My Swedish job has been affected by the coronavirus crisis. What should I do now?

Many jobs in Sweden have been directly or indirectly affected by the coronavirus crisis. Nearly 37,000 workers were laid off in March, while many other workers have had their hours cut, need time off sick or have to work from home. Here's what you need to know if your job is one of those affected.

My Swedish job has been affected by the coronavirus crisis. What should I do now?
Everybody who can work from home is advised to do so. Photo: Martina Holmberg/TT

The private service sector has been hit hardest, with over five percent of all jobs in the hotel and restaurant industry affected. This sector accounts for almost half of all redundancies, the Public Employment Service's head analyst Annika Sundén told a press conference.

“Household consumption in this area has almost disappeared,” she said, with citizens all but having stopped going out for dinner, going to hotels, and even getting haircuts.  “The staffing sector is also hard hit, as well as transport and trade.” 

Sweden has a safety net in place to support people who get sick or lose their jobs, and the government has introduced extra measures to deal with the extraordinary situation.

Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Monday: “We'll never be able to save all jobs and companies. People will be unemployed and companies will go bankrupt. We have a very serious economic situation.”

But for those who have lost their jobs, or otherwise been affected by the coronavirus, there are various options and ways to get support. Here's a look at the different options for employees whose jobs in Sweden have been affected.

Employment Agency analyst Annika Sundén. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

I decided to work from home. Will I get paid as usual?

Only if your employer agreed the change with you. Employees cannot independently determine if they can work from home or not.

However, the Public Health Agency has recommended that everyone who can work from home should do so, and has called on employers to ensure this happens. 

If you are healthy, your employer has the right to require you to be at your workplace, and as an employee you could face serious consequences of going against these requirements. Instead, the best action to take is to speak to your manager, HR manager, or union representative.

Different rules apply to those who have fallen ill or who have another legitimate reason to stay at home, for example because you are caring for a sick child or if you can have a doctor's note stating you are especially vulnerable to contracting the virus.

My employer has asked me to stay at home, but I can't do my job from home. Will I get paid?

Yes, you should. Your employer is entitled to require you to stay at home if they believe there is a risk of you spreading infection at your workplace, for example.

If you're available to work, in other words if you would be able to do the work if you were allowed, you are entitled to receive your salary even if your employer has asked you to stay home, as long as this is the decision of the employer themselves and not a recommendation from Swedish authorities. That's still true for people who cannot perform all, or even any, of their work duties from home. 

I am sick. Will I still receive my salary?

Yes, that is, in part. Your sick pay amounts to 80 percent of your income, and you report your absence to your employer.

Under temporary regulations proposed by the government, the sick pay includes the first day of illness (known as karensdag which is usually unpaid in Sweden). You have to retroactively apply to Försäkringskassan, the Swedish authority for social security, for the first day of sick pay.

But for the first day of sickness, slightly different rules apply. The first day's sick pay will not be quite as high as typical sick pay for many workers. All employees will receive 700 kronor before tax on the first day of sickness while all self-employed people will receive 804 kronor before tax, regardless of their salary.

This temporary measure will be in place between March 11th and May 31st.

Another temporary measure by the government means that you are allowed to receive sick pay without a doctor's note during the first 21 days of your illness (usually you would need such a note after two weeks).

Although the measures were proposed on the back of the coronavirus outbreak, they apply to all illnesses, so you will not have to test positive for the coronavirus in order to be eligible for these benefits.

If you are well enough to work, but a doctor believes there is a risk of you spreading the coronavirus infection to other people if you do, you may be entitled to so-called disease carrier allowance.

I have been made redundant. Can I apply for unemployment benefits?

Sweden has unemployment funds called arbetslöshetskassa or a-kassa, and millions of workers pay into these funds which offer income-based unemployment insurance if you use your job.

Under previous rules, workers had to be a member of a fund for 12 months before they could receive benefits of up to 80 percent of their previous salary (capped at 910 kronor a day), and needed to have worked at least 80 hours per month for at least six months beforehand to be eligible. Anyone who did not meet these requirements would previously receive only the basic level of benefits, up to 365 kronor a day.

Now, employees only need to have worked a minimum of 60 hours per month, and will be entitled to the full compensation after only three months as a member. The reason is that many of the people hit by the lay-offs caused by the outbreak were in precarious employment, such as seasonal or part-time work.

The salary cap and minimum amount have also both been temporarily raised. This means that for the first 100 days, the maximum amount a person can receive will be raised to 1,200 kronor per day (depending on your salary). And the basic benefits will be raised to 510 kronor a day.

