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COVID-19: Back To Work in Sweden

1. Emergency Measures

Decrees, orders or guidelines in effect and pertaining to reopening facilities.

There are no general decrees, orders or guidelines issued by the Swedish Government regarding reopening facilities or operations. Since no facilities have been forced to close by the authorities in Sweden, there are also no orders regarding opening up facilities. All closures have been made on a voluntary basis.

Optimal approach to keep track of the latest updates.

Updates are available on the Public Health Agency website: https://www.folkhalsomyndigheten.se/the-public-health-agency-of-sweden/

2. State Aid

Government subsidies and special relief resources allocated to support employers, and workers, in their efforts to maintain employment and pull through the crisis.

The Swedish Government has adopted specific regulations regarding short time working arrangements that shall apply during 2020. Short time working arrangements subject to these specific regulations are referred to as short-term layoffs and entitle employees to retain more than 90% of their salary, even if their hours of work are reduced by 20%, 40% or 60%. During May, June and July 2020, the working hours can be reduced by 80% as a temporary measure. The short time working arrangement is an alternative to dismissal and means that the business, and its employees, agree that the employees shall, temporarily, have reduced hours of work and salary. The state funded financial support covers most of the costs for the reduced working hours during this period, which entails that businesses may temporarily cut their salary costs by half (approximately). In order for a business to receive state funded financial support when utilising short time working arrangements, employers will have to submit an application to, and for approval from, the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth. The financial support paid by the state is calculated based on the employee’s ordinary salary, however, without consideration of any salary in excess of SEK 44 000 per month. The financial support will mainly be paid out for a period of up to six months, but an extension of support for up to three months will be possible should the financial difficulties persist. The new regulations entered into effect on 7 April 2020, but may be applied retroactively from 16 March 2020. As such, the new regulations on short time working arrangements and so-called short-term layoffs will provide businesses with alternatives to dismissal, should it be necessary to temporarily discontinue operations.

Allocation of costs for short time working arrangements according to the Swedish Ministry of Finance

Level Reduction of working hours Reduction of salary Employer State Employer’s reduced cost of labour
1 20% 4% 1% 15% -19%
2 40% 6% 4% 30% -36%
3 60% 7,5% 7,5% 45% -53%
4 80% 12% 8% 60% -72%


3. Health and Safety Measures

Requirements mandated by law or any official guidance.

There are no requirements mandated by law. However, the Public Health Agency of Sweden recommends that all employers take measures to limit the spread of the Coronavirus (see below for examples of such measures).

Measures typically implemented by employers and the associated legal risks, limitations, obligations and issues to consider.

Measures typically implemented by employers can be, for example, to set up information for members, staff, customers and other visitors, mark distance on the floor, furnish or otherwise create space to avoid congestion, hold digital meetings, offer the opportunity to wash hands with soap, as well avoid group gatherings, especially in confined spaces. Temperature monitoring is not a common practice in Sweden, since such data can be considered sensitive personal data. While some employers have recommended that their employees should wear face masks, compliance seems to be the exception rather than the norm.

4. Teleworking

Policies and procedures for telework once the business reopens.

Employers are encouraged to use teleworking if possible and many employers in Sweden have adopted a policy for employees to utilise teleworking, until the situation with the Coronavirus has subsided. Employers who offer their employees the option to work from home, are still responsible for their employees’ work environment. As such, employers should be responsive to employees’ requests to borrow or buy a better computer screen, keyboard, chair or other related work equipment. Employees still have an obligation to observe the duty of loyalty towards their employers, even if they are working from home, which means that they have to maintain security levels and keep the employer’s information confidential.

5. Managing COVID-19-Related Employee Issues

Management of quarantine, childcare and medical leave for employees affected by COVID-19.

If an employee has symptoms of COVID-19 or otherwise feels sick, the employee should call in sick. During the period of illness, the employee will receive sick pay from the employer during the first 14 days, and then compensation from the Swedish Social Insurance Office. If an employee’s child is sick, the employee can stay home to take care of the sick child. Such time is considered as temporary parental leave and entitles the employee to parental benefits from the Social Insurance Office. If a close relative is sick, there are special regulations under which the employee can be on unpaid leave, for a short period, in order to take care of a sick relative.

Employees who fear infection and refuse to work.

Such refusals shall of course be taken seriously, and the employer is responsible for taking measures to make sure that the workplace is a safe environment for employees to perform their work. If the employer has taken reasonable measures, and the employee still refuses to come in to work and is without a valid reason for doing so, it can ultimately be considered as a breach of the employment agreement, giving rise to a cause for dismissal.

Disclosure of employees who are infected.

Information regarding infected employees is considered sensitive personal data which should not be processed by the employer unless there is a specific reason to do so. Generally, the processing and disclosure of such data is unlawful and should therefore be avoided.

6. Cost-Reduction Strategies

To what extent can employers implement the following cost-reduction strategies as a result of COVID-19, and what are the primary limitations on each? 

  • Furloughs.

Short-term layoffs are an alternative to dismissal and entitle employees to retain almost 90% of their salary, even if their hours of work are reduced by 20%, 40%, 60% or 80%. Full furloughs are generally not utilised, since an employee who is released from work is still entitled to full salary and benefits.

  • Salary reductions.

Salary reductions are offered as part of the short-term layoffs scheme. Other salary reductions can also be applied, but generally require the employee’s consent.

  • Redundancy.

Employees can be made redundant due to the negative financial impacts of the Coronavirus. Employers who wish to make employees redundant in Sweden, need to follow the last-in-first-out principle. Once redundant, the employees are entitled to full salary and benefits during the notice period. There is no statutory severance in Sweden.

  • Facility closure.

Employers are free to close down their facilities, but still need to pay employees’ salary, even if the employees are not working. Support for salary costs can be obtained under the short-term layoffs scheme.

7. Best Practices

Tips, recommendations and common pitfalls.

  • If the employer qualifies for support under the short-term layoffs scheme, the employer should apply for state aid under this relief program.
  • If possible, employees should be encouraged to work from home and instructed to avoid all unnecessary travel.
  • Many employers have already signed agreements with new hires, who are planning to begin working following the end of summer (2020). Such employers should re-evaluate if these hires are still needed, since it is much easier to terminate the employment agreements of new hires before any work commences, unless the employer will place such new hires on a “probationaryperiod at the start of their
Any questions

Ask our member firm Cederquist in Sweden