Everything you need to know if you lose your job in Sweden

Moving to another country for work is an adventure and a privilege, but also a risk. Sometimes things don't go according to plan and however meticulously you prepared for your life overseas, you could get thrown a curveball, like losing the job that brought you here.

Everything you need to know if you lose your job in Sweden
Navigating unemployment is far less stressful once you know your rights. Photo: Slphotography/Depositphotos

The good news is that even as a non-Swedish citizen, you have certain rights when you become unemployed in Sweden, and there are systems in place to smooth things over for you. We’ve gathered all the information you’re going to need to get back on your feet.

There are three different ways you could lose your job in Sweden. The first is redundancy: this means your employer can no longer offer you a job due to reasons unrelated to you, such as if they can’t afford to hire you, go bankrupt, or are restructuring the company. The other two ways are related to your actions as an employee, such as misconduct or an inability to carry out the required jobs.

There are also differences between uppsägning (termination) and avsked (dismissal). In the first case, you will typically be given a notice period to work through before you leave the company, during which you still get a salary and other benefits of employment, while this doesn’t normally happen in cases of dismissal, which often relate to gross misconduct.

Whatever the circumstances in which you find yourself jobless, here’s what you need to know.

What if I’ve been unfairly treated?

First, know your rights. In both termination and dismissal cases, your employer is required to give you a reason in writing if you ask for it, and if you’re a member of a trade union, you’re entitled to consultations with them if you choose. In cases of redundancy, employers are supposed to carry out and complete consultations with the union before giving an employee their notice.

The employer must also have “objective reasons” for firing someone or making them redundant. For example, sickness and old age are not considered “objective reasons”, unless the sickness or injury is permanent and prevents the employee from carrying out any work for their employer. Even if your ability to carry out your regular duties is partially decreased, the employer has a duty to adjust the working environment or work duties.

If you feel you have been unfairly dismissed, or in other words that your employer didn’t have “objective reasons”, you could be entitled to compensation. You have two weeks to make a claim if you’re hoping to get your old job back, and up to four months to claim for damages. This is easiest to do if you’re a member of a trade union, which will negotiate for you and take the case to Sweden’s Arbetsdomstolen (Labour Court) if needed, usually covering all legal costs. Without a trade union, it is possible but time-consuming to hire a lawyer to represent you.
Photo: photography33/Depositphotos

One big exception to all the above is if you’re in a six-month probation period (this is common at the start of employment in Sweden), during which the employer can terminate employment without providing specific reasons. Even during the probation period, you and any union you’re a part of are entitled to two weeks’ notice, but it’s rarely possible to challenge the decision.

Am I entitled to unemployment benefit?

Yes! In Sweden this is called unemployment insurance (arbetslöshetsförsäkring), and a basic sum is paid out to almost anyone who is job-seeking in Sweden. Most people who lose their job will be eligible for up to 350 kronor per day. 

The basic conditions are that you must be entirely or partly unemployed, but actively job-seeking. You also need to be over 20 and to have worked previously, for a minimum of six months with at least 80 hours worked on average per month in the last year to collect the full amount. 

You need to be available to work for a minimum of three hours daily and 17 hours weekly, prepared to accept any suitable job offer you receive, and be registered with Arbetsförmedlingen (Sweden’s Public Employment Agency), which oversees both the basic unemployment insurance and any additional voluntary insurance, which we’ll explain later.

The basic salary works out as up to 8,000 kronor per month before tax.

Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Is there any way for me to get a higher sum?

The basic insurance is intended as a temporary solution to guarantee a minimum standard of living in Sweden. However, if you unexpectedly lose a job which was paying a high salary, you may find yourself left with high expenses to cover, such as rent, a mortgage, and so on.

As well as collecting personal savings and an emergency fund, one way to protect yourself should you end up in this situation is to join one of Sweden’s unemployment funds while you’re working. These are called ‘arbetslöshetskassa‘ or more commonly ‘a-kassa‘. It’s these funds that pay out the unemployment benefit, and by paying into them in advance you increase the amount you get.

Joining one of these funds is a personal choice, and isn’t essential, though millions of working Swedes are a member of one. There are different funds linked to specific professions such as teachers, small business owners, hotel and restaurant staff and more, or you can join a broader fund, such as Akademikernas a-kassa which is for anyone with a university degree, or Alfa-kassan which is open to anyone. You don’t need to be a member of a union to join an unemployment fund, though all but Alfa-kassan are linked to unions. 

