• Sweden's news in English

New sick leave rules get Swedes back to work

TT/David Landes · 14 Jan 2010, 07:57

Published: 14 Jan 2010 07:57 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

In rural areas, however, the number of people who headed back to work failed to increase, the Swedish Social Insurance Inspectorate (Inspektionen för socialförsäkringen - ISF), reported on Wednesday.

“We see clear signs that more are returning to work due to the time limits. One can say that the time limits mean that those who can return to work do so,” said ISF researcher Pathric Hägglund to the TT news agency.

The ISF, which came into being in July 2009, is charged with carrying out independent reviews of how Sweden’s social insurance system is administered.

It was created in part to examine the results of sweeping changes to Sweden’s sick leave rules which went into force in July 2008 on the initiative of the centre-right Alliance government.

According to the tougher rules, people on long-term sick leave undergo an examination after three months to determine whether they can return to their old workplace, either in their former role or in some other role.

After six months, they undergo another examination to determine their capacity to find any job in the labour market.

In addition, the length of time a person can receive sickness benefits amounting to about 80 percent of earnings is limited to 364 days during a 450-day period.

In some cases, people are then allowed to receive extended sick benefits, which are capped at 75 percent of earnings, for an additional 550 days. People with illnesses deemed to be serious or chronic, however, can continue to receive full benefits for an unlimited amount of time.

In ISF’s report, Hägglund looked into what happened when people receiving benefits underwent their six-month review.

According to the study, about 60 percent more people receiving sickness benefits returned to work after six months after the new rules went into force.

The study also revealed, however, that most of the people who returned to work lived in large cities. Among residents in rural areas there was no marked increase in the number of people returning to work.

Story continues below…

“In an average rural municipality there was no effect. That can have to do with the fact that the job market is a little worse in rural areas. It can also have to do with norms,” said Hägglund.

Effects of the new rules were also larger among older workers than younger workers, which Hägglund believes may have to do with the fact that older workers are better rooted in the job market.

TT/David Landes (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

08:45 January 14, 2010 by xenyasai
They went back because they were not sick anymore; or they went back because they had no choice?
09:35 January 14, 2010 by ooh456
They went back to work because they were using the system to their own advantage... the phony fakers were faking it
09:54 January 14, 2010 by Kaethar
@OOH456: How do you know? It's odd that the locals are ignoring the suicide stories popping up in mainstream media... talk about selective reporting. :/
10:40 January 14, 2010 by NickM
Yes I'm really surprised too that The Local hasn't posted the story about the seriously ill woman who committed suicide because she was forced back into work by Forsakringskasan. Maybe they're going to later today.
10:50 January 14, 2010 by just a question
that woman had a mental problem. That's is why she suicided. Probably she could have commited suicide sooner o later, with or without Forsakringkassan. I'm sorry for her but it's not the problem of Forsakringskassan if she suicided.

It's like if I suicide now because I don't have a job. I cannot blame Arbetsförmedlingen.
11:16 January 14, 2010 by Puffin
@ just a question

Of course Försäkringskassan is partially to blame - they completely botched her case with the two different offices giving her totally different decisions and threatening to cut off her money - what sort of treatment is that.

The woman was receiving a 50% disability pension and at the time was signed off sick for the other 50%

- At her local office her case was under consideration to be increased to 100% disability pension as she had severe mental health and physical problems

- then the other office dealing with the sick leave contacted her and the administrator who had never met her said - that her case had been reviewed, there was nothing wrong with her and that her sick leave was to be cut off and she must get back to full time work

She committed suicide shortly afterwards.

I think that it is shocking that försäkringskassan could both be so poor as to give a person opposite decisions and especially to a person who had severe mental health problems - there must be some duty of care!
12:46 January 14, 2010 by just a question
"they completely botched her case with the two different offices giving her totally different decisions"

That's common in Sweden. We all have experienced that kind of situation (ID cases for example)

This woman wasn't in a bad situation, she had a house, sons that could have take cared of her in case of economical problems, and probably savings account.

