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Coronavirus - Return to work guidelines - Sweden

  • Sweden
  • Coronavirus
  • Coronavirus - Country overview
  • Coronavirus - Return to work

13-05-2020

Recalling Employees to Work

There is no statutory entitlement for employees to work from home. It is the employer who ultimately decides if employees may work from home and whether flexible working hours should be allowed. Strictly from a legal point of view, employers may order the employees back to the office whenever they wish. There are, however, recommendations from the Swedish Work Environment Authority that employees should be allowed to work from home or have flexible (but not reduced) working hours in order to avoid rush-hour on public transport, especially in the Stockholm region which is the most affected in the country.

Before ordering employees back to the office, employers must assess the risks from a working environment perspective. Employers have a general obligation to maintain a safe work environment and this includes requiring employees to remain at home if they have symptoms or otherwise suspect that they may be infected. Particular attention must be paid to documented risk groups, such as employees with pre-existing medical conditions (high blood pressure cardiovascular diseases etc.). Employers should also consider other categories of personnel which, although not directly identified as risk groups for Covid-19, may be vulnerable in general, such as employees who are pregnant. Risk-group or other vulnerable employees may have a more extensive right to work from home and special measures may need to be taken to ensure a safe work environment for these employees upon their return, such as allowing them to work in a secluded area if possible. Necessary measures must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and in consultation with the affected employees.

Obligation to consult

Employers bound by a collective bargaining agreement are generally required to consult with the trade unions that are parties to the applicable agreement before deciding on significant changes to the company’s operations. A decision to call back employees to the office likely doesn’t trigger the consultation requirement but it is advisable to consult legal if the company is bound by a collective bargaining agreement to confirm that no union consultations will be necessary.

In the absence of a collective bargaining agreement, there are no union consultation requirements that must be observed when calling back employees to the office. If a union which has a member amongst the affected employees calls for consultations, the employer must, however, attend such a meeting.

General

If there is a safety representative or safety committee at the workplace, the employer should involve them in all matters relating to the work environment, including discussions on whether it is safe to call back employees to the office and the measures that need to be taken to ensure their safety upon return.

The general obligation to ensure a safe work environment does not mean that employers are responsible for all potential exposure for Covid-19 in the workplace. Employers will, however, be required to take reasonable measures, which, in addition to what is stated above, could entail:

  • providing alcohol-based hand sanitizers
  • allowing employees, (to the extent possible) to sit more spaciously in order to maintain social distancing
  • continuously reminding employees to call in sick or work from home when experiencing symptoms or suspecting that they are infected

It should also be noted that employers have no right to demand that employees undergo medical exams or provide medical certificates showing that they do not have Covid-19. Thus, even though it may be for a good cause, an employer (employers within the healthcare/medical sector excluded) cannot force the employees to undergo Covid-19 screening before entering the workplace.

It should finally be pointed out that employees should be given clear information before they are called back to the office. A few days’ notice is recommended so that employees can adapt and express any questions or concerns.

For more information contact

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