Working in Sweden: What should you do if your workplace doesn’t feel coronavirus-safe?

Working in Sweden: What should you do if your workplace doesn't feel coronavirus-safe?
You'll often get the best results if you provide your employer with clear suggestions. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg / TT
Everyone has the right to feel safe at work, and of course that applies during the current pandemic. But where do you turn if you don't think your workplace is taking the right measures?

If you're feeling uneasy about the return to the office — or if you've been unable to work from home and aren't happy with your working conditions — there are a few things you can do. 

Within your workplace, you should start by discussing any concerns with your line manager and/or HR department. Your employer has a duty to ensure a safe working environment, and that means they have to investigate the risk of infection, address this risk by taking protective measures where necessary, and inform employees about this. So don't be afraid to ask about the measures they're taking.

These could include staggered working hours to help employees avoid the rush hour, a rota system to ensure your workplace is at lower capacity than usual, re-arranging furniture to promote social distancing, and of course facilities for regular hand-washing.

In environments where you come into close contact with a lot of people or with people in risk groups, it might involve protective equipment – which means you as staff should have access to the right kind of equipment and information on how to use it correctly and safely.

If you aren't happy with the measures being put in place, talk to your colleagues – others may feel the same and you may get better results if you raise concerns as a group.

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Your employer is responsible for ensuring you have a safe working environment. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Think about how your managers usually react to suggestions. It's often best to be proactive, collaborative and provide potential solutions to the problem. For example, if you notice the hand sanitiser often runs out, that could be easily fixed by buying more, or you could suggest a rota to ensure there are fewer people in the workplace at any one time. If customers aren't following social distancing rules, you could ask for more signs or other measures to inform them. 

You can back up your argument by referring to the recommendations of the Public Health Agency for private individuals and workplaces regarding reducing the spread of the coronavirus, and the Swedish Work Environment Agency's website. Prevent has a checklist for employers carrying out risk assessments.

If you're a member of a union, you should have access to support from them. The influence that they have depends on whether your workplace officially recognises the union; if they do, then the union can raise these issues on behalf of employees, and if not, they can still give you advice about your rights and possible courses of action.

Even if your workplace doesn't have union recognition, check if you have a skyddsombud (work place environment representative). If you don't have one, the employees of the company can elect one.

This person will be responsible for representing employees on the subject of workplace safety and environment, including involvement in discussions and risk assessments about the work environment, requesting additional measures, and even asking for work to be paused if they judge there is a high risk to employee safety.

Some industries have separate reporting functions. For example if you work in the medical or care sector, healthcare inspectorate IVO has a tip function where you can submit reports of flaws or failures in the workplace.

Yesterday: Can my boss force me to return to the office? Coming up tomorrow: Can I go back to work as normal if I've tested positive for antibodies? If you have any questions about working or living in Sweden, please email our editorial team at [email protected].

 


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