People don't suicide just because a no from försäkringskassan,migrationsverket or whatever.
13:21 January 14, 2010 by Twiceshy
now fakers must go back to work!
13:39 January 14, 2010 by Puffin
Actually I think that perhaps The Local should have actually READ the report rather than just relying on the press release ;)

According to the reports conclusions page 27:

"In total the reform has meant that the sick leave lime was reduced on average by 0.35 days, or 0.4 percent"

"Totalt innebär reformen att sjukskrivningstiderna reducerades med i

genomsnitt 0,35 dagar, eller 0,4 procent"

Therefore - notwithstanding the dramatic headlines of the press release - the reform has amounted to in the average sick leave period being reduced by 0.35 days.......

- which is 2 hours 48 minutes!!!!!! - wow big effect!
14:42 January 14, 2010 by rugla
We need a suicide hot line to do the trick; with an auto attendant of course!

Thank you for calling the suicide hot line!

If you are thinking about killing yourself press 1

Need suggestions of how to do it press 2

Places to do it quickly press 3

Need someone to help you press 4

Want to donate your organs press 5

If you want to sell your organs press 6 for quick service by Karolinska Institute

If you are about to kill yourself now press 7 and someone will be with you shortly.

The waiting time is one hour and ten minutes you are 105 on the cue!

If you can´t wait preass 9 #, leave a message and someone will get back to you within the next working day.
16:17 January 14, 2010 by DAVID T

Brilliant :-)
16:40 January 14, 2010 by Formertaxpayer
The claim that Försäkringskassan is to blame for suicide is ridiculous. If suicide rates went up 60 % as well I'd be worried, but that does not seem to be the case. It takes a lot of political guts to state the obvious to a population that for years has been dragged into a dependency on government handouts and without being expected to contribute back. We now see that even small changes that put a bit more pressure on individuals actually work. Stop victimizing people and instead celebrate the fact that more people are now contributing tax money to our common good.
17:57 January 14, 2010 by Puffin
@ Formertaxpayer

Yep I'm sure the Treasury is rubby its hands with glee as a result of the reduction in the amount of time taken as sick leave by an whopping average of 2 hours 48 minutes per person - obviously you are very impressed by the significance of the reform's achievements ;)
19:11 January 14, 2010 by glamelixir
@ rugla

you are amazing. That comment was glorious. you might get a call from the swedish government with a job offer hahaha.

21:15 January 14, 2010 by 2394040
Well, Sweden could handle this matter the way it's handled in the USA. If you have insurance, you can usually get up to 6 months sick leave. If you aren't well at the end of that time, tough. Of course, at that time, you can try for Social Security Disability, which if successful is considered permanent disability. The problem is Social Security Disability usually requires a lawyer and up to two year's waiting. In that case, tough again. Of course during that two years you can live on your savings and/or the kindness of family and/or friends. If you don't have savings and/or the kindness of family and/or friends, well, tough yet again. That basically leaves you only two options: suicide or crime. Suicided is painful and sometimes messy, and by now you probably can't afford to buy anything to kill yourself anyway. You can always jump off a building, but that might backfire and you'll end up paralyzed. I think the best option is a life or crime. If you're successful in crime, and don't get caught, at least you won't starve. If you do get caught, at least you've still got a place to sleep and food to eat. Of course you're in jail, but no one said life was perfect.

I'm not sure, but I think that covers all the choices.

So which system is better???? Sweden or USA???
22:45 January 14, 2010 by J Jack
3 months before exam? make it 3 weeks to be real.
22:52 January 14, 2010 by workforthesoup
Even allowing for exceptions, the rule has had its desired effect to a certain extent.

Older people are less likely to change their jobs, and most secure in their jobs since Swedish laws make it almost impossible to fire an employee who has worked for "n" number of years without significant compensation.

Younger people are less likely to use the system since they are afraid of losing jobs, but again it depends on the definition of young and old and how difficult it is to "replace" a young employee?

Having said that, i still have the following questions

1. What is Old and Young? What age group are we talking about?

Over 50 is Old and everything below is young?

2. Does this necessarily mean that Old people were using up the sickness benefits without actually becoming sick? To spend more time with their grandchildren?

3. How much of this could be a coincidence? Is there any investigation possibility to check if people reported as sick have visited Football matches, "Innebandy", Icehockey, Ski resort(s), Thailand. Then you can get a comparitive figure and rule out coincidence.
09:31 January 15, 2010 by americanska
@ 2394040 - typical that a Swede will react to something that goes against their hard left beliefs. try to bash the US

First off, what do you mean IF you have insurance? Every employee has workers comp. of course if you have a risky job you should maybe be responsible for yourself and get extra insurance that is worth more.

