international employment law firm alliance L&E Global

Sweden: A Vaccination Policy for Nurses was Considered Justified by the Labour Court

Author: Nina Voigt Dahl

A healthcare company that runs a hospital for the elderly introduced a vaccination policy with vaccination requirements for Covid-19 in the autumn of 2021. The reason for the policy was to ensure patients’ safety and a good and safe work environment for employees. The company stated that it was following the recommendations of the Swedish Public Health Authority and the National Board of Health and Welfare that employees should be vaccinated.

The case in the Labour Court concerned three assistant nurses who had not been vaccinated against Covid-19. According to the employer, they were, therefore, no longer allowed to work with patients, and, as there was no possibility of redeployment, they were sent home without salary. However, their employment continued during the suspension period. The dispute concerned whether the vaccination requirement was justified, whether the three assistant nurses should have been paid during the suspension period, whether the company’s behaviour violated the applicable collective bargaining agreement, and whether the company’s behaviour breached the Employment Protection Act.

The Labour Court found that the company, under the special circumstances and the stress of the Covid-19 pandemic, made a correct assessment and that the vaccination requirement was justified. The company’s interest in minimizing the risk of spreading the infection and protecting the patients outweighed the nurses’ interest in not being vaccinated. The court concluded that the company had not violated the applicable collective bargaining agreement or the Employment Protecting Act. Lastly, the court reviewed the vaccination policy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The court concluded that the application of the vaccination policy was legally justified and proportionate to its legitimate aim.

Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-House Counsel

This case concerns very specific circumstances related to the pandemic and should not be interpreted as a general possibility for all employers to impose a vaccination requirement on their employees. However, it is an interesting case that highlights the balancing of interests when applying requirements that may be considered to infringe employees’ personal integrity.