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Swedish public holidays: How to maximise your annual leave in 2020

Swedish public holidays: How to maximise your annual leave in 2020
How to hack Swedish holidays. Photo: Emelie Asplund/imagebank.sweden.se
Sweden's annual leave is already pretty generous, but with a few easy tricks you can make it stretch even further. Here are the secret hacks your Swedish colleagues already know.

If you're working in Sweden, you're already one of the luckiest employees on the planet when it comes to annual leave, even before factoring public holidays into the equation.

By law, firms have to give full-time staff 25 days off, and many offer extra days and benefits on top of this. For example, most employees have the right to take at least four consecutive weeks off in June-August if they choose, and you'll find that Sweden's larger cities empty out in those months.

But on top of those paid vacation days, there are several so-called 'red days' (röda dagar) in the Nordic nation. Plenty of workers schedule their breaks away around these public holidays and by doing so you can get long stretches of time off by only using a few of your precious vacation days. Keep reading to learn the tricks to make the most of this, and the other factors to be aware of.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about annual leave in Sweden

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1. Check your company's approach to annual leave around public holidays

Some firms offer de facto bonus half days ahead of public breaks, while others ask staff to take annual leave in the days before or afterwards, in order to synchronise company work schedules.

The dates in between public holidays are known as klämdagar which means 'squeezed days', for example a Monday which falls between a weekend and a public holiday the next Tuesday. Some employers offer these as extra vacation days, and for those that don't, they are popular days to take off, meaning some businesses offer a 'first-come-first-served' policy for these sought-after days.

That means planning ahead if you want to take time off then, but consider whether you might actually want a few quiet days in the office while your boss stays at their summer house after a national holiday, perhaps saving your own annual leave for dark November or frozen February.

If you do shift work or are a member of a union, you're likely to get extra pay for working public holidays. If red days take place over a weekend, some firms – but far from all – offer an alternative weekday off instead.

If you're not sure what your company's policy is, don't be afraid of discussing holidays with your employer. Sweden's approach to work-life balance means they are more likely to think less of you if you don't plan any time off.


Photo: Christian Ferm/Folio/imagebank.sweden.se

2. Book early if you want to travel during 'red day' periods

Swedes love to plan, so if you're thinking about travelling around Sweden, start organising sooner rather than later. Hotels, flights and even trains and popular restaurants can get booked up months in advance of popular holidays, with prices rising as they get closer. If you have family abroad, even in non-corona times it could be more expensive to return home to visit them, or for them to visit you.

If you're travelling, remember to pay attention to local health and safety rules and guidelines regarding the coronavirus.

3. Beware of restaurant and attraction closures

In many countries public holidays can often be a chance for tourist attractions to cash in on extra visitors, but Swedes often consider their time off to be sacred. 

If a particular museum, restaurant or attraction is a major appeal of a destination, check in advance that it will actually be open to avoid disappointment on the day.


Photo: Lina Roos/imagebank.sweden.se

4. Be prepared for your Swedish friends to leave town

Public holidays are a classic time for Swedes to leave the country's big cities and head to their parents' places or second homes in the countryside, so they can be a lonely time for foreign workers. Start dropping hints early if you're hoping for an invitation to a Swedish summer house, or check online social forums to connect with other internationals who are in the same boat.

5. Check school term dates

It's obvious that if you've got school-age children, you'll need to know when their term starts and finishes — be aware that these dates differ in different parts of the country. But even for workers without children, it pays to check when the summer holiday is, as well as the spring break (sportslov) and autumn break (höstlov or läslov).

Traffic is often very busy at the start and end of these periods as families escape from the cities, and hotel prices can also rise due to the spike in demand.

Keep reading below for a list of Sweden's public holidays in 2020.


Photo: Per Pixel Petersson/imagebank.sweden.se

National public holidays in Sweden in 2020

January

Wednesday January 1st – New Year's Day – Public holiday

Many employers also offer New Year's Eve December 31st as a day off. Perhaps you were savvy enough to also ask for Monday December 30th off, and can therefore enjoy a five-day weekend, you lucky you.

Monday January 6th — Epihany — Public holiday

Great news, it's a three-day weekend.

April

Friday April 10th – Good Friday – Public holiday

Monday April 13th – Easter Monday – Public holiday

It's Easter weekend. Many parents will want to get the full week off to coincide with their children's Easter break from school.

Walpurgis Eve on April 30th is often a de facto half-day (but check with your employer first). In 2020 it falls on a Thursday, so by also asking for the 29th off plus a full or half-day on the 30th depending on your company's policy, you can get a five-day stretch off work, thanks to May 1st being a public holiday.

May

Friday May 1st – Public holiday

Thursday May 21st – Ascension Day – Public holiday

There's another chance at a long weekend later in May if you get the Friday after Ascension Day off. But it's a popular klämdag, so make sure you get there before your colleagues.

June

Sweden's national day on June 6th this year falls on a Saturday, so no luck.

Friday June 19th – Midsummer's Eve. This isn't technically a public holiday, but because the day is such an integral part of Swedish summer traditions, most employers will give you the day off anyway. If they do, there's a chance they'll also treat you to a half-day off on the Thursday.

December

Thursday December 24th – Christmas Eve

Friday December 25th – Christmas Day – Public holiday

Saturday December 26th – Boxing Day – Public holiday

Thursday December 31st – New Year's Eve

Friday January 1st, 2021 – New Year's Day – Public holiday

Just like Midsummer's Eve, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve are not technically public holidays, but they are almost always treated as such anyway.

In 2020 the Christmas holidays are positioned so that all but Boxing Day fall on weekdays. Maximise your days off by asking for December 28th-30th off, giving you an 11-day stretch of holiday for the price of only three days' annual leave.


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