Looking Ahead 2024: Norway
In 2023, the Norwegian Parliament passed several bills regarding changes in the Norwegian Working Environment Act (“WEA”). Some of these changes will enter into force on 1 January 2024, while others will enter into force on 1 July 2024.
1. Changes to the Working Environment Act entered into force on 1 January 2024
Several changes have been implemented in the WEA starting 1 January 2024. Some of which imply a significant extension of the employers’ responsibilities. The changes are as follows:
1.1 The definition of the term “employee” in the WEA is clarified
The notion of an “employee” in the WEA is clarified, and more importantly, a person is presumed to be an employee unless the employer makes it highly probable that the person is an individual contractor.
1.2 Extended responsibilities for employers in corporate groups
The scope of an employer’s responsibility in a corporate group is expanded. In the event of downsizing, the employer’s obligation to offer an otherwise redundant employee “other suitable work” to prevent termination is extended to all Norwegian undertakings of the company group that the redundant employee(s) may be offered, not just to the undertaking where the employee is employed.
The same applies to employees’ statutory preferential right to new employment (after the termination), which is now extended to the whole company group.
In addition, groups with undertakings that have more than 50 employees must establish a framework for cooperation, information, and consultation with the employees’ elected representatives across the undertakings.
1.3 Changes to the obligations to establish working environment committees and safety representatives
More companies than before will now be obliged to establish working environment committees and safety representatives. The obligation to establish a working environment committee used to apply to companies with 50 employees or more. As of 1 January, the obligation to establish a working environment committee applies to all employers with 30 employees or more. Additionally, a working environment committee must be established in a company with 10 or more employees if requested (as opposed to 20 previously).
Furthermore, all companies with more than five employees are obliged to elect a safety representative (“verneombud”), as opposed to 10 previously.
1.4 Temporary employees have the right to permanent employment after three years
All temporary employees will be entitled to permanent employment after three years of continuous employment, regardless of the basis for employment. Traditionally, this entitlement to permanent employment occurred after either three or four years of continuous employment, depending on the basis of the temporary employment.
1.5 Mandatory annual discussion between employers and employees’ representatives
Employers obligation to carry out an annual discussion with employees’ representatives regarding the use of part-time employment, temporary employment, and the hire-in of employees now applies correspondingly to the use of independent contractors and the purchase of services from other companies, which may impact the staffing situation. Furthermore, the obligation to consult also applies when one of the parties demands so.
2. Additional changes entering into force on 1 July 2024
On 1 July 2024, additional changes will enter into force, including new requirements for employment contracts and new presumptions rules.
2.1 New content requirements for employment contracts
The new requirements for employment contracts constitute Norway’s implementation of the EU directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions. The most important additions to the minimum requirements regarding the content of the employment contract include:
- If there is no fixed workplace, specifications shall be included in the employment contract outlining that the employee may work at different locations or have the freedom to decide where they will work.
- The present obligation to inform about the employee’s right to holiday/holiday pay/regulations on determining holiday time will be extended to apply correspondingly to other employer paid absence/leave.
- The employment contract shall state the applicable procedure for termination of the employment relationship by either party, or dismissal.
- The various components of the salary must be specified separately in the employment contract.
- If daily and weekly working hours vary, the employment contract shall state this and stipulate or provide a basis for calculating when the work will be performed.
- The arrangements that apply for shift changes and work beyond agreed working hours, including payment for such work, shall be specified in the employment contract.
- If the employee is hired out from a staffing agency, their employment contract must include information on the identity of the hiring company.
- The employment contract shall specify the right to training provided by the employer, if any.
- Benefits offered by the employer related to social security and the names of the institutions receiving payments from the employer in this regard must be included in the employment contract.
Further additional requirements for the contracts of employees posted abroad have been introduced. If an employee is to be posted abroad (from Norway) for a period of minimum four consecutive weeks, the contract shall also regulate the following:
- The country where the work will be performed
- The conditions for the employee’s repatriation, including reimbursement
For Norwegian employees covered by the Posting of Working Directive, the contract must also regulate:
- The employee’s salary entitlement in the host country
- Benefits and reimbursement schemes
- A link to the official national website established in the host country
2.2 New regulations regarding the probation period
Under the current rule, the probation period may be agreed upon for up to six months. From 1 July 2024, the probation period for employees in temporary roles cannot exceed half the agreed contract term if the employment is shorter than 12 months. However, the probationary period may still be extended if the employee has been absent from work during the probationary period and the absence has not been caused by the employer.
Furthermore, it will now be explicitly prohibited to agree on or enforce a new probationary period if the employee continues in the same or substantially similar position. If permanent employment follows a temporary employment, a new probationary period may nevertheless be agreed upon if the employee’s previous period of employment and a new probationary period in total do not exceed six months.
2.3 New presumption rules
The Norwegian Parliament has passed a new provision in the Employment Act stating that if the employment contract does not specify that the employment relationship is temporary, it shall be presumed that the employment is permanent unless proven otherwise.
In addition, if the employer has not informed the employee of the scope of the position (the full-time equivalent percentage), the employee’s opinion about the scope will be assumed and applied, unless other grounds are shown to be highly probable.
3. New legislation adopted in 2023
The new provisions that were implemented in the WEA in 2023 will also continue to have an impact in 2024. Many of the new provisions adopted in 2023 and 2024 are intended to strengthen employees’ rights and may have a significant impact on the way businesses in Norway operate. Also, internal procedures will need adapting.
Amongst others, the changes in 2023 consisted of the following:
- Restricted access to hire labour from staffing agencies. Employers are now stripped of the option to hire from staffing agencies based on the temporary character of the job.
- A general ban on hiring from staffing agencies for construction sites in some parts of Norway has been implemented.
- Strengthened protection for posted workers in Norway in accordance with EU Directive 2018/957. Posted workers who have been in Norway for more than twelve months are now covered by most of the provisions in the WEA. Previously, only certain provisions of the WEA applied to these employees.
- Trade unions have the right to collectively institute legal proceedings in the event of illegal hires from temporary work agencies.
- A formal default rule for full-time employment was adopted. Any need for deviations from this default rule, for example, the need for part-time employment, must be documented. The documentation shall be accessible to the employee’s elected representatives, and the matter of part-time employment shall be discussed with the employee’s elected representatives.