Once you’ve been a member of one of these funds for a full year, you’re entitled to income-based unemployment insurance of up to 80 percent of your former salary. But there’s a salary cap, which is 25,000 kronor per month, so even if you earned more than that in your previous job, you won’t be eligible to receive more than around 20,000 kronor per month before tax. Or you could choose to pay in extra money to a-kassa beyond the membership fee, which means you will get more insurance should you lose your job.

If you’re considering joining one of these funds, check the funds and conditions to find out which suits you best (and be aware that these vary slightly year to year). You can compare them all here, but to give an idea of the rates, at Alfa-kassan you currently need to pay in at least 130 kronor per month and at Akademikernas a-kassa 110 kronor per month. These membership fees still apply during the months you are unemployed and receiving the insurance, though some funds give discounts.

Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

How do I claim the money?

To claim your insurance, you need to register as unemployed with Arbetsförmedlingen as soon as possible, ideally on the first day of unemployment. This is essential to collect the payments, and the agency can also help you search for a new job.

You also need to contact the unemployment benefit fund that you’ll be collecting the benefit from, which involves either signing up as a member if you weren’t one already, or applying for the basic payment from Alfa-kassan. If you don’t choose to become a member of a fund, Alfa-kassan charges an admin fee of 4 kronor per day.

You’ll have to prove your previous employment, usually by asking your employer to give you a certificate of employment (they can do that here) and sending off all relevant documentation – check with the fund to find out exactly what information they need. Then the unemployment fund will give you their decision about how much unemployment insurance you’re entitled to, and you’ll receive the benefit directly from the fund. Note also that all of the money paid out by the unemployment fund is taxable.

How long can I get the insurance?

Firstly, you won’t be compensated for the first seven days of unemployment: this is a waiting period or ‘karens‘.

If you’ve been a member of an unemployment fund for at least a year, you’ll get 80 percent of your salary up to a maximum of 910 kronor per weekday for up to 100 days, then up to 80 percent of your salary to a maximum of 760 kronor per weekday for the next 100 days, and then up to 70 percent of your salary to a maximum of 760 kronor per weekday for another 100 days. Parents of children under 18 can receive it for a further 150 days, so 450 in total.

To continue to receive the money each month, you need to keep participating in the back-to-work plan as set out by Arbetsförmedlingen, and make sure to fill in the activity report on it every month.

If you choose to job-hunt elsewhere within the EEA, you can continue to receive Swedish unemployment benefit as long as you inform the agency by filling out this form.


What happens to my work permit?

If work was the reason you came to Sweden, losing a job doesn’t just affect you in terms of the lost salary but also, for non-EU residents, in terms of whether you’ll be able to stay in Sweden.

During your first 24 months working in Sweden, your work permit is linked to a specific employer; after this period, it is still restricted to a specific occupation.

If you lose the job that’s tied to your work permit, Migrationsverket (the Swedish Migration Agency) allows you three months to stay in the country and find a new job. 

Things get complicated if your residence permit is set to expire within those three months. In that case, you need to apply for an extension of your residence and work permit, and to do that you need to have a job or job offer. If this applies to you, contact Migrationsverket for further information.

As long as you have a residence permit, you have that three-month period to find work. You’ll need to show potential employers you have the right to live and work in Sweden. If you’re successful in finding a new job within three months, you need to apply for a new work permit if you’ve either had the old one for less than 24 months or have changed occupations, regardless of how long you’ve had your permit. 

Find your next English-language role in Sweden here

Member comments

  1. I have a question about being timanställd and fired unfairly. Can i sue them to get my job back or is there something I can do.

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Buyer’s market: a step-by-step guide to bidding on an apartment in Sweden

It's now a buyer's market for property in Sweden, with one fifth of sales taking place below the offer price in the first two weeks of June. In Sweden the apartment-buying process often moves fast and has fewer additional fees than in many countries. We've outlined the steps you need to take and the pitfalls to look out for in this guide for potential buyers.

Buyer's market: a step-by-step guide to bidding on an apartment in Sweden
How to get your dream Swedish apartment in six steps. Photo: Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Buying a property abroad can be daunting, but in Sweden the apartment-buying process often moves fast and has fewer additional fees than in many countries, meaning it can be an appealing option compared to the precarious rental market. Here are some things to know before you step in and buy. 

1. Decide if buying is right for you and set your budget

Historically, buying property has been a good investment in Sweden but with interest rates on the rise and property prices falling in recent months, this may not be the case over the next few years. 

Whether or not you should buy depends on a range of factors including how long you expect to stay in Sweden, whether or not you have access to a stable first-hand rental contract, your budget, and of course your personal preference.

