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The employment relationship
What laws and regulations govern the employment relationship?
The main laws governing the employment relationship in Sweden are:
- the Employment Protection Act (1982/80);
- the Employment (Co-determination in the Workplace) Act (1976/580);
- the Work Environment Act (1977/1160);
- the Discrimination Act (2008/567);
- the Annual Leave Act (1977/480);
- the Working Hours Act (1982/673);
- the Parental Leave Act (1995/584); and
- the Trade Union Representatives (Status at the Workplace) Act (1974/358).
In addition to the laws listed above, employers must also be aware of the derogations included in collective bargaining agreements, if any, since such provisions may take precedence over those set forth in statutory law.
Who do these cover, including categories of worker?
The Swedish employment legislation is applicable in its entirety to those employees who work permanently in Sweden and in general to all categories of workers. That said, employees whose duties and conditions of employment are such that they may be deemed to occupy a managerial or comparable position may be excluded in some cases, in particular with regard to employment protection.
Are there specific rules regarding employee/contractor classification?
While Swedish employment legislation applies broadly to employees only and not contractors, pursuant to the Swedish tax regulations, certain contractors may be considered as employees. Consequently, such individuals may be treated as ordinary employees with regard to, for instance, employment protection.
Must an employment contract be in writing?
There are no formal requirements for employment contracts: they can be entered into either orally or in writing. It is, however, customary to conclude them in writing.
By contrast, regardless of the form of the contract (whether written or oral), an employee has a right to written information in respect of all the terms and conditions relevant to the employment contract or employment relationship. The employer must provide the employee with such information within one month of the commencement of work.
Are any terms implied into employment contracts?
Yes, many of the principles that govern the employment relationship and that are based in case law are implied in employment contracts – for instance, the employer’s right to lead the work at the workplace and the employee’s duty to be loyal to the employer.
In contrast to many other countries, employment contracts in Sweden are fairly brief, especially if the employer is bound by a collective bargaining agreement. These collectively agreed terms and conditions, however, effectively add to the employment contract together with the implied terms.
Are mandatory arbitration/dispute resolution agreements enforceable?
Arbitration/dispute resolution agreements are enforceable in Sweden. However, an individual agreement is invalid where it excludes or limits the employees' rights to bring any complaints to a court or tribunal.
How can employers make changes to existing employment agreements?
The employment relationship in Sweden is based on the freedom of contract, and the parties are fairly free to agree upon the terms and conditions of the employment. However, the employer has only limited ability to unilaterally change employment contracts that are already agreed. As a result, an employer can make changes to existing employment contracts only if the employee agrees to the changes. However, some changes – such as changing the employee’s activity level – may be done unilaterally without having to obtain the employee’s consent before any change.
Is a distinction drawn between local and foreign workers?
A ‘posted worker’ is defined as an employee who has been sent by the employer to another country to work for a limited period of time. In comparison to local workers to whom all Swedish employment legislation is applicable, the employee that has been sent to Sweden is covered by only certain provisions of the Swedish employment legislations and, if any, the applicable collective bargaining agreement during the period of employment in Sweden. The general framework applicable to employees posted in Sweden is set forth in the Swedish Posting of Workers Act (1999/678).
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