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).

The one reason this Swedish dentist would turn down a job
Dentist Andrea Gerner manages two Folktandvården practices in Skåne.

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.

Find out how to get the most out of working life in Sweden

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.

What’s more, as a member of both a-kassan and a Saco union, you can get additional income insurance on top of that 910 kronor.

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.

Find out more about how to maximise your working life in Sweden

“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.

This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by Akademikernas A-Kassa & Saco.

For members


How to make the most of Sweden’s public holidays in 2019

Swedish companies offer generous holiday allowances, and with a range of secret tricks you can make them stretch even further. Here's how to make the most of Sweden's public holidays in 2019.

How to make the most of Sweden's public holidays in 2019
Taking just five days of annual leave can get you a 17-day holiday in 2019. Photo: Gustav Sjöholm

This article is available to Members of The Local. Read more Membership Exclusives here.

If you're working in Sweden, you're already one of the luckiest employees on the planet when it comes to annual leave, even before factoring public holidays into the equation.

By law, firms have to give full-time staff 25 days off, and many offer extra days and benefits on top of this. For example, most employees have the right to take at least four consecutive weeks off in June-August if they choose, and you'll find that Sweden's larger cities empty out in those months.

But on top of those paid vacation days, there are several so-called 'red days' (röda dagar) in the Nordic nation. Plenty of workers schedule their breaks away around these public holidays and by doing so you can get long stretches of time off by only using a few of your precious vacation days. Keep reading to learn the tricks to make the most of this, and the other factors to be aware of.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about annual leave in Sweden

1. Check your company's approach to annual leave around public holidays

Some firms offer de facto bonus half days ahead of public breaks, while others ask staff to take annual leave in the days before or afterwards, in order to synchronize company work schedules.

The dates in between public holidays are known as klämdagar which means 'squeezed days', for example a Monday which falls between a weekend and a public holiday the next Tuesday. Some employers offer these as extra vacation days, and for those that don't, they are popular days to take off, meaning some businesses offer a 'first-come-first-served' policy for these sought-after days.

That means planning ahead if you want to take time off then, but consider whether you might actually want a few quiet days in the office while your boss stays at their summer house after a national holiday, perhaps saving your own annual leave for dark November or frozen February.

If you do shift work or are a member of a union, you're likely to get extra pay for working public holidays. If red days take place over a weekend, some firms – but far from all – offer an alternative weekday off instead.

If you're not sure what your company's policy is, don't be afraid of discussing holidays with your employer. Sweden's approach to work-life balance means they are more likely to think less of you if you don't plan any time off.

Photo: Christian Ferm/Folio/

2. Book early if you want to travel during 'red day' periods

Swedes love to plan, so if you're thinking about travelling around Sweden over Midsummer or enjoying an Easter getaway, now is the time to start organizing. Hotels, flights and even trains and popular restaurants can get booked up months in advance, with prices rising as the holidays get closer. If you have family abroad, it could be more expensive to return home to visit them, or for them to visit you.

3. Beware of restaurant and attraction closures

In many countries public holidays can often be a chance for tourist attractions to cash in on extra visitors, but Swedes often consider their time off to be sacred. 

If a particular museum, restaurant or attraction is a major appeal of a destination, check in advance that it will actually be open to avoid disappointment on the day.

Photo: Lina Roos/

4. Be prepared for your Swedish friends to leave town

Public holidays are a classic time for Swedes to leave the country's big cities and head to their parents' places or second homes in the countryside, so they can be a lonely time for foreign workers. Start dropping hints early if you're hoping for an invitation to a Swedish summer house this Midsummer, or check online social forums to connect with other internationals who are in the same boat.

5. Check school term dates

It's obvious that if you've got school-age children, you'll need to know when their term starts and finishes — be aware that these dates differ in different parts of the country. But even for workers without children, it pays to check when the summer holiday is, as well as the spring break (sportslov) and autumn break (höstlov or läslov).

Traffic is often very busy at the start and end of these periods as families escape from the cities, and hotel prices can also rise due to the spike in demand. In particular, if you want a winter skiing break, you're likely to save money (and have a more peaceful holiday) by avoiding the time in February when ski resorts are packed with families enjoying the winter sports break. You'll find a comprehensive list of the dates on the SkolPorten website.

Keep reading below for a list of Sweden's public holidays in 2019.

Photo: Per Pixel Petersson/

National public holidays in Sweden in 2019


Tuesday January 1st – New Year's Day – Public holiday

It's a good start to the year, because New Year's Day falls on a Tuesday, and many employers offer December 31st as a day off making this a four-day weekend. Unfortunately that means Epiphany, January 6th, falls on a Sunday, so 9-5 workers miss out on that extra red day.


Friday April 19th – Good Friday – Public holiday

Monday April 22nd – Easter Monday – Public holiday

It's a long wait until the next set of public holidays, but 2019's late Easter means there's a better chance the weather will have improved if you want to use the long weekend to explore Sweden. 


Wednesday May 1st – Public holiday

Thursday May 30th – Ascension Day – Public holiday

Walpurgis Eve on April 30th is often a de facto half-day (but check with your employer first). In 2018 it falls on a Tuesday, so by asking for the 29th off plus a full or half-day on the 30th depending on your company's policy, you can get a five-day stretch off work.

There's another chance at a long weekend later in May if you get the Friday after Ascension Day off. But it's a popular klämdag, so make sure you get there before your colleagues.


Thursday June 6th – National Day – Public holiday

Friday June 21st – Midsummer's Eve. This isn't technically a public holiday, but because the day is such an integral part of Swedish summer traditions, most employers will give you the day off anyway. If they do, there's a chance they'll also treat you to a half-day off on the Thursday.

And if you take the Friday after National Day off, that's two long weekends in one month.


Friday November 1st – All Saints' Eve. Not a public holiday, but because it falls the day before All Saints' Day, which is a public holiday, there's a chance you'll get half the day off. But ask your employer first.


Tuesday December 24th – Christmas Eve

Wednesday December 25th – Christmas Day – Public holiday

Thursday December 26th – Boxing Day – Public holiday

Tuesday December 31st – New Year's Eve

Wednesday January 1st, 2020 – New Year's Day – Public holiday

Just like Midsummer's Eve, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve are not technically public holidays, but they are almost always treated as such anyway.

This year the Christmas holidays are positioned so that all fall on weekdays. This means that if you also take off the 23rd, 27th, and 30th (or if your employer offers any or all of these as klämdagar), you'll get 12 consecutive days of holiday. Take off the 2nd and 3rd as well and you'll get a 17-day stretch for the price of only five days' annual leave. Perfect if you want to travel overseas to visit family or enjoy some winter sun.