Ole Kristian Olsby February 9 2022 Proposed amendments to Working Environment Act intend to strengthen employees' rights to full-time employment Littler Norway | Employment & Immigration - Norway Ole Kristian Olsby Employment & Immigration Legislating main rule on full-time and obligation to document need for part-time employmentStrengthening preferential right for part-time employeesOutlookOn 17 January 2022, the Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion sent out proposals for amendments to the Working Environment Act for consultation. The purpose is to strengthen employees' rights to full-time employment. This article provides an overview of what these amendments mean for employers.Legislating main rule on full-time and obligation to document need for part-time employmentThe goal of strengthening the right to full-time employment is part of both the Labour Party's "100-day plan" and the government's Hurdal platform. On the 96th day of the new red-green government's 100-day plan, the bills on the right to full-time employment were announced.What does the proposal entail?As of 2022, there is no legal provision for full-time work to be the main rule in Norwegian working life. Therefore, the government has proposed a new provision that will apply to all businesses in all sectors. The proposed provision:legislates a main rule on employment in a full-time position;imposes an obligation on the employer to document a possible need for part-time employment; andinstructs the employer, among other things related to the documentation, to discuss the question of the need for part-time employees with employee representatives.When can employers hire part-time workers? Employers can make part-time hires when there is a "need". According to the proposal, this must be established by way of a robust consideration process. The examples for such considerations that were described in the proposal include:when there is no need for more labour than that which can be provided by a part-time position;when it is not possible to fill the need for labour with a full-time position; for example:due to sick leave;due to the increased need for staffing on different days;due to high activity at special times; andin companies with rotation schemes and work hours at different times of the day and night, and where it is challenging to have an operational work schedule without the use of part-time workers; anddifferent situations where the employee's needs may justify part-time work. The examples of the consultation proposal include, among other things, the employee's health and the fact that the employee may want only a part-time position.Duty to document and discussThe government proposes that the employer must both discuss and document the need for part-time employment before a decision is made on employment in a part-time position.However, according to the proposal, the discussions must take place separately for each part-time employment contract, so that certain cases can be "jointly collected". In companies with many and frequent recruitment processes, separate discussions may be unnecessary and impractical.Companies will be able to adapt the scope, content, structure and implementation of these discussions to their own conditions and needs.This new duty to discuss is applicable in addition to the general duty to discuss in section 14-1(a) of the Act, which provides for a company to discuss, at least annually, its use of part-time employment with the employee representatives.Who enforces the rules? The proposals intend to give the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority the competence to ensure that the documentation and discussion requirement will be implemented.Strengthening preferential right for part-time employeesWhat does the proposal entail? As of 2022, section 14-3 of the Act gives part-time employees a preferential right to an extended position rather than the employer hiring new personnel.The government proposes to extend this rule that the preferential right, in addition to "new employment", shall also apply to hiring practices. Moreover, it proposes that part-time employees should also have a preferential right to extra shifts.This means that a part-time employee is given priority for an extended position and for extra shifts, rather than the employer hiring labour or using on-call substitutes for the relevant work.Requirements for employees and companiesIn order to claim preferential rights today, it is required that the employee is "qualified" and the exercise of preferential rights is not to the "significant disadvantage of the company" (according to section 14-3 of the Act). These requirements will also apply to the proposed rules on preferential rights.As of 2022, the preferential right is limited to the company itself (according to section 14-3 of the Act). The government opines that this delimitation should not apply to preferential rights to extra shifts, and that the delimitation can be made to a smaller area than the business. Therefore, the proposals intend to allow employers to limit the scope to units with at least 50 employees.Should there be a duty to discuss the preferential right for extra shifts?No, according to the consultation proposal, discussions related to preferential rights to extra shifts are impractical.OutlookThe consultation deadline is 19 April 2022. Input from the consultation bodies will be published on the government's website.For further information on this topic please contact Ole Kristian Olsby or Lise Gran at Homble Olsby | Littler by telephone (+47 23 89 75 70) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]). The Homble Olsby | Littler website can be accessed at www.homble-olsby.no.