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Global employment briefing: Sweden, October 2018

  • Sweden
  • Employment law


A new act on construction contractors’ liability for unpaid sub-contractor salaries

A new act on contractors’ responsibility for salary claims is being introduced, setting out minimum rights for employees not covered by a collective bargaining agreement. For the purposes of the act, a contractor means a company that constructs, maintains, rebuilds or demolishes buildings or facilities.

While an employer has the primary responsibility for salary claims, the new act provides that employees of subcontractors may also claim against contractors higher up in the chain under certain conditions. First, they should turn to the contractor that hired their employer to perform work as a subcontractor. If this subcontractor does not pay within 14 weekdays or cannot be reached, they should turn to the main contractor. Both the subcontractor as well as the main contractor have an obligation to pay the claim within seven weekdays. If a contractor who is not the employer is obliged to pay the salary claim, it has a right of recourse through which the costs can be recovered from the employer.

The new act enters into force on 1 January 2019.

Refusal to shake interviewer’s hand protected by the ECHR

In a recent case in the Swedish Labour Court, a company was found liable to pay SEK 40,000 damages for discrimination after a male interviewer had interrupted a recruitment process when the candidate, a woman, had refused to shake his hand on Islamic belief grounds. She had asked if she could put her hand on her heart instead by way of a greeting.

The woman was applying for a position as an interpreter to mainly perform work through video or telephone. The company argued however that under company policy employees must be able to introduce themselves the same way to people of all genders no matter what their position is and that this was by way of a handshake.

The court held that the company policy on handshakes indirectly discriminated against the woman and other persons with the same religion and that this could not be justified. An unwillingness to shake hands with persons of the other sex could be considered a religious manifestation protected by the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

Occupational requirements discriminatory to the disabled

A staffing company that provides its customers with part-time workers had a policy under which it only employed people who already had another main occupation for at least 50 percent of their time.

A job applicant with a chronic joint decease had been granted sickness compensation from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency corresponding to 50 percent of full-time work. The staffing company did not consider this to be an occupation in accordance with their policy and interrupted the recruitment process.

The Swedish Employment Court held that the job applicant had been indirectly discriminated due to her disability and awarded her damages in the total amount of SEK 110,000.