To be eligible for benefits you need to be unemployed, you need to have registered at Arbetsförmedlingen, the Swedish public employment service, and you should be actively searching for a job. Note that you need to register at Arbetsförmedlingen on the first day of your unemployment.

Here you can find the a-kassa you are a member of, or decide which one you want to join. You apply for compensation through their respective websites. 

Employment Minister Eva Nordmark and Business Minister Ibrahim Baylan. Photo: Henrik Säll/TT

I am working reduced hours, or I have been laid off temporarily because there is no work to do. What support can I get?

If you are employed and you are still at your employer's disposal, that is, you are available and able to work, but your working hours have been affected by the crisis, you are entitled to (the best part of) your salary.

Many companies and employers have a hard time staying afloat as a consequence of a lack of customers or because they can no longer get hold of goods necessary for the continuation of the production process.

In order for businesses to keep their staff and be able to get up and running as soon as the worst of the crisis has blown over, the government has decided on new regulations and allowances concerning korttidsarbete or short-term layoffs.

If you are an employee having received a notice of short-term layoff or reduced working hours, you are entitled to around 90 percent of your usual income, which you should receive from your employer. You cannot apply for unemployment benefits from a-kassan, as you are not formally unemployed.

Your employer can apply for support at Tillväxtverket and can receive compensation for up to 53 percent of their employees' salaries from the state. Employers can apply for this so-called korttidspermittering from April 7th onwards, and receive compensation retroactively dating back to March 16th.

I want to find a new job. Will that be possible?

Despite the high unemployment numbers, there's still a demand for manpower in several sectors.

According to Annika Sundén, head of analysis at Arbetsförmedlingen, the healthcare sector has the most job openings by far, but there is also a need for jobs such as cashiers and warehouse staff.

The government is exploring ways to efficiently retrain those who have been made redundant in order for them to become qualified for those sectors where there is a staffing shortage.

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Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

A reader got in touch to ask how long he had to work in Sweden before he was eligible for a pension. Here are Sweden's pension rules, and how you can get your pension when the time comes.

Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

The Swedish pension is part of the country’s social insurance system, and it can seem like a confusing beast at times. The good news is that if you’re living and working here, you’ll almost certainly be earning towards a pension, and you’ll be able to get that money even if you move elsewhere before retirement.

You will start earning your Swedish general pension, or allmän pension, once you’ve earned over 20,431 kronor in a single year, and – for almost all kinds of pension in Sweden – there is no time limit on how long you must have lived in Sweden before you are eligible.

The exception is the minimum guarantee pension, or garantipension, which you can receive whether you’ve worked or not. To be eligible at all for this, you need to have lived in Sweden for a period of at least three years before you are 65 years old. 

“There’s a limit, but it’s a money limit,” Johan Andersson, press secretary at the Swedish Pension Agency told The Local about the general pension. “When you reach the point that you start paying tax, you start paying into your pension.”

“But you have to apply for your pension, make sure you get in touch with us when you want to start receiving it,” he said.

Here’s our in-depth guide on how you can maximise your Swedish pension, even if you’re only planning on staying in Sweden short-term.

Those who spend only a few years working in Sweden will earn a much smaller pension than people who work here for their whole lives, but they are still entitled to something – people who have worked in Sweden will keep their income pension, premium pension, supplementary pension and occupational pension that they have earned in Sweden, even if they move to another country. The pension is paid no matter where in the world you live, but must be applied for – it is not automatically paid out at retirement age.

If you retire in the EU/EEA, or another country with which Sweden has a pension agreement, you just need to apply to the pension authority in your country of residence in order to start drawing your Swedish pension. If you live in a different country, you should contact the Swedish Pensions Agency for advice on accessing your pension, which is done by filling out a form (look for the form called Ansök om allmän pension – om du är bosatt utanför Sverige).

The agency recommends beginning the application process at least three months before you plan to take the pension, and ideally six months beforehand if you live abroad. It’s possible to have the pension paid into either a Swedish bank account or an account outside Sweden.

A guarantee pension – for those who live on a low income or no income while in Sweden – can be paid to those living in Sweden, an EU/EEA country, Switzerland or, in some cases, Canada. This is the only Swedish pension which is affected by how long you’ve lived in Sweden – you can only receive it if you’ve lived in the country for at least three years before the age of 65.

“The guarantee pension is residence based,” Andersson said. “But it’s lower if you haven’t lived in Sweden for at least 40 years. You are eligible for it after living in Sweden for only three years, but it won’t be that much.”