On March 16th, Sweden's Public Health Agency urged people to consider working from home if they have the option to — above all workers in the Stockholm area, where the general spread of the coronavirus is highest in the country.
This came after several companies, including Spotify and Ikea, asked all employees to work from home, and even more asked those returning from overseas travel to stay at home for 14 days after returning.
Employers in Sweden have a responsibility not only to minimise the spread of any infection, but also to deal with concern among employees. The risk of the virus spreading in Sweden is judged by health authorities to be “very high”, and on March 16th the number of cases nationwide passed 1,000.
Employers do not have the right to ask employees to cancel any travel carried out outside working hours, but they can require employees to stay at home on their return.
The symptoms of the novel coronavirus include coughing, fever, or a difficulty breathing. Many people who have the virus experience only mild symptoms, which could be mistaken for a normal cold or flu.
Anyone suffering from those symptoms, even if they are mild and even if they have not travelled overseas or had contact with a confirmed case, is to stay at home and limit their social contact as much as possible. If you are feeling ill and need medical help, you shouldn't go to a pharmacy or doctor's office but can contact the 1177 health helpline.
If you don't have symptoms but want to work from home, for example if you belong to one of the at-risk groups or regularly spend time with people who do, it's well worth talking to your employer. Many companies will be more lenient than usual regarding home-working policies due to the risk of the virus spreading, particularly after the recommendations from the Public Health Agency.
If employers require an employee to stay at home, that person is entitled to their salary, whether or not they are able to carry out their work from home.
But it's up to the employer to decide if there is a risk of further infection. In cases where the employee themselves chooses to stay at home but is not sick, there is no legal right to work from home or obtain leave from work.
“If it is the employer's decision that you cannot go to work, the salary should be paid. If it is a person who is found to be ill, sick pay is paid. If you are infected but still able to work, you can get compensation from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency, a so-called disease carrier allowance,” explained Fransson.