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Sweden’s 480 days of parental leave: What you need to know

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Sweden’s 480 days of parental leave: What you need to know
You may be entitled to parental leave even if you move to Sweden with a young child. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Sweden's parental leave policy is generous enough to have earned media coverage around the world, and for many families it's a factor in choosing to live in the Nordic nation. But the specific terms, and the process for applying for benefits, can be tough to get to grips with.


As a parent in Sweden, you're entitled both to time off work to care for your child (parental leave or föräldraledighet) and money to help cover the costs of child-raising. The benefits are paid out not by your employer but by the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan), which you need to register with and apply to in order to receive the payments.

Who is eligible for parental benefits?

If you have a young child in Sweden, you're likely to be eligible. Parental benefit applies to those who are the parent of a child, or have custody of the child. It can also apply to people who live with a parent, in certain cases (such as if they are married or a registered partner, sambo, of the child's parent).

As well as that, you need to be insured in Sweden (this is usually the case for anyone living or working in the country) and taking time off work, study or job-seeking to stay with a child (who must live in Sweden, an EEA country, or Switzerland).

How much time can I take?

The basic allowance for paid leave is 480 days of parental leave per child, so parents sharing custody will split that number and parents with sole custody have the full 480. Parents with multiple children, ie twins or triplets, get an increased allowance: a total of 660 days for twins and 840 for triplets.

But you don't need to take each allotted day as a full day. Parents also have the option of reducing their working hours by three quarters, a half, one quarter or one eighth, and receiving proportional parental benefit for the time not worked. And parents of a child under the age of eight can reduce their working hours by up to 25 percent, whether or not they decide to take parental benefit for the remaining 25 percent.

Parental leave can be split into up to three separate periods per year, and sometimes more if that's agreed with the employer.


The basic allowance is 480 days per child. Photo: Maskot/Folio/

How do we share the leave?

The starting point is that both parents have an equal share of the leave: 240 days each. Each parent can transfer part of their leave to the other parent if they wish. For single parents with sole custody, the entire 480-day allowance goes to them.

For children born in 2016 or later to parents sharing custody, each parent has 90 days (of income-based, rather than basic, benefit) reserved for them individually. That doesn't mean you have to take them, but you cannot transfer those days to the other parent so they will be lost if you choose not to. The division is different if your child was born earlier; in that case, find out what applies to you here.

When can I take the leave?

The pregnant parent can start taking parental leave and collecting benefit up to 60 days before the due date. It's actually compulsory for the mother to take two weeks of leave in connection with the birth, which can either be before or after, and these days are deducted from the 480 days' total allowance. She is also entitled to at least seven consecutive weeks off before the estimated delivery and seven after the birth.

New fathers or secondary caregivers have an entitlement to ten days' leave in connection with the birth. And both parents are entitled to be on full-time leave, if they wish, up until the child reaches 18 months of age. The right to parental leave continues until the child's eighth birthday.

One aspect of the Swedish parental leave system that may surprise newcomers is that it's actually common not to take the full amount directly after the child's birth. You can use parental leave until the child's 12th birthday, so it's perfectly possible to stash some of those allotted days for the future. There are restrictions on how much you can save though: from the child's fourth birthday, you can only save 96 days total (132 for twins).


What if my child was born outside Sweden?

If you move to Sweden with a young child, you are usually still entitled to leave and benefits, and to the full amount if the child was under a year old when first registered in Sweden. The number decreases after that; contact Försäkringskassan to find out what applies to you.

Can both parents take leave at the same time?

Only sometimes. During the child's first year, both parents can take out parental benefit on the same day for a total of 30 days, meaning 60 days would be deducted from the 480-day allowance.

Another exception is in cases of multiple children, ie twins and triplets. In these cases, both parents can choose to take out parental benefit at the same time and therefore share care-giving responsibilities.

If the parent on parental leave gets sick and is unable to care for the child, they can change their status to sick leave allowing the other parent to take parental leave. If a single parent gets too sick to care for their child, another person such as a friend or relative can do this and receive 'expanded temporary parental benefit', if the child is younger than three.

If you move to Sweden with a young child you're usually entitled to leave and benefits. Photo: Isabell Höjman/TT


And how much money will I get?

There are a few different levels, depending on your circumstances.

Of the total 480 days, 90 are paid at 180 kronor per day and 390 at what is called sickness-level, an amount based on your income. The calculation for this is the same one used to calculate insurance payments for long-term sickness, and for VAB (Vård av barn or care of a sick child) benefit.

If you have been working in Sweden for long enough, you should be entitled to almost 80 percent of your salary up to a certain amount: 1,116 kronor per day, if you are taking out the benefit seven days a week. In order to be eligible for this, you need to have had an annual income of at least 85,000 kronor for at least 240 consecutive days before the estimated delivery date. If you are a recent arrival in Sweden but are an EU citizen, you can use your salary in another EU country to calculate this benefit.


If you have been working, but do not meet the above requirement, you're entitled to 250 kronor per day for the first 180 days of parental benefit, and after that you will receive the income-based level or 250 kronor, whichever is higher, for the remaining period of sickness-level benefit.

Parents on a low income or who were unemployed or studying before giving birth will receive 250 kronor for the full 390 days of sickness-level benefit. Parents who were job seekers may be eligible to apply for sickness-level benefit based on their previous income, depending on how long they earned that income and whether they are registered with the Public Employment Service.

You can use a tool on the Forsäkringkassan website to find out how much you will be entitled to in your specific situation.

Parents of twins or triplets are entitled to more leave. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/SCANPIX

How do I receive the money?

Ideally, you'll already be signed up with Försäkringskassan, but if you are moving to Sweden late in the pregnancy, the agency can often make special arrangements – just get in touch with them as soon as possible.

Once you have confirmed with your employer that you'll be taking leave, you need to register for parental benefit with Försäkringskassan, and then log in and apply for the benefit, either online or via their app. You should apply no later than 90 days after the first day of leave, and can apply for the entire period of leave at once if you want to. Things work slightly differently if you're not the child's legal guardian or if you have a protected identity; in these cases, you need to send an application form to Försäkringskassan's customer centre.

The money will be paid out monthly, on the 25th of each month – the typical payday in Sweden. Just like with salaries, each month you receive money relating to the previous month, so benefits for January 1st-31st are paid on February 25th. If you ended up taking more or less leave than initially applied for, you can make changes up until the 15th of each month.


How do I raise the subject with my employer?

People who moved to Sweden from a country where lengthy parental leave is not the norm may feel nervous about broaching the topic, but you shouldn't. Parental leave is your legal right, so your employer cannot deny the request as long as it's made at least two months before you want the leave to begin (or the length of time specified in your workplace's collective agreement, kollektivavtal, if you have one).


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