• Sweden edition
 
Parental leave mix-up leaves expats struggling
Ingrid holding six-week old Nils. Photo: Ann Törnkvist/The Local

Parental leave mix-up leaves expats struggling

Published: 14 Mar 2014 11:09 GMT+01:00
Updated: 14 Mar 2014 12:05 GMT+01:00

When Swedish Ingrid and her American husband John found out they were expecting their first child, they made sure to get in touch with the Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) in Sweden for help.

How much would they get every month once the baby was born?

Because John was finishing off a contract in the US and had no Swedish income or social security, it would be Ingrid's salary that in the end determined what parental leave the family could access. 

The young Swedish-American couple told The Local that the agency said its staff needed at least six months of pay slips on which to base their calculation.

Ingrid, who was already working at home in Sweden when not busy "being a housewife" on trips to visit John, decided to work even more during her pregnancy to make sure she had a decent income that the agency could base its calculation on. She set to work pulling double shifts. On top of her job as a researcher, she worked nights and weekends at a care home for people with disabilities. 

"I was working 200 hours a month in the autumn, and I did it because I was set on making my maternal leave payments decent," she said. 

Nils was born in February. Six weeks later, the family got bad news. The Social Insurance Agency had included all of Ingrid's income for 2013, rather than the last six months, in their calculation. Which was a problem, as she had spent three months not working when she visited John in the US - three months that dragged down her average monthly salary.

"I'm being punished because I commuted a bit," said Ingrid, 29, who has since appealed the decision. "I was hoping for 15,000 ($2,300), but now it looks like we'll get 13,000."  

While the family is not quite in dire straits despite receiving ($313) less money each month than expected, Ingrid feels the agency had accidentally misled them.

"I spoke to them maybe five, six or even seven times on the phone," she said. 

"It's difficult for us to comment on this particular case because we lack all the information to know what might have happened," Social Security Agency spokeswoman Susan Ottosen told The Local. "It is unfortunate that Ingrid felt that she received the wrong information, but it illustrates that parental leave is a complicated, albeit flexible, system.

For expat families in general, with moves back and forth to Sweden to work and live, the agency recommended really getting to grips with the rules.

"The Swedish social insurance is very good. Many people are aware of that and some take it for granted, but if you live and work abroad you really have to make sure you understand the rules," Ottosen said, underlining that she was not commenting on Ingrid's case in particular.

She described the system as generous but complicated, with the rules explained in English on the agency's website.

"There are specific criteria for parental leave, there are specific criteria for the SGI [income on which parental leave is calculated], specific rules within the EU, and specific rules outside the EU," she said. "And there are different rules for employees and entrepreneurs."

Ingrid said had learned something from the experience. 

"My one piece of advice to anyone moving to Sweden and about to start a family is try to get written advice from the Social Security Agency, so you can argue with them a bit," she said. "I emailed them twice with questions and never got a reply, so that's a bit odd." 

She also said that foreigners who move to Sweden, particularly Americans, would do well to know that one "has to demand" that things get done in Sweden.

"You have to fight a bit to get things," she said. "As an American, you're used to feeling sick, going to the doctor, being told that probably nothing is wrong, but let's run TEN tests anyway.... In Sweden, you have to basically tell them what test you insist on having."

For American or Swedish-American families who want to start a family in Sweden, Ingrid recommends working for an entire year, saving some money, and remembering that most expensive items like a pushchair can be found at a discount on online buy-sell sites such as Blocket. 

"Having a child doesn't have to be an economic nightmare," she said. 

Ann Törnkvist (ann.tornkvist@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Body of Irishman found in Stockholm
Stockholm's Old Town in the rain. Photo: TT

Body of Irishman found in Stockholm

The body of an Irishman who had been missing since November 10th was found in the harbour by Stockholm's Old Town on Thursday, it has emerged. READ  

Ibrahimovic returns as PSG claim top spot
Photo: TT

Ibrahimovic returns as PSG claim top spot

Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his first start for two months as Ligue 1 Champions Paris Saint-Germain went top for the first time this season with a 3-2 win at mid-table Metz on Friday night READ  

Julian Assange
Ecuador 'guarantees' Assange asylum
Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012. Screen grab: SVT

Ecuador 'guarantees' Assange asylum

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was on Friday guaranteed political asylum by Ecuador for "as long as necessary," one day after he lost an appeal against a Swedish warrant for his arrest. READ  

Abba's Björn defends Sweden's Spotify
Swedish artist Laleh alongside Björn Ulvaeus. Photo: Björn Ulvaeus

Abba's Björn defends Sweden's Spotify

Björn Ulvaeus has joined the row over Spotify's streaming costs, saying the music industry had to evolve but admitting that songwriters are losing money. He spoke to The Local's blogger Natalia Brzezinski from his newly adopted home, New York. READ  

