Sweden: An Employee Gave Misleading Information to His Employer about the Education that His Study Leave Was Related To and Was Legally Dismissed for Unauthorised Absence
Authors: Nina Voigt Dahl
According to the Swedish Employee’s Right to Educational Leave Act, employees who wish to study are entitled to study leave. In the recently ruled case, the employee B.R. had used the right to study leave to undertake private training one day a week with an accountant he knew privately. When the employer questioned his studies, he provided vague and inaccurate information. He was dismissed without notice from his permanent employment as a painter on the grounds that he had misinformed the employer regarding the reasons for study leave and that he therefore had been granted leave on wrongful grounds. A dispute arose as to whether the dismissal was lawful or whether there were, in any event, substantial reasons for dismissal.
The Labour Court stated that, in principle, employees have an absolute right to study leave. However, an employee who takes advantage of the leave by using it for purposes other than studying may be in breach of the employment contract. The Court emphasised that the threshold for entitlement to study leave may be drawn based on the requirement of “undergoing education” according to case law. This implies that the studies must be characterised by a certain degree of planning and the acquisition of knowledge, and that the structure and organisation of the education must be predetermined. Furthermore, the Court stated that the employee needs to clarify the education to which the study leave relates.
The Court concluded that B.R.´s studies did not entitle him to study leave because they did not produce any results, lacked planning, and lacked the necessary pre-established structure. Further, the Court considered that B.R. had deliberately withheld information and misled the employer regarding his studies. As B.R. was not entitled to study leave; he had no reason to be absent from work. B.R.´s actions thus constituted a fundamental breach of his obligations to the employer. Consequently, there were legal reasons for dismissal.
Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-house Counsel
Even if employees have an absolute right to study leave, this right is limited to education with a certain degree of planning, predetermined organisation and arrangements, and some kind of significant result. If the employee misleads the employer about his or her studies and therefore is on unauthorised leave, this may constitute reasons for dismissal.