Being employed

Last updated: 6 10 2021

About Sweden – an orientation about Swedish society.

This text is about being employed. As an employee you have rights as well as obligations in your workplace and vis-à-vis your employer. These rights include the right to be paid for the work you do and the right to holidays.

The text describes things that are important to know when you become employed, such as different forms of employment and what help you can get if you should become ill and unable to work. It also explains health and safety issues at work and the right to join a trade union. 

  • The right to work

    Everyone is entitled to a job. This amounts to a right not to be excluded from the labour market. Where you are from, what gender you are or how old you are should not affect your chances of getting a job.

    There are several rights that are linked to work. You are entitled, for example, to fair working conditions, to equal pay for equal work and to join a trade union. You are also entitled to rest and time off work.

    It is also a right for parents to be able to combine family life with work. Children are entitled to protection from work that is harmful or hinders a child’s development and schooling.

Forms of employment

There are two different forms of employment:

  • permanent employment
  • temporary employment

Permanent employment applies until further notice. This means that it doesn't have an end date.

Temporary employment is employment for a limited time.

Working as a substitute

If you are employed as a substitute, you are doing someone else's job, for example someone who is on parental leave.

Probationary period

When you are given permanent employment, it is common for the post to being with a probationary period. A probationary period is one way for the employer to test you as an employee. The idea is for the probationary period to become permanent employment. A probationary period may not last longer than six months, but can also finish sooner than this.

Wages

A fixed wage that is paid out once per month is called a monthly wage. If you are paid an hourly wage, you receive a certain amount for each hour you work.

Employment contract

When you are given a job, you sign an employment contract. The employment contract will state:

  • your name and personal identity number
  • your work duties and title
  • the employer's name and workplace
  • the date your employment starts
  • what form of employment you have
  • notice period, i.e. the time from the day you learn that you must finish or resign until the day your job finishes
  • the wage you receive before tax – gross wage
  • how much paid holiday you have a right to

Working hours

Normal working hours are by law a maximum of 40 hours per week in the same workplace. If you work 40 hours in the daytime, that is a full-time job. If you work at other times, e.g. at night, a full-time job can be less than 40 hours. When someone who has a full-time job works more than their normal working hours, this is called overtime. You have the right to extra remuneration if you work overtime.

If you have a functional impairment, are ill or injured

If you have an impaired functional ability that affects you physically or mentally, this is known as having a functional impairment. You may need to use an aid or have support in order to manage your everyday life or work.

People with a reduced work capacity can be given help to adapt their workplace, work tasks or work environment. Adapting means changing something in the workplace or work tasks so that you have the same conditions as everyone else for participating in activities or working.

If you become ill when working

If you are employed and you become ill, you have to tell your employer on the first working day you are ill. Your employer will pay you sickness pay during the first 14 days. Sickness pay is 80 per cent of your ordinary pay. Your employer will also make a deduction from your sickness pay – this is known as a qualifying deduction.

If you are ill and absent from work for more than seven days, you have to get doctor's certificate confirming that you are ill if you want to carry on receiving sickness pay. This is known as a doctor's certificate or medical documentation. If you are ill for more than 14 days, you may be eligible for compensation from Försäkringskassan. This is known as sickness benefit.

When you apply for sickness benefit, you have to provide a doctor's certificate which explains why you are unable to work. It is common practice for the doctor to email your doctor's certificate to Försäkringskassan after your doctor's appointment. Ask your doctor how it works.

Sometimes you may be able to work a few hours per day even if you are ill. You can be paid a sickness benefit of 25, 50 or 100 per cent, depending on if you can work part of the time.

Work and children

If you have small children, you are entitled to stay home from work. You are entitled to full leave from your work until your child is 18 months old.

When you then go back to work, your child can attend a preschool or stay with a family child minder. A family child minder looks after children in her or his own home.

You are entitled to an allowance from Försäkringskassan during the period that you are at home with your child. This is known as parental allowance.

If your child is sick

Looking after a sick child ("Vård av barn" in Swedish, or "vab" for short) means you stay home from work or forgo your unemployment insurance (a-kassa) payment to look after a sick child. You receive a benefit which is about 80% of the income you would have had if you had gone to work or received a-kassa. This is known as a temporary parental benefit. You can take out a maximum of 120 days of temporary parental benefit per year.

Working less when you have children

As a parent of a small child, you are entitled to work less in order to spend more time with your child. You are entitled to shorter working hours by up to 25 per cent of normal working hours until your child is eight years old or has completed their first year of school.