So, who are these people capable of a life of crime but "unable" to work?

So basically your liberal morals believe if the government doesn't baby everyone then people are no longer responsible for their actions? Perfect! lets just ship all the disabled and elderly to a special government institution.
11:10 January 15, 2010 by Puffin
I think that one of the problems is the uncertainty in the Swedish system - even if you have a serious illness and a meducal certificate stating that you are unable to work - the administrator at Försäkringskassan does not have to accept it - they can decide that you have 'working capacity' and reject your application.

Like the case last year of the man who had stomach cancer and a neurological illness affecting his spine. The doctor signed him off sick - but the administrator at försäkringskassan rejected his claim saying that he ought to find work that he can do lying down!

Or the case where the couple's baby died. Both parents were signed off sick. However their cases were dealth with by different administrators. Th father's sick leave was approved whereas the mother's claim was rejected as her administrator apparently did not think that the death of your baby does affects your working capacity

However another weakness of the Swedish system is that not only do they not accept medical certificates from the treating doctor - but usually you do not know that your claim has been rejected untill after the fact. So say you become sick - such as a heart problem

- the doctor signs you off for a month for the illness

- you stay home in accordinace with your medical certificate

- the at the end of the month no money comes - the administrator who you have never met at the admin centre decides that your working capacity is not reduced

It's strange that in a country such as Sweden the social insurance agencies still create a fear of being genuinely ill as there is no guarantee you will get sickness benefit at the end of the month
16:24 January 15, 2010 by NickM
Some interesting points Puffin. The examples you provide suggest that the system is completely confused - the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. The overall impression this leaves is that the system tries to "create a fear" of being ill which is ironic in a country that's well known for its social system.

I think they basically need to integrate many different offices so that they communicate with each other, cut down on bureaucracy and treat all cases on its merits.
18:46 January 15, 2010 by TvAmazon
@ 2394040 Americanska is right and you have it wrong. In the US, employers have to pay a small percentage each month to the workmans comp fund in case an employee is hurt or disabled so they can keep receiving compensation. It does get reduced after a period of time. If the employee is considered to be permanently disabled then they can receive additional Social Security benefits along with Medicare for health. So 2394040 is wrong because the US does have many Social compensation net for people. The problem with nets just like everywhere is that some people fall through the nets while others try to take advantage of them.

I know of one US person who from a very young age (18) had a mental disablility (schizophrenia) that was very intelligent and a good employee (while taking his medication) as a store stocker but chose not to work and take permanent disability because his mother was depressed and did not want to be lonley. I know of another guy who would work for an employer for a while and then claim he had a hurt back and would go on disablility for a long time. When he would need more money he would then find another job and start all over.
01:21 January 16, 2010 by telzey
2394040 is pretty ignorant about how things work in the US, which is typical for a European commenting on the US. S/he leaves out the crucial factor of disabilty insurance, both short and long term, that almost all employers offer and subsidize. This typically pays out at 75% of your salary, up to $100,000, which is a pretty good deal. We also have ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, which makes it very dangerous and almost impossible to get rid of someone simply because of a chronic health problem.

WHich is probably why our work ethic in the US is still pretty strong.
11:12 January 16, 2010 by NickM
What's most amazing is that Forsakringskassan don't have to accept the final decision of the doctor. So a doctor could send them a letter saying the patient is terminally ill, but Forsakringkassan don't have to accept it and declare the person is still fit for work. Since when did a social security agency have the qualifications to be medical experts?

It didn't used to be like this. Up until a few years ago under the Social Democrats the doctor's decision was final. But the current ruling centre-right Moderate party introduced the rule change, This should be no surprise - their priority is to serve the needs of the business community, not the Swedish people.

However, it will be interesting to see if the Social Democrats roll back this system change if they win the national election in September. Since all mainstream political parties basically follow the same business minded neo-liberal agenda, I very much doubt it unfortunately. The Social Democrats will be secretly rubbing their hands that Moderatana have done the dirty work for them and they can come into power and say, "It's too late for us to change the system back now".
14:16 January 16, 2010 by steve_38
I read the above and to say the comments are funny and inaccurate are an understatment.

Sweden has the highest sickness rate in the Europe and the shortest working time, once you include all the holidays.

