The proposal is an attempt to avoid a situation where people move straight from sick leave to early retirement because their employer cannot find them a new position in the organisation.
Speaking to Göteborgs Posten, Hans Karlsson, minister for working life in Sweden’s Social Democrat government, said that the government intends to introduce a scheme whereby people who are on sick leave from a permanent job can take a new job with a new employer on a trial basis, subsidised by the state.
“These people often get stuck in a rut and gradually slip into early retirement,” he said, adding that the new support system would help people stay in touch with the employment market.
Sick leave has become a hot political issue in Sweden, with 700,000 people of Sweden’s population of nine million either on sick benefits or in early retirement.
The conservative opposition has proposed tackling the problem using financial incentives, including tax cuts for middle-income earners, accompanied by benefit cuts to encourage people on sick leave to apply for jobs.
The government has laid emphasis on rehabilitation to get people back into work, and the National Social Insurance Board has started to place tougher demands on people on long-term sick leave, and in many cases has withdrawn sick benefits.
This tougher attitude by the insurance board has caused controversy, with many complaining that their benefits have been withdrawn suddenly and without warning. Hans Karlsson told GP that he was concerned that people were being treated unfairly.
“The social insurance board must explain the rules to to people straight away, not leave them in a vacuum and then suddenly after two months tell them that they don’t have the right to sick benefits,” he said, adding that he believes that the insurance board “essentially works well, although it makes mistakes.”