Swedish word of the day: karensdag

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Swedish word of the day: karensdag
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Today's word stirs up a lot of debate in Sweden...


There is no snappy translation for karensdag, but it means 'qualifying day' or 'waiting day' in certain contexts. You will most likely hear it used in reference to sick pay in Sweden, when it refers to the first day of sickness when no benefit is paid. It also refers to waiting periods in other kinds of insurance or benefits policies; the period of time during which no payouts are made.

Note: it's not 'Karin's' or 'Karen's' day! 

The concept of the karensdag may come as a surprise given Sweden's reputation for having a robust welfare state.

During the coronavirus pandemic, it has effectively been scrapped, with the government covering the cost of sick pay from Day 1 in an attempt to deter symptomatic people from coming into work and spreading the coronavirus among colleagues – though even then, sick workers only receive around 80 percent of their usual pay while ill.

The Left Party has long been saying the waiting day should be removed altogether, a call which has been renewed in 2020.


The arguments against the karensdag are that sick workers are encouraged to come into the workplace and spread germs and illnesses, and that working while sick could also mean a longer recovery time which has negative consequences for businesses as well as individuals.

Another criticism is that there is no karensdag when applying for child sickness benefit or 'VAB', the money paid to parents who need to miss work due to their child's illness which is paid from the first day. 

But supporters of the current system often claim that having sick benefits paid from day one could encourage benefit fraud.

Officially, the karensdag was replaced in 2019 by a karensavdrag (roughly 'qualifying deduction'). This meant the system was changed so that in each period of sickness, your sick pay is subject to a deduction equivalent to 20 percent of your average weekly sick pay, instead of missing out on the day's pay for the first day of sickness. This was intended to make things fairer for shift workers or others working irregular hours, so their sick pay wouldn't be affected by falling sick on a day when you work longer or shorter hours than average. 

For workers on fixed-hour weeks, there was no change in practice to the amount you receive, so most people still refer to the karensdag.


Slopad karensdag