New changes to the Swedish Work Environment Act

The Work Environment Act is to be amended with effect from 1 July 2014. The amendments will introduce a system of civil penalties in place of the existing criminal sanctions for breaches of work environment regulations. This has resulted in the Work Environment Authority reviewing and amending approximately 40 of their provisions regarding penalties, most of which will take effect at the same time as the changes to the Work Environment Act.

At present, many breaches of the work environment regulations go unpunished. Investigations take a considerable amount of time and resources, often involving the Work Environment Authority as well as police and prosecutors. Therefore the Swedish Parliament has decided to introduce a new system of penalties, which is believed to be more efficient, easier to administer and less resource intensive than the present arrangements. The new system means that the Work Environment Authority can fine an employer who violates the rules, instead of referring the matter to the police, prosecutors and courts.

The new penalty charges vary depending on the ‘risk level’ of the offence;  a violation that could put lives at risk, for example, attracts a higher penalty than one where the potential consequences are less serious. Penalty levels are also dependant on the size of the business (based on number of employees). For example, the minimum fee for breaches at risk level four is 100,000 SEK for the smallest businesses and 1,000,000 SEK for the largest.

Proposed changes to disability discrimination legislation

The Swedish government has proposed a new Bill which will make changes to existing disability discrimination legislation in relation to lack of availability or accessibility for disabled people. In summary, lack of availability or accessibility will, on its own, be a ground for discrimination and there will no longer be a need for it to be specifically linked to either indirect or direct discrimination, as now.

The Bill states that a lack of availability or accessibility shall mean that a person with a disability is disadvantaged when reasonable steps have not been taken to put the person in a comparable situation to people without such disabilities. What is reasonable in a particular case shall be determined on the basis of accessibility requirements in law or regulation. Economic and practical considerations will also be taken into account.

The ban will apply in all areas covered by discrimination law, including working life, education, health-care and the supply of goods and services. Certain exemptions are, however, proposed. 

The new legislation is expected to take effect on 1 January 2015.