In some workplaces, the collective agreement may entitle you to part-time work until your child turns 12.

Breaks, rest and free time

You are entitled to pauses and breaks during your working hours. You are also entitled to rest between working days. You are not allowed to work more than five hours in a row without a break. You are also entitled to at least eleven hours continuous rest each day. Each week, you are also entitled to at least 36 hours continuous free time. These things are all laid down in the Working Hours Act (Arbetstidslagen).

The Annual Leave Act

According to the annual leave act, you have a right to at least 25 days holiday per year, regardless of which form of employment you have or whether you work full time or part time. However, this does not apply to those who are employed on a temporary basis with an hourly wage. If you are employed on a temporary basis with an hourly wage, you instead receive a supplement of twelve per cent of your gross wage (wage before tax), this is called holiday pay.

Work environment

We spend a large part of our lives working. This makes it important that we are happy at work, that we feel safe and that we do not injure ourselves working. Factors that affect us at work are collectively known as our work environment. The work environment can vary from workplace to workplace. Some jobs are physical, meaning you use your body and move around a lot. Other jobs involve sitting still in front of a computer screen all day.

Different workplaces make different demands for a good work environment. A person sitting in front of a computer all day might need a good chair to be able to sit comfortably for long periods of time. If you work in home help services, you might need a mechanical aid to help elderly people get out of bed.
The work environment also includes mental and social factors – that you are happy with your colleagues and your work.

Signs of a bad work environment might include that the work is too stressful, that the machinery you use lacks protection for the operator, that somebody gets bullied or sexually harassed, or that it is too noisy.

The employer is responsible for ensuring that the workplace environment is good. The employer is also responsible for ensuring that applicable laws and regulations are followed.

If you have a functional impairment, you are entitled to have your work environment adapted so that you can carry out your work. It is important that you inform your employer what your needs are. This might be about how the premises are designed, how information is provided and what working methods are used in your workplace. You have to be able to do your job in a way that is comparable to how your colleagues without functional impairments do it. There are also several forms of support available via the labour market policy programme with special measures for persons with a functional impairment that impairs their work capacity.

Employees have to help ensure a good work environment, including by following workplace rules and using the protective equipment that is available. If there is something at your workplace that needs improvement, you can speak to your manager or to a health and safety representative. Most workplaces have health and safety representatives, which are usually appointed by the union. If there is no union representation in the workplace, the employees can elect a health and safety representative.

The health and safety representative's task is to promote a good work environment. If something is lacking or dangerous in the workplace, the health and safety representative can tell the employer what needs to be done in order to make the workplace good and safe.

The right to join a trade union

A trade association or a trade union is an organisation for employees in the same profession, in the same industry or with the same training. Trade associations and trade unions are often called unions for short (facket).

The union can help you if you have problems at work – if you get the wrong salary or are forced to work more hours than your employment contract specified. Unions exist to help their members with things they think are important at work.

Most employed people in Sweden are members of a union. Everyone in Sweden is entitled to belong to a trade union organisation.

Leave of absence for studies

You do not need to quit your job if you want to study. Under the Act on Leave of Absence for Studies, you are entitled to take a leave of absence for studies if you fulfil certain requirements. You must have been employed by the same employer for the past six months or for a total of at least 12 months during the past two years.

If you lose your job

About half of all people in Sweden have a salaried job. There is an insurance policy in Sweden that protects people who lose their job. This policy, known as unemployment insurance, is intended to make it possible for a person to have an income while they are looking for work. You can be a member of an unemployment insurance fund (a-kassa), which is a cooperative that pays money to unemployed members. If you want to join an unemployment insurance fund, you have to pay a membership fee every month.

If you are a member of an unemployment insurance fund and you become unemployed, you will receive money from it during the time you look for a new job. There are several different funds you can join – some specialise in a particular occupational group, while others are open to members from any industry or trade. A basic requirement for joining all unemployment insurance funds is that you have worked in Sweden.

How your work affects your pension

Your pension is money you receive when you are older and stop working. Everyone who works and lives in Sweden is entitled to a pension. How much you receive as a pension varies – it depends how high your salary was when you worked and how many years you worked, among other things. Each additional year you work will make your pension higher.

The size of your pension also depends on whether you have an employer who makes payments towards an occupational pension and if you make pension savings yourself.

It is important to bear in mind that if you go on parental leave or reduce your working hours because you have small children, this will affect how much you are paying in towards your pension. The less you work, the lower your pension will be.