little role to play in this area. Pay and Benefits

  • Employees’ normal working time must not exceed 40 hours per week (where necessary, averaged over a reference period of up to four weeks) and they must not work more than 48 hours of overtime in any four-week period. Working Time, Rest and Holidays

  • Employees must generally be granted a rest break after working for five hours, and are entitled to a daily rest period of at least 11 hours and a weekly rest period of at least 36 hours. Working Time, Rest and Holidays

  • Employees are generally entitled to at least five weeks of annual leave per year. Working Time, Rest and Holidays

  • Working parents are entitled to take maternity leave (up to 14 weeks), paternity leave (up to 10 days), parental leave (until the child reaches the age of 18 months and in some cases afterwards) and leave to care for a sick child (up to 120 days per year), often with an entitlement to social security benefits. Parenthood and Work-life Balance

  • Employees are entitled to a variety of types of leave and time off to provide care, deal with family and personal matters, and undertake educational and entrepreneurial activities. Parenthood and Work-life Balance

  • Discrimination in relation to employment is prohibited on the grounds of sex, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender identity or expression. Equality and Discrimination

  • Employers must have in place guidelines and procedures for the prevention of sexual harassment and harassment on the grounds of the protected characteristics. Equality and Discrimination

  • Employers must take “active measures” to prevent discrimination and promote equal rights and opportunities, including measures to achieve equal pay. Equality and Discrimination

  • Employees have a right to join trade unions and, if an employer is bound by a collective agreement, the signatory trade union is entitled to appoint a workplace-level union representative to represent the employees covered by the agreement. Industrial Relations and Collective Rights

  • Trade unions have a statutory right to negotiate with an employer on any matter relating to the relationship between the employer and any member of the union who is employed by that employer. Industrial Relations and Collective Rights

  • In most private sector companies with at least 25 employees, the workforce is entitled to two representatives on the board of directors. Industrial Relations and Collective Rights

  • Employers must ensure that the work environment is satisfactory and have numerous detailed obligations in the field of health and safety at work. Occupational Health and Safety

  • At every workplace where five or more employees are regularly employed, one or more employee must be appointed as a safety representative. Occupational Health and Safety

  • An employer may dismiss an employee with notice only on “objective” grounds; this means either circumstances relating to the employee personally or “shortage of work”. Termination of Employment

  • An employer may summarily dismiss an employee who has grossly neglected their obligations to the employer. Termination of Employment

  • When recruiting, employers that have made redundancies in the past nine months must generally give priority to the redundant employees, if they are qualified for the job. Termination of Employment