The one reason this Swedish dentist would turn down a job
Finding a full-time job in Sweden comes with many benefits. There’s the guaranteed five weeks of annual holiday, generous parental leave, and more fika breaks than you can shake a stick at (just kidding, you’ll probably only get four or five a day).
But what if you could have all this and more?
Well, you can if you work somewhere with a kollektivavtal or a collective agreement. Around 90 percent of Swedes benefit from such agreements in the workplace and expats can too, but many are unaware they even exist and are missing out as a result.
For Swedish dentist Andrea Gerner, who works for Folktandvården in Skåne, a collective agreement is a deciding factor as to whether or not she accepts a job.
“It’s one of the reasons I took my current job. It means you get a lot of perks, like a better pension and if you’re sick for a longer period of time, you’re compensated with money on top of the sickness benefit paid by the government,” she says.
As an active member of The Swedish Association of Public Dental Officers, Andrea is clued-up on the member benefits that come with a kollektivavtal.
For example, a collective agreement gives you the opportunity to negotiate your own salary, which is something that’s always best to do yourself, following set salary criteria.
As a member of Saco -- a politically independent central organisation for 23 unions -- you also get access to the best salary statistics in Sweden, as well as advice and information about salary negotiations.
And remember that you should join an a-kassa (short for arbetslöshetskassa) to protect your income in case you become unemployed.
Akademikernas a-kassa is the unemployment fund for university graduates. Once you’ve been a member for 12 months, you’ll be eligible for income-related benefits up to 910 kronor a day which you can claim if you lose your job or if you don’t get a new job following temporary employment.
Pensions and parental benefits
It isn’t just your take-home pay that can be significantly bolstered by a collective agreement.
Employees can top up their pension, which with a kollektivavtal means there is no cap on your earnings. Parents benefit too by getting 90 percent of their salary for six months when on parental leave - a figure that dwarfs the standard amount paid out by the Swedish Social Insurance Agency.
“With a collective agreement, all these things like better pension and sick pay, are just automatically sorted out. In a company with a collective agreement, you’re not alone,” says Andrea.
And indeed, the collective agreement at Folktandvården works really paid off for Andrea when she broke her foot several years ago.
Finding herself unable to work for three months, she worried about how she would afford her monthly outgoings without earning her full salary. The Swedish government does provide 80 percent injury compensation, but only up to a salary of 28,000 kronor.
Working at a company with collective agreement meant that Andrea received extra compensation. This can be around 75-90 percent of your full salary regardless of what you earn.
“There was extremely little difference in my salary during the time I had off. Even if theoretically you know how good the arrangement is, you don’t realise until you’re in that situation how beneficial a collective agreement can be,” she says.
For Andrea, a collective agreement is more than a safety net in times of vulnerability. She believes that when a company has a collective agreement it serves as a badge of honour.
“It shows the company is fair and you can trust that it does things the right way,” she says.
That doesn’t just apply to the obvious perks like extra annual leave and parental benefits. It also means employees have influence over the company they work for and the chance to get their voices heard.
“With our collective agreement, we get a lot of input. We meet at least six times a year to go through the changes that happen in the company. That’s important because we can have our say if we think there can be improvements,” says Andrea.
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