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What to do if you need a sick day in Sweden

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What to do if you need a sick day in Sweden
If you get sick in Sweden, you're entitled to sickness benefit. Photo: belchonock/Depositphotos
09:59 CET+01:00
Falling ill is irritating for many reasons, but one bright side is that in Sweden you don't need to feel guilty or confused about taking time off work for illness or injury. Swedish labour laws have generous policies surrounding sick leave, though there are some important differences compared to other countries which you should be aware of.

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Here's what workers in Sweden should know about taking time off work for illness, and making sure you get paid for it.

What do I do if I fall ill?

If you fall ill in Sweden and are unable to go into work, there's no need to panic. The first step is to notify your manager. Because of Sweden's typically more informal working culture compared to, for example, the US or UK, it's often acceptable to do this via e-mail or an internal messaging service rather than needing to call your boss, but this varies from workplace to workplace. You should be given details on the process to follow for sickness when you start. 

In some workplaces, employees may be allowed to work from home, so if your illness doesn't prevent you from working altogether – for example, a leg injury, slight headache, or cold – you can ask if this is an option for you (but don't strain yourself). And if you are well enough to carry out your normal duties, but unable to get to work in your usual way – for example, if you need a taxi due to a mobility issue that prevents you from commuting on public transport or walking – you can apply for benefit to cover these additional expenses by logging into the Försäkringskassan (the Swedish Social Insurance Agency) website.

However, you shouldn't be put off from taking time off when you need it, and for illnesses that last less than seven days, you're not under an obligation to give your manager medical details. After seven days, you'll need to provide a medical certificate (as outlined below), but this only needs to state how you are prevented from working rather than exactly what illness or condition you have.

As in any other country, you should let your boss know an estimate of when you expect to be back at work, and keep them updated on this. You should also make sure that people in your team have the relevant information for any projects they'll need to keep up with in your absence. Beyond that, for the first week of sickness, there's nothing else you need to do apart from keeping your manager or HR contact updated.

Photo: AllaSerebrina/Depositphotos

Will I get paid?

Yes, Swedish law guarantees sick pay, but there are some rules and conditions to be aware of. 

The allowances made for sick pay in the first two weeks depend on your workplace. By law, you are entitled to 80 percent of your salary up to a ceiling of 725 kronor per day (for 2018), which is usually paid by your employer between the second and 14th days of illness. If your employer doesn't offer sick pay, you can claim sickness benefit from Försäkringskassan (the Swedish Social Insurance Agency) using the same steps outlined below.

Some workplaces, particularly those covered by a collective agreement (kollektivavtal), offer employees higher sick pay than this minimum allowance. This comes in the form of 'salary supplements', so your employer might top up your sick pay to a higher proportion of your normal salary, or may increase the ceiling so that even higher earners get at least 80 percent of their pay. You can find out what your workplace's arrangements for sick pay are from your manager or HR representative, and this is something you should try to ask about before accepting a job offer in Sweden.

Another thing to note is that in Sweden, sick pay usually only applies from the second day of sickness onwards; the first day you are off sick is a 'waiting day' or 'qualifying day' (karensdag), which is unpaid. However, if you have to take a day off sick within five days of returning to work after a previous period of illness, this is treated as a continuation of the same sickness period, so there won't be a second 'karensdag'.

If you are sick more than ten times within 12 months, you can also skip the qualifying period. In certain cases where you know in advance this will apply to you – for example, if you have a long-term illness or will be donating an organ – you can apply for what's called special high risk protection ahead of time. This means you skip the qualifying period and receive your sick pay from the first day of absence each time.

What if I'm sick for longer than a week?

After one week of sickness, you will need to get a doctor's certificate from a doctor or nurse which explains how you are prevented from carrying out your regular working duties. If you're contagious, it's often possible to get this done over the phone.

If you are ill and unable to work for more than two weeks in a row, your employer should report the sickness to Försäkringskassan (the Swedish Social Insurance Agency) and submit the first doctor's certificate to them. It's then Försäkringskassan who will pay your sickness benefit, rather than the employer. This is one reason it's important to register with this agency as soon as possible after your arrival in Sweden. Note: If you're not entitled to sick pay from your employer, you can receive sickness payment from Försäkringskassan from the second day of illness, rather than the 14th.

Once your employer has reported your sickness, you can also log into the Försäkringskassan website yourself to check the application and to update it with any changes, such as additional medical certificates or adjustments to your working hours or salary.

In order to be eligible for sickness benefit, you must be insured in Sweden, which is usually automatically the case if you're living and working here, and your illness must be preventing you from performing your regular working duties.

Again, the usual benefit is 80 percent of your salary up to a maximum of 725 kronor per day. You can check the exact amount you're entitled to using a tool provided by Försäkringskassan. You can also receive sick pay for part of a day, for example if during your recovery you are able to begin working part time. If that's the case, you should update Försäkringskassan on the relevant changes.

Photo: belchonock/Depositphotos

How do I claim the money?

For employees receiving sick pay from their company during the first 14 days, this will usually be added onto your salary in the normal way.

The benefit from Försäkringskassan works slightly differently. After your employer reports your sickness, you must make a separate claim for benefit in the Mina Sidor (My pages) section the website, or by calling the agency's customer services or sending an application form by post. It is not enough just to report your absence from work in order to receive the money; you must actively apply for the benefit as well. 

You'll receive the payment as soon as the application has been processed, which should take no longer than one month if you have included all the necessary information (including a medical certificate). After that, if it's an extended period of sickness, you'll be paid on the same day each month. Depending on when your birthdate falls, this day is either the 25th, 26th, or 27th of each month. If this day falls on a Saturday, you'll be paid on the Friday beforehand, and if it falls on a Sunday, you'll be paid the Monday after. Over the Christmas period in December, all payments are moved forward to December 21st.


What if I'm self-employed?

If you're self-employed, you are still entitled to sickness benefit if you fall ill.

If you own a limited company, your company pays you sick pay instead of a salary for the second to 14th day of sickness, after which you apply for sickness benefit from Försäkringskassan. Since you are considered as your own employer in this case, you should report your sickness to the agency yourself using its Employer Service (Arbetsgivartjänsten), as soon as possible and no later than the 21st day of illness. Then, you should apply to receive the benefit in the way outlined above.

The amount you receive in this case is based on your SGI (Sjukpenninggrundande inkomst, or sickness benefit qualifying income). Försäkringskassan calculates this based on how much you earn each year, by looking at past earnings.

For sole traders, it's a similar process, but if you've been in business in Sweden for more than two full years, you'll also need to send in copies of your business tax forms from the last three years.

What if I'm sick during planned holiday?

If you fall sick during scheduled holiday time, you have the right under Sweden's Annual Leave Act to end the holiday period and instead take the time as sick days. If this is the case, you should contact your employer and report yourself sick on the first day of illness. The requirement is that you should be ill enough that you'd be unable to carry out your regular work.

And what if I have a long-term illness?

Certain illnesses or injuries may leave you unable to work for a long period of time. After 180 days, you can continue to receive sickness benefit, but only if you are unable to perform any work on the regular labour market, rather than just at your original employer.

You'll continue to receive sickness benefit at 80 percent of the qualifying income for the first full year, after which the amount is reduced to 75 percent. However, workers affected by a serious illness can apply to keep their sickness benefit at 80 percent. You can find out more information about serious illnesses here.

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