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Explained: How to understand what your Swedish payslip really means

Getting your monthly payslip should be a positive experience if you've found a job in Sweden. But as long as the money finds its way to your account, it's easy to forget to look over the paperwork, especially when it's written in bureaucratic Swedish.

Explained: How to understand what your Swedish payslip really means
Even many native Swedish speakers don't fully understand all the terms on their payslip, so here's what you need to know. Photo: Lieselotte van der Meijs/imagebank.sweden.se

It’s not just a case of the technical vocabulary used, but some of the terms you’ll see on your payslip relate to concepts that may not exist at all in countries you’ve previously worked in.

So it’s important to be able to read the document, both to look for any mistakes and to keep on top of things such as vacation allowance and overtime.

It’s also worth keeping PDF or physical copies of your payslips for your financial records, and so that you have evidence just in case you need it in future. This might be helpful to claim money back from the employer if you realize there was a mistake, or to send to various authorities for calculation of student loans or income-based benefits, or proof that you are working in Sweden, for example.

So here’s a guide to de-mystifying your Swedish lönebesked or lönespecifikation (payslip). Exactly how it looks, and which terms are included, will depend on your employer, your contract and which company they use to process their salaries.

The basics

Most employees of Swedish companies will receive their wages monthly, and you’ll receive your payslip (almost always electronically) on the same day or a few days before. Generally this happens on the 25th of each month, but when the 25th falls on a weekend or public holiday, it will be the last working day beforehand. That’s not the case everywhere, but it should be stated in your employment contract.

Your payslip will typically include some information relating to the löntagare (employee – that’s you!) which might be your full name, Swedish personnummer (personal ID number), address, and your bank account number. There should also be a section labelled arbetsgivare (employer) with your employer’s registered address and organization number.

Löneperiod

This is literally the ‘salary period’; the time period that this payslip relates too. Usually salaries are paid for the previous month, so the payslip you receive in February will refer to hours worked, salary earned, and holiday or other benefits taken in January.

Utbetalningsdatum

The payment date, or the date on which your salary should be in your bank account. 

Grundlön

This is your basic salary; the amount you receive before tax, holiday, sick days, benefits and so on are taken into account. In other words, this is the amount stated on your employment contract or when you received your job offer.

Depending on what type of employment you have, different terms may be used. Workers on a fixed monthly salary might see the term månadslön (monthly salary) while if your pay is calculated by an hourly rate it will likely say timlön (hourly salary) along with the number of hours you worked.

Övertid

Övertid can be translated literally: overtime. Many employment contracts, usually those which adhere to a collective bargaining agreement or kollektivavtal, state that workers must be paid extra if they work beyond their agreed hours. This might be marked in your payslip as övertidsersättning (overtime pay).

If a project has you working extra hours or late nights, you may receive extra compensation. Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

OB, ob-tillägg eller ob-ersättning

If you worked so-called ‘uncomfortable hours’ (obekväm arbetstid), many contracts also entitle you to an extra payment for this. It usually applies if you had to work on a weekend or evening.

Sjuklön

Literally ‘sick pay’, this is the money you receive for days you took off due to illness. It’s often calculated as 80 percent of your basic salary (but differs depending on your individual agreement) and is paid by your employer for the first 14 days after a one-day waiting period. After day 15 of an illness, you will be paid sickness benefit by the state, but some employees are also entitled to additional pay from their employer too.

Many payslips will show a sjukavdrag (illness deduction), which is your daily salary multiplied by the number of days you were sick, a karensavdrag which is the deduction for the waiting period, and then the sjuklön itself. 

Vård av sjukt barn 

In Sweden, you’re entitled to paid leave if it’s your child who is sick, and you need to care for them, and this leave is called Vård av sjukt barn or VAB colloquially. 

It’s the state that pays for this, so on your payslip you might see a deduction of salary for time taken as VAB, and then a separate payment.

Semesterlön

In Sweden, you get paid extra when you take your annual leave. So on your payslip, look out for semesterlön or semestertillägg (payment for annual leave), as well as semesterersättning (this refers to money paid out for leave not taken).


Photo: Kristin Lidell/imagebank.sweden.se

Traktamente

If you had to travel for work, whether to a different country or within Sweden, you’re probably entitled to a per diem amount known as traktamente. The exact figures vary depending on location, time spent there, and whether meals or accommodation were included.

Skatt och arbetsgivaravgift

This is often the title of a section on your payslip, and it means ‘taxes and employer fees’.

There will often be at least two rows: one for skatt (tax), and this figure is income tax taken directly from your total before-tax salary. Then there’s the arbetsgivaravgift (employer fees), which is money that your employer pays, but doesn’t have a direct impact on your final salary.

Semesterdagar

Your semesterdagar are ‘holiday days’, the number of days’ annual leave you have.

In Sweden, most employees are entitled to at least the statutory minimum of 25 days’ annual leave, of which 20 must be used within that tax year but the remainder can be rolled over for up to five years.

Your payslip will likely show you how many days of paid holiday (betalda semesterdagar) and unpaid holiday (obetalda semesterdagar) you took that month, how many days of paid holiday you have saved from previous years (sparade semesterdagar), and how many days of holiday you have remaining (kvarvarande semesterdagar).

You’ll want to make sure that your holiday days taken match up with your semesterlön received, and that your holiday days remaining are in line with what you expected.

Do you have a question about living or working in Sweden that you’d like us to answer, or is there a general topic relating to those areas that you think we should write more about? Please get in touch with our editorial team at any time.

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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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