New arrivals may find it harder to buy; although there are no rules stopping non-residents from buying, it can be hard to get a mortgage without a history of income in Sweden. We’ve outlined the pros and cons in detail in the following article:

If you decide buying is the route for you, you’ll want to begin researching properties available in your preferred area to decide on your budget and which features are must-haves. 

2. Get a loan promise

Once you know how much the properties you are interested in cost and how much you think you can afford, it’s time to talk to the bank. 

A loan promise (lånelöfte) isn’t a necessity when you attend viewings, but because the market tends to move fast it is generally a good idea to speak to your bank before you start the process. Make sure to shop around and speak to different banks, as some may offer better deals, although you don’t have to take out a mortgage with the one that gives you a loan promise.

When you buy a house in Sweden, you’ll usually need to pay a minimum of 15 percent of the total price as a deposit (kontantinsats), so the remaining amount will be covered by the mortgage. You’ll pay back a certain amount each month over a fixed length of time, often 25 or 50 years. If your deposit is less than 15 percent, then your mortgage will be split into two different loans, including one that covers the cost up to 15 percent of the total price which will typically have a higher interest rate and a shorter term. 

Find out more about how the system works and how to choose your mortgage wisely in this article:

3. Go to viewings

Now the fun part begins as you can start your search in earnest. Most apartments in Sweden are advertised on property site Hemnet, but you can also speak directly to estate agents. Researching as early as possible will help you get a feel for typical prices per square metre, and what type of place and location you can afford.

On Hemnet you can refine your search to show properties which have been on the market a long time, which may help identify sellers who can be persuaded to sell below the list price.  

Once you have found a few places that pique your interest, it’s time to start going to viewings. Usually these take place on Sunday afternoons and Monday or Tuesday evenings, with two initial viewings per apartment, but this may vary. Viewings are often just 30 minutes long and as a buyer, you cannot later claim compensation for any flaws in the property that you could reasonably be expected to have identified at the viewing, so use the time wisely. You should be on the lookout for things like damp, mould or pests, but also whether the layout suits your lifestyle and whether any renovations are needed. The more viewings you go to, the more you will get a feel for exactly what you want from your Swedish home.

A tip: it’s sometimes possible to skip the bidding process (see step 7) if you can arrange a pre-viewing and put in the right offer before anyone else is given a chance to see the apartment. You can do this either by contacting estate agents directly and sharing your requirements (many agents will advertise apartments before they go on the market described as kommande försäljningar or “upcoming sales”), or by acting fast and asking for an early showing as soon as an apartment you like is published on Hemnet (usually Fridays).

People viewing an apartment in Sweden. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

4. Analyse the association’s finances

Doing your homework on the housing association (bostadsrättsföreningen) and its finances and making sure they are in good shape is at least as important as a careful viewing of the actual apartment, possibly even more so. You can find most of the information you need in its annual reports (årsredovisningar), which will usually be available online as well as in paper copies at the viewings.

Key things to look for include the level of debts the association has; any planned renovations and how much money has been set aside to pay for them; income sources; and how vulnerable the association would be to future changes in the interest rate. These figures can seem intimidating, especially in a second language, but we have explained how to make these calculations in the article below:

5. Start bidding

When you know you want to bid on an apartment, let the estate agent know, and they will tell you when you can put in an offer. 

You might get lucky and be the only bidder, but in the larger cities it’s more common that there will be a bidding war, carried out over text. Once the first bid is made, everyone who’s expressed interest is notified of each following bid via a group text message, and they can raise the price by responding to the text with their own offer.

Bids aren’t legally binding, so you have a small window of time to change your mind or look into anything that’s worrying you without any liability, but once you’ve won a bidding war, it will usually only be a day or two before you need to sign contracts.

In Sweden, bidding is usually done by text message. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

6. Write the contract

Once all bidders but one have dropped out, the winner is invited to sign contracts, and this often takes place the very same day. 

This is when you commit to buying the apartment, signing a transfer of ownership agreement (överlåtelseavtal) and agreeing to pay the agreed amount, usually beginning with a ten percent deposit (handpenning) within one week. Until this agreement is signed, it’s possible for someone else to outbid you by putting in a new offer, and it’s also possible for you to back out or even change your own offer. Once these agreements are signed, however, you cannot back out and would be liable to pay compensation if you do (typically this would cover the cost of putting the property back on the market, plus any difference in price between what you agree to pay and what the property eventually sells for). 

The överlåtelseavtal will be conditional on your acceptance into the bostadsrättsföreningen. Once that happens, you (and your bank, assuming you have a mortgage) pay the rest of the money for the purchase and take over ownership of the apartment on the move-in date (tillträdesdag) agreed with the seller.

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