Dark weekend looms for southern Sweden
Stockholm City Hall under the cover of clouds. Photo: TT

Dark weekend looms for southern Sweden

Southern Sweden looks set to stay under a blanket of cloud until at least Tuesday, as the darkest November in decades continues. READ  

Gothenburg rabbi reacts to death threats
Rabbi Hillel Ḥayyim Lavery-Yisraëli. Photo: Private

Gothenburg rabbi reacts to death threats

Gothenburg's rabbi received death threats following an attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem earlier this week. Leading figures in the Jewish community have told The Local they fear that anti-Semitism is spreading across Sweden, with Malmö already a key target. READ  

Rush hour chaos after train signal failure
The signal failure is affecting the service between Södertälje and Stockholm. Photo: Thomas Eneborg/TT

Rush hour chaos after train signal failure

Passengers travelling to and from the Swedish capital were forced to make alternative travel arrangements on Friday morning after a signal failure ground the rail service between Södertälje and Stockholm to a standstill. READ  

Swedes' blonde only school photo goes viral
Student Patricia Spång Lundahl holds the sign 'Jimmie sent the rest home' in the protest school photo. Photo. Private

Swedes' blonde only school photo goes viral

A protest school photo by Swedish students to highlight the anti-immigration polices of the Sweden Democrats has generated a storm on social media. READ  

The Local's Countdown to Christmas
Decorating your home for Swedish Christmas
Swedish Christmas decorations on the tree. Photo: Imagebank Sweden

Decorating your home for Swedish Christmas

With Advent just a week away, Swedes are already itching to put out their Christmas decorations. Wondering how to get that Scandinavian Christmas feeling in your own home? Here are The Local's top ten decorating tips for a 'God Jul'. READ  

Israel ambassador to make Sweden return
Isaac Bachman, Israel's ambassador to Sweden. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Israel ambassador to make Sweden return

Isaac Bachman will come back to Stockholm on November 29th stating that it was a "compromise" when he was recalled to Israel following Sweden's decision to recognize Palestine. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
What's on in Sweden: November 20th to 27th
Lifestyle
How to make Swedish mulled wine
Lifestyle
How an Umeå museum is rewriting Swedish history
National
Timeline: Julian Assange sex allegations
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Family life in Stockholm
Blog updates

21 November

Editor’s Blog, November 21st (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello from Stockholm, Our week started with reports another Russian plane had been spotted in Sweden’s airspace,..." READ »

 

21 November

Exclusive Interview with Abba’s Bjorn Ulvaeus (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"Most of us will agree that actions speak louder than words. But when the two are..." READ »

 
 
 
Lifestyle
Five unique backpacker hostels in Stockholm
National
How to boost your career in Skåne, Sweden's south
National
Bones show off Sweden's history
National
What new word are Swedes voting on?
National
Why African Swedes are angry about Santa's helper
National
Pine, tar, and tinder: flavours from the north
Gallery
Selfies, solidarity and Hillary Clinton: Stefan Löfven on tour
Gallery
People-watching: November 19th
Society
Why are international professionals leaving Sweden?
Business & Money
Meet the Swedes who made suits for The Hunger Games
Technology
'I'm among the first Swedes with a microchip'
National
What is Sweden doing about bird flu?
Gallery
Property of the week: Eriksberg
National
Vecka45: Sweden's most innovative week
Gallery
In Pictures: The clubs and loves of Sweden's Sven-Göran Eriksson
Society
What's On in Sweden: November 13th to 20th
Gallery
People-watching: November 16th
National
Driving (expats) home for Christmas?
Lifestyle
Make your own Swedish pea soup
Politics
"Totally unacceptable": Defence Minister on Stockholm submarine
Society
The A-Ö guide to making life in Sweden easier
National
How a Swedish party inspired a masterpiece
National
Seen the new Ace of Base yet?
National
Meet the Irish woman thundering into Swedish rock
Gallery
In Pictures: Ace of Base through the years
Society
Ten things you should never say to a Swede
Gallery
People-watching: November 12th
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
National
Opinion: 'We have to talk about Sweden's Isis fighters'
Business & Money
Price hike for new mortgages in Sweden
National
Toy store catalogues 'too white' in Sweden
National
Pirate Bay co-founder released from prison
National
Southern Sweden had 201 days of summer
Gallery
Sweden's ten most powerful people
Gallery
Property of the week: Mariestad
National
Introducing... Healthcare in Stockholm
National
What you need to know about Stockholm hospital bug epidemic
Lifestyle
Young Serbian shouts for students in Sweden
Lifestyle
How to make your own chocolate kladdkaka
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

819
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
aa-europe.org/sweden
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists
Click here for the full job description