To say the system is abused in Sweden is an understatment beyond belief.

I managed a big factory in Sweden and the absenteeism was 15% after a year we got it down to less than 5% (both short and long time). The issue is no one gives a s**t why people are off. I hear all the whining above about the system etc but no one cares in Sweden the Management, Goverment, Employees, Unions. Once someone goes off thats it no one ever talks to them.

I am now back in UK and the business I now run 6 big factories the total absenteeisim (all reasons not to be at work) is less than !.6% this would be impossible in Sweden. The difference is if someone goes off sick we keep talking to them officially a minimum of every month. The other difference is I pay for the first 6 months so I make sure people come to work. We do also fire people who are of sick if they are not coming back within a reasonable time or incapable, but this is not to say we dont look after people. Some people we have paid for up to 4 years sick pay ( but these are the good people, not the wasters those we get shot of if we can).

My Swedish brother in law is off sick for at least 3-4 weeks every year, funnily enough he is a sports fan and is always off sick during any major sports touranment.

The system is Sweden is abused beyond belief what about all those on "part time sick". Its just a way of keeping unemployment figures low. Its accepted as extra holiday by most.

I guess this will kick off a good discussion. Me personally I have not had a day off sick in 25 years, my father never had a day off sick in 40 years until ill health forced him to quit work.

Biggest problem is very very poor Swedish Management who never challenge the rules and are afraid to do anything different.
12:38 January 18, 2010 by Beynch
Isn't this all good and a desirable outcome? The abuse of the Swedish insurance system has gone on for far too long and change is needed. And if this 'Ohahama", or whatever his name is, has his way the US is about to embark on similarly misguided road to social dependency. O should learn from the Swedish sickleave fiasco instead. Far to many overweight people in the US, who should never, ever, again go within a three-block radius of a MacDonalds would saddle the system with their obesity related ailments. Put them to work! - What do you liberal socialists think?
Today's headlines
Why the Pope is visiting Sweden next week
Pope Francis in the Vatican. Photo: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

Pope to nail reconciliation agenda to Lutherans' door in southern Sweden.

The Local Recipes
How to make no-knead sourdough bread like a Swede
No-knead sourdough bread. Photo: John Duxbury/Swedish Food

Swedes love their sourdough bread. Food writer John Duxbury shares his favourite Swedish recipe for a no-knead loaf.

Meet Sweden's lonely Donald Trump voter
A Donald Trump campaign button. Photo: Rogelio V Solis/AP

The Local talks to an American Donald Trump supporter on what it is like living in progressive stronghold Sweden.

Forgotten Ingmar Bergman script to be made into a film
It's thought the script was part of an ill-fated collaboration between Bergman (left) and Federico Fellini (right). Photo: AP

Written in 1969, the script is 'up to the standard of his best', according to the Ingmar Bergman Foundation.

Sweden's consumption footprint 'among the worst'
Trucks transporting goods on a Swedish highway. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Sweden has been criticized for its unsustainable consumption of the planet's resources in the latest edition of a major WWF study.

Video: How to be Joel Kinnaman for a day
Kinnaman with one of the camera rigs that will allow people inside his head. Photo: Tele2

The Swedish Hollywood actor will strap a camera to his head, stream it live and allow viewers to interact with him this weekend.

Presented by Invest Stockholm
How Stockholm's cold climate boosts creativity
Photo: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se

Do long, dark winters actually make Swedes more creative and more productive? We spoke to Stockholm startups to find out.

Sweden to keep record-low interest rate in 2017
Sweden's landmark negative interest rate will continue towards 2018. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

The Swedish central bank said that it will take longer than expected to reach its inflation target.

Presented by Stockholm University
9 unexpected programmes at Stockholm University
Photo: Niklas Björling

Did you know Stockholm University offers 75 master's programmes taught in English? And some of them are programmes you won't find anywhere else...

Creepy clown messes with the wrong dog walker in Sweden
Not the clown in the story. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

A dog helped its owner fight off a creepy clown chasing the pair in southern Sweden.

Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
People-watching: October 26th
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Sweden cuts 2016 refugee forecast
Is Game of Thrones coming to Sweden?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Will Swedes soon be looking for fairtrade porn?
The Local Voices
'I simply don’t believe in nationality'
Why we're convinced Game of Thrones is based on Sweden
Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
jobs available