Swedish employers sick of sick leave

Parliament will decide in a matter of days how to change sick-leave benefits. Now, DN reported, panicked employers are looking for ways to fire employees who have been away due to illness.

Almegas, an organization for employers, told the paper it is starting to get questions like: how can we fire employees who have been on long-term sick leave? Exactly which questions are allowed during an interview?

Almega’s chief executive Jonas Milton told the paper: “It feels a bit unsavoury, but employers are starting to ‘have a clear out’.”

Until now, employers haven’t worried about the cost of keeping someone on the roster – beyond finding a replacement. But the rules are about to change, particularly for small companies.

An anonymous employer with about six employees says his company, with profit of just 100,000 SEK, cannot afford the expense of having an employee who doesn’t come to work. The alternative, he told the paper, is probably to fire all of his employees and have them work for him as self-employed consultants.

“The proposal is going to hit small companies harder than big companies,” said Ulf Lindberg, who is head of economic policy at Almega. “There is an imbalance between companies’ responsibilities and their resources.”

Svenska Dagbladet reported that unions may step in where employers want to step back. Saco, the Swedish Confederation of Professional Associations, has announced it will offer insurance for long-term sick leave. Beneficiaries would get extra pay while on long-term leave as well as get a health ombudsman. The new insurance will be offered to union members from the New Year.

Perhaps the best part, from a member perspective, is that no one will need a doctor’s note to qualify.

Parliament will decide on December 8th how the sick-leave benefits will change, and new rules will take effect on January 1st. Other changes may prevent private patients from going to publicly-funded hospitals, putting an end to the possibility employers once had to help employees cut the long lines for Swedish healthcare.

According to SvD The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise “considers that companies already pay too much for people on sick leave”. Their figures show that sick leave cost employers 170 billion crowns last year.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet