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WORKING IN SWEDEN

Essential guide: What to do if you need a sick day in Sweden

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.

Essential guide: 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

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, but if that hasn’t happened, use whatever form of communication you typically use with your boss.

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 1,027 kronor per day (for 2022), which is usually paid by your employer during the first 14 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.

Previously, the first day of sickness was an unpaid ‘waiting/qualifying day’, but as of January 2019, this has been replaced by a karensavdrag (qualifying deduction). This means that in each period of sickness, your sick pay is subject to a deduction equivalent to 20 percent of your average weekly sick pay.

This system makes sick pay fairer for those who do shift-work or other kinds of irregular hours, meaning the amount of sick pay you receive isn’t affected by falling sick on a day when you work longer or shorter hours than average. 

In practice, if you work regular hours, this karensavdrag still means that you will be unpaid for your first day of sick leave.

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 first 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 1,027 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.

If you’re sick for longer than 60 days, your employer is required to work on a plan for your return to work in order to ensure this can take place smoothly and with enough support.

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 of 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 can log in to the Mina Sidor section to ensure that your employer has reported your sickness, and should remind them to do so if they are late, since this could delay your payment otherwise.

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.

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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 first 14 days 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.

Article first written in March 2018 and updated in April 2022

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For members

WORKING IN SWEDEN

CHECKLIST: Here’s what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

What authorities do you need to inform before you leave, are you liable to Swedish tax and how can you access your Swedish pension? Here's a checklist.

CHECKLIST: Here's what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

Tell the relevant authorities if you’re leaving for more than a year

If you’re planning on leaving Sweden for more than a year, you will have to let the authorities know. The main authorities in question are Skatteverket (the Tax Agency) and Försäkringskassan (the Social Insurance Agency).

Försäkringskassan

You have to tell Försäkringskassan when you leave so they can assess whether or not you still qualify for Swedish social insurance. As a general rule, you aren’t eligible for Swedish social insurance if you move away from Sweden, but there are exceptions, such as maternity or paternity benefits if you’re moving to another EU country.

This also applies to any family members who move with you – any over-18’s should send in their own documentation to Försäkingskassan about their move abroad. If you’re moving abroad with anyone under 18, you can include them in your own report to Försäkringskassan.

If both legal guardians are moving abroad together, both need to include any children in their application. If one legal guardian is moving abroad and the other is staying in Sweden, you need the guardian staying in Sweden to co-sign your application. If you are the sole legal guardian of any under-18’s travelling with you, you don’t need any documentation from the other parent.

You can register a move abroad with Försäkringskassan on the Mina sidor service on their website, here (log in with BankID).

Skatteverket

If you are moving abroad for a year or longer, you also need to tell the Tax Agency. This also applies if you were planning on moving abroad for less than a year but ended up staying for longer.

If you move to another Nordic country, you will also need to register your move with that country’s authorities if you will be there for six months or more. You’ll be deregistered from the Swedish population register the same day you become registered in another Nordic country’s register.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll lose your personnummer – you’ll still be able to use it if you ever move back to Sweden – but you will no longer be registered as resident in Sweden.

Similarly to Försäkringskassan, you will also need to report any children you are bringing with you, and both legal guardians must sign the form, whether or not both guardians are moving abroad or not.

In some cases, you may still be liable to pay tax in Sweden even if you live abroad – particularly if you are a Swedish citizen or have lived in Sweden for at least ten years. This could be due to owning or renting out property in Sweden, having family in Sweden, or owning a business in Sweden.

You can tell the tax agency of your plans to move abroad here.

Contact your a-kassa, if relevant

If you are member of a Swedish a-kassa (unemployment insurance), make sure you tell them that you’re leaving the country. As a general rule, you have unemployment insurance in the country you work in, so you will most likely have to cancel your a-kassa subscription.

If you are moving to another country with the a-kassa system, such as Denmark or Finland, it may pay to wait until you have joined a new a-kassa in that country before you cancel your membership in Sweden.

This is due to the fact, in some countries, you only qualify for benefits once you fulfil a membership and employment requirement. In Sweden and Denmark, you must have been a member for 12 months before you qualify. In Finland, the membership requirement is 26 weeks.

If you qualify for a-kassa in Sweden before you leave the country, you may be able to transfer your a-kassa membership period over to your new a-kassa abroad and qualify there straight away, but this usually only applies if your period of a-kassa membership is unbroken.

Check what applies in your new country before you cancel your membership in Sweden – your a-kassa should be able to help you with this.

Contact your union, if relevant

Similarly, if you are a member of a Swedish union or fackförbund, let them know you’re moving abroad.

If you’re moving to another Nordic country, they might be able to point you in the direction of the relevant union in that country, if you want to remain a member of a union in your new country.

If you’re moving to another EU country, you may be able to remain a member of your Swedish union as a foreign worker with the status utlandsvistelse.

If you chose to do this, you will usually pay a lower monthly fee than you do in Sweden, and they can still provide assistance with work related issues – although it may make more sense to join a local union in your field with more knowledge of the labout market.

If you don’t want to be a member of a union in your new country and don’t want to be a member of a Swedish union, you should contact your  union and ask them to cancel your membership.

Collect relevant documents regarding your Swedish pension

If you have worked in Sweden and paid tax for any length of time, you will have paid in to a Swedish pension. You retain this pension wherever you move, but you must apply for it yourself.

To do so, you will need to give details of when you lived and worked in Sweden, as well as providing copies of work contracts, if you have them. If you have these documents before you leave Sweden, make copies so that you can provide them when asked.

If you move to the EU/EES or Switzerland, you may also have the right to other, non-work based pensions, such as guarantee pension for low- or no-income earners, or the income pension complement (inkomstpensionstillägg).

Currently, you can receive your Swedish pension once you turn 62 – although there is a proposal in parliament due to raise pension age to 63 for those born after 1961 from 2023, so this may change.

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