Note: The Swedish government has introduced some special temporary measures to support businesses and employees during the coronavirus outbreak. These include the option for employers to reduce an employees' working hours down to 40 percent of the current amount, but the employee will still receive 90 percent of their current salary, subsidised by the government. This measure went into effect on March 16th.
If you are affected by lay-offs or reductions in working hours due to the virus outbreak, speak to your union and employer about which measures are in place to support you.
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.
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.