When do I have the right to a day off in Sweden?

When do I have the right to a day off in Sweden?
When is it acceptable to ask for time off work, and when are you entitled to full pay? File photo: Lieselotte van der Meijs/
Sometimes things crop up in life that require time away from work, whether it’s a house move, a death or wedding in the family, or a dental emergency. Even people who have been working in Sweden long-term may not know exactly what their rights are in these situations, and the truth is it differs significantly between sectors and individual employers.

Employers in Sweden must give a minimum of 25 days’ paid vacation per year for full-time employees, with some offering more than that, and it may also be possible to ask for additional unpaid leave.

But in some special situations, you may be entitled to leave beyond those 25 days (or whatever the allowance at your workplace is).

In some cases, this leave is regulated by law, which in certain circumstances allows for tjänstledighet (unpaid leave from work). But most of the time, these are rights set out in the collective bargaining agreements (kollektivavtal) which cover the vast majority of workers in Sweden, or possibly in individual employment contracts. 

Look for a section relating to permission (‘paid short-term leave’), which usually refers to periods of up to one working day during which you can receive your full pay. On other occasions, the decision to grant leave will be down to the employer’s discretion.

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For absences in the latter category, the best thing you can do as an employee is to give your manager as much notice and as many details as you can. That includes an outline of why you need the leave, and perhaps an explanation of how you’d plan to arrange cover or hand projects over if possible.

If your employer refuses to grant you paid leave, you could consider asking to take it out of any remaining paid holiday allowance, take it as unpaid holiday, or make up the time at another point, if any of those is an option for you.

Here’s a look at some different occasions that might occur, and what you’re entitled to in each situation.

Photo: Jonas Ekströmer / TT

To see a doctor or dentist

If you need to visit a doctor or dentist during working hours, you have the right to ask for tjänstledigt, which is unpaid leave, but your employer doesn’t have any legal obligation to grant it.

Some collective agreements will cover these scenarios and include the right to take paid leave (called permission) for medical appointments, so you should check your own collective agreement or employment contract/manual. The agreement or contract might also include information about which specific types of medical appointment are covered; for example, you might be allowed paid leave for an urgent (akut) appointment, but not if it’s a routine one, in which case you may be expected to arrange it outside working hours or to take annual or unpaid leave.

If you have the option to use flexible hours, it may be possible to go to the doctor or dentist during work time if you make up the hours later. Sick leave falls into a different category, and you can find detailed information in the article below.

To celebrate your wedding or a special birthday

Swedish employment law doesn’t grant you the right to time off during these occasions, but the good news is that some collective agreements do, particularly for ‘round number’ birthdays, such as your 50th.

If you’re covered by a collective agreement, it’s worth reading up on the relevant rules before using annual leave for these occasions. If these events such as your 50th birthday fall on a weekend or public holiday, you won’t be given a separate day of paid leave as compensation.

If it’s someone else’s wedding or another kind of special event, you’re unlikely to be granted paid leave without taking your annual leave. One instance in which you might have increased bargaining power, however, is when you’re negotiating employment terms before starting a new job. If you already have travel booked or commitments such as a family wedding, it may be possible to negotiate to take these as paid or unpaid leave, but that will be at the discretion of your new employer.

Photo: Fredrik Sandberg / SCANPIX/TT

To move house

Just bought your first home in Sweden? Or are you caught up in the carousel of short-term second-hand rental contracts? Some collective agreements include a paid day’s leave on moving day, but this is not especially common. In other cases, you may need to ask to take the day as unpaid leave or use one of your annual vacation days.

To care for a sick relative

If you need to take time off due to family illness, an accident, or other “urgent family reasons” that require your presence, you have the right to do that under the Lag (1998:209) om rätt till ledighet av trängande familjeskäl (law on the right to leave due to urgent family reasons). There’s no minimum length of time you need to have been employed in order to be entitled to this.

This law doesn’t guarantee you the right to be paid during this leave, but some collective agreements or employment contracts include a clause guaranteeing pay for a certain number of days — in this case, you will often only be paid if you have already passed your six month probation period.

The urgent circumstances could include severe illness or injury of a close family member; not just immediate family, but also grandparents, nieces or nephews, and in-laws for example (again, check your collective agreement if you have one, which often defines the term ‘close relative’).

To attend a funeral

The same law can apply to attending a funeral of a close family member, or if you need time to sort out the estate of a deceased relative. Therefore, the same stipulations apply. You don’t have the right to be paid during this leave, but some collective agreements include the right to paid leave if you’ve passed your probation.

To interview for a new job

It probably won’t come as a surprise that if you’re looking for a new job of your own volition, your current employer has no obligation to grant you the time off to attend an interview. The best option here would typically be to use your annual leave.

But there is an exception.

If you are laid off from your job (uppsagd, as opposed to dismissal which is known as avskedad), the Swedish Employment Protection Act applies. This grants employees the right to a “reasonable leave from work, while retaining employment benefits” in order to seek work. If you have a collective agreement, that might stipulate exactly what is defined as “reasonable”.

Generally, in most situations other than those outlined above, you’ll need to work within the constraints of your contracted annual leave. 

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