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Coronavirus - Taking actions as an employer - Sweden

  • Sweden
  • Coronavirus - Country overview

13-03-2020

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 the government measures that have been taken in relation to the labour market.

Sick pay for day 1 of sickness

The government has decided to compensate employees for day 1 of sickness (karensdag). Employers will continue to be obliged to pay for day 2-14 of sickness. The compensation paid by the government for day 1 of sickness will be the same amount paid in sickness benefit from the Social Insurance Agency, capped at SEK 804 per day. This measure is in force for a month and a half and may be prolonged.

Shortening of working hours

A bill is currently in progress by the government, where it is suggested that the employers should get an increased opportunity to shorten the employees' working hours and reduce their salaries whilst receiving financial aid from the state (korttidsarbete), which would facilitate for companies to continue their operations during Covid-19. If the bill results in new legislation, such legislation will likely be in effect from the 1st of May 2020.

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.

 

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