Developments

Since 2010 Sweden has seen a 70% (approximately) increase in reported work-related illness. Organisational and social factors are the second-most common cause of work-related illness. The Work Environment Authority has identified the causes behind the increase and found them to be related to workload, work pace and work environment.

In an effort to keep up with the ever-changing labour market and working life, and in light of new knowledge about the causes of work-related illness, the authority has issued new regulations regarding organisational and social work environment, effective as from March 31 2016.

The new regulations – which have been developed in agreement with labour market parties – are intended to support employers in their efforts to prevent workplace illness. The regulation clarifies the Occupational Safety and Health Act and aims to enable employers to follow rules and regulations. The main focus of the new regulations is the preventive measures concerning work environment. The preventive measures are intended to encourage productivity and creativity, while decreasing the number of cases attributable to organisational or social factors and reducing sick leave.

Regulatory scope

The regulations cover knowledge requirements, workload, goals, working hours and victimisation. Employers must ensure that managers and supervisors know how to prevent and handle unhealthy work loads and victimisation (eg, bullying and discrimination).

The employer must ensure that assignments and responsibilities do not lead to an unhealthy workload. This means that resources must be adapted to work requirements. Employers must also ensure that allocation of working hours does not lead to illness and that there are systems in place regarding how to handle victimisation. Further, employers must clarify that victimisation is not acceptable in the workplace and take all necessary steps to counteract a work environment in which victimisation can occur. Employers should ensure that there are systems in place for dealing with victimisation and that employees are aware of these systems.

The purpose of the new regulations is to promote a good work environment and prevent illness caused by work environment conditions. The regulations are applicable to all activities where employees carry out work for an employer. The regulation does not apply to workers in education or those under institutional treatment. However, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers still have a responsibility to workers that are not considered employees, but who perform certain duties for the employer.

New regulations

The purpose of the new regulations is to facilitate employer compliance with existing rules and regulations and to better support employers in preventing workplace illness. The new regulations entail higher administrative costs for employers. However, administrative costs are likely to be recovered through decreased costs for employee absence assignable to illness and rehabilitation. If an employer fails to comply with the rules, the Work Environment Authority can present a claim towards the employer and fines may be imposed.

With respect to employees, the new regulations are expected to decrease the risk of illness due to unhealthy working conditions or victimisation. The regulations are also expected to support employees in workplace communication concerning organisational and social work environment issues.

The authority has already announced that it will follow up on compliance with the new regulations on a broader scale.

For further information on this topic please contact Jörgen Larsson at Wistrand Advokatbyrå by telephone (+46 31 771 21 00) or email (jorgen.larsson@wistrand.se). The Wistrand website can be accessed at www.wistrand.se.

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