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Coronavirus - Taking actions as an employer - Sweden

  • Sweden
  • Coronavirus - Country overview

21-04-2020

Amid the outbreak of Covid-19, we are receiving many questions on what actions employers can or should take for their employees. As the virus spreads, it becomes increasingly important to be prepared for what you can do to help limit the spread of the virus, and to protect your employees and business.

General information

Employers must monitor the situation at their workplace(s), have a continuous dialogue with the safety representative (skyddsombud) and investigate, carry out, and follow up activities in such a way that ill-health is prevented and a good working environment is maintained for all employees.

An open dialogue in the workplace is important, as employers should address any concerns expressed in the workplace and explain what they are doing as an employer to maintain the health and safety of their workforce. Given the escalation of measures in the last few days, meetings should where possible be conducted by Skype, Teams etc and travel should be kept to a minimum.

It is also advisable to remind employees of the general preventive measures recommended by The Swedish Public Health Agency, such as washing your hands often with soap and warm water and using alcohol-based hand rub. The Swedish Public Health Agency has a webpage designated for information on Covid-19 which is continuously being updated.

In addition, please note the following:

Can employees be asked to work from home?

In response to an identified risk and for the purpose of ensuring the health and safety of all employees, employers can require employees to work from home where possible. If there are substantial risks of exposure to Covid-1, the employer may even be obliged to order an employee to work from home in order to keep a safe work environment for other employees. It is, however, normally not possible to send employees home without pay, unless they are on sick leave (see below).

Can employees be forced to go on sick leave or take vacation?

Employees who are too unwell to work should call in sick. In most cases, this will not be a problem. However, employees cannot normally be forced to go on sick leave. In situations where a sick employee should not be at work but refuses to go on sick leave, the employer will reasonably have a good case in refusing to pay salary. If it turns out to be a mild cold and not Covid-19, it is, however, not entirely certain whether the employee can be sent home without pay. Our recommendation is to have a dialogue with the employee in question, and to try to come to an agreement for the employee to call in sick. If such a dialogue is unsuccessful, you should contact counsel to evaluate whether you have to pay salary in the individual case.

In other cases, where employees are well enough to work but must refrain from work due to being infected or are suspected of being infected, there is a possibility to receive “disease carrier allowance” from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency. The allowance is 80 percent of the employee's salary but capped to SEK 804 per day. Employers do not have to pay salary to employees that are receiving disease carrier allowance. A medical certificate is always necessary and the employee should get in contact with the Swedish Social Insurance Agency. The Swedish government has also announced that the carrier allowance will be increased due to the present situation.

Please note that employees cannot be forced to take vacation in Covid-19 times. They can, however, take vacation days should they desire and the employer agrees, for example if they are not sick but not eligible to receive disease carrier allowance either.

Government measures

The government has also been forced to take action in many different aspects and areas of society. Here is a brief description of some of the government measures that have been taken in relation to the labour market.

Government pays sick pay

The government has confirmed that it will cover all sick pay costs, meaning that if an employee is sick, the government will pay the sick pay from the first day of sickness, and not as of the 15th day which is the current rule. This will apply during April and May (but can of course be extended further).

Shortening of working hours

The Swedish government has introduced a number of measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and one of these measures is state funding to employers for shortening of working hours with 20, 40 or 60%. In simplified terms, the financial support from the state amounts to three quarters of the costs for shortening of working hours. Employers must continue to pay the employees their regular salary minus the applicable amount in salary reduction set out by the government (4-7,5%, depending on how much the working hours have been reduced). To be able to apply for financial support, a number of requirements must be met. One of these requirements it that the employer must enter into written agreements for shortening of working hours with at least 70% of workforce (unless the company is bound by a CBA in which case other rules apply). The Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth has a webpage designated for information on this scheme which is continuously being updated.

The government has recently proposed a bill which will allow employers to reduce working hours by 80% as well (and not just 20, 40 or 60% which is the current rule) during May, June and July 2020. The applicable percentage in salary reduction for 80% shortening of working hours is 12%. This bill will likely enter into force on 1 June.

Other measures

As part of the savings package launched by the government in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, employers may also, among other things, wait with paying three months’ social security charges, employee income tax and VAT during a maximum of twelve months, in order to improve cashflow. The government has also implemented a temporary decrease of the employer’s contribution for all employers during 1 March to 30 June 2020. The decrease applies for up to 30 employees and on salaries not exceeding SEK 25,000 per month. This would result in a tax relief of up to SEK 5,300 per employee per month.

Do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or need advice related to the outbreak of Covid-19 or otherwise. You can contact the Employment Law Group directly or send an email to Eversheds Sutherland Sweden’s Covid-19 helpdesk at corona-helpdesk@eversheds-sutherland.se.