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Questions to ask a Swedish employer before accepting a job

You wouldn’t take out a new mobile phone plan without finding out what’s included. So why would you accept a job offer without doing the same groundwork?

Questions to ask a Swedish employer before accepting a job
Photo: Gyorgy Barna/Shutterstock

Here you are, living in Sweden, and you’ve finally got that elusive job offer. You’re about to accept, but wait! There are several questions you should be asking your employer first. And many of them relate to mysterious ‘collective agreements’.

But what on earth is a collective agreement, we hear you ask?

Collective agreements (kollektivavtal) are a fundamental part of the Swedish model (not to be confused with Malin Åkerman) and, put simply, are an essential component of working life in Sweden.

“The working market in Sweden is not based on law but on the conditions established between trade unions and employers in collective agreements,” says Annika Creutzer, who is one of Sweden’s leading financial journalists and an economics advisor.  

Find out how to get the most from your working life in Sweden

So now I know what it is, does this company have a collective agreement?

Chances are your potential employer will have a collective agreement. Approximately 90 percent of employees in Sweden are protected by these agreements and reap the perks such as extra vacation, better sick pay, more generous parental leave and a far bigger pension. All public sector jobs are covered by them and it tends to be generally only start-ups that opt out of them. 

This all sounds great, but will I get an annual pay rise?

Yes! A collective agreement means that you are free to negotiate your salary and annual pay rises. In some sectors, the pay increase can be as much as 3 percent year-on-year.

If you're a member of Saco, a politically independent central organisation for 23 unions, you get access to the best salary statistics in Sweden along with advice and information about salary negotiations. This really comes in handy when the time comes to negotiate your own salary, which is something you're always advised to do yourself.

Another good thing to note is that you can also get financial compensation for doing in-service training such as extra courses that often involve exorbitant fees.

So what happens if I slip and break my leg at work? Am I covered?

Again yes!

You get extra compensation if you miss work through illness or get injured in the workplace. Sweden’s Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) already pays out up to 80 percent of your salary (but only up to a salary of 28,000) and the remaining 20 percent can be topped up with a collective agreement.

What’s more, with a collective agreement you could get around 75-90 percent of your full salary if you’re off work due to sickness or injury. This is just one area where it can really make a difference for people in high earning jobs.

The calculator below helps you work out how much sick pay you would get with a collective agreement compared to without, as well as you how much more compensation you would get if you injure yourself at work.

What’s the parental leave situation here?

Sweden already has a well-envied parental leave system that includes 480 days of paid leave per child. Add in the perks of a collective agreement and you will earn even more money while you are at home with your child.

“You can get 90% of your salary for six months. That is more than under the existing system and it isn’t capped, so if you are a high earner then you will get more,” says Annika Creutzer.

The financial expert adds, “If both parents have a collective agreement then it is recommended that they both take six months each of parental leave.”

The below calculator helps you work out how much additional parental benefit you get with and without a collective agreement.

How much holiday do I get?

In a standard Swedish workplace, you will get 25 days of annual leave. That figure increases as you get older and the more years you are employed in the same job. With a collective agreement, you can negotiate to have an even longer vacation period.

“It is not uncommon to have six or seven weeks holiday as part of a collective agreement,” says Creutzer.

Will I get extra pay if I work overtime?

Absolut! Having a collective agreement means the rules and regulations concerning overtime are established from the outset. Expect better compensation as regards overtime and working unsociable hours. You can also negotiate remuneration to cover travel costs to and from your place of work. 

What kind of pension contributions do you make for me?

Working in Sweden means you are guaranteed a state pension, but if you have worked here for 30 odd years then you will likely want to get a bit more than what the government dishes out. And with a collective agreement, you can get more kronor when you turn 65. Far more.

Maximise your working life in Sweden. Find out more.

“Your pension is a key part of any collective agreement; that is where you will notice a great difference between what you will only get with a public pension. With a collective agreement, there is no cap if you are a high earner,” says Annika Creutzer.

She adds, “You get much more from the system when you are covered by a collective agreement particularly when it comes to your pension.”

Anything else I need to know?

Most Swedes are familiar with what a collective agreement is, the same can’t be said for new arrivals to Swedish shores. For example, there is no minimum wage in Sweden and not all employers use collective agreements.

“You need to do your homework and find out if your employer has a collective agreement in place before taking any job. You will only benefit from it.”

And remember, regardless of whether or not your workplace has a collective agreement, you should still join an arbetslöshetskassa (A-kassa) to protect your income.

Once you’ve been a member of Akademikernas a-kassa, an unemployment fund specifically for university graduates, for 12 months, you can get income-related benefits up to 910 kronor a day. Compare this to the 365 kronor you’d get from Sweden’s state-funded unemployment insurance fund, and you’ll see why joining an a-kassa is one of the best decisions you can make.

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

 
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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/imagebank.sweden.se

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/imagebank.sweden.se

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/imagebank.sweden.se

National public holidays in Sweden in 2019

January

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.

April

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. 

May

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.

June

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.

November

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.

December

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.

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