international employment law firm alliance L&E Global

Sweden: The Swedish Police Authority’s Decision to Terminate an Employee who had a Stroke was Deemed Lawful by Labour Court

Author: Karolina Sundqvist

In 2009, an employee of the Swedish Police Authority suffered from a stroke that resulted in a reduced ability to perform work. Following a four-year sick leave, he returned to work at 75% capacity, carrying out adapted tasks within an investigation group until 2019. He then underwent a work capacity assessment and received vocational training. In the summer of 2022, the employee was dismissed as he, according to his employer, was permanently incapable of performing work of any importance to the Police Authority. The employee’s trade union argued that the reduction in work capacity did not constitute objective grounds for termination under the Swedish Employment Protection Act and that the Police Authority had discriminated against the employee by not taking reasonable measures for accessibility pursuant to the Swedish Discrimination Act.

A permanent reduction in an employee´s ability to work as a result of illness or injury does not constitute objective grounds for termination unless the reduction is permanently so substantial that the employee is unable to perform work of any importance to the employer. The employer is obliged to adjust working conditions or take other appropriate measures to facilitate the employee’s rehabilitation and return to work, although the extent of such measures varies depending on the circumstances at hand.

An additional work capacity assessment carried out in 2022 showed that the employee was not fit for his current role, with no foreseeable return to regular work in the near future or within the next year. In addition, the Police Authority’s reassignment investigation concluded that there was no suitable vacancy that matched the employee´s qualifications or work capacity. The employee either lacked formal qualifications or the available positions were too demanding for him. As for the adapted tasks that the employee performed as part of the investigation team, they could not be sufficiently offered to occupy his working hours. As a result, the Labour Court concluded that the employee´s incapacity was permanent in the sense required for the disability to constitute objective grounds for termination.

The Court then examined whether the Police Authority had fulfilled its obligations in relation to adaptation, rehabilitation, and reassignment. The Court found that it was evident from the assessment of the employee´s ability to work that he was unable to occupy any of the vacancies identified in the reassignment investigation, whether on a full-time or part-time basis. There was no requirement for the Police Authority to create a new position based on the tasks that the employee managed to carry out. Consequently, the Police Authority had fulfilled its obligations, and the Court found that the termination had been based on objective grounds.

Furthermore, the Court found that, as a result of the employee’s reduced ability to work, the employee was not in a situation comparable to that of a person without such a disability and that he would not have been able to reach such a comparable situation through the Police Authority’s reasonable measures for accessibility. The Court, therefore, concluded that the Police Authority had not discriminated against the employee.

Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-House Counsel

Termination of an employee with a reduced ability to work due to illness requires that the reduction in work capacity is permanently so substantial that the employee is unable to perform work of any importance to the employer. The employer has a far-reaching obligation to facilitate the employee’s return to work through rehabilitation, adaptation, and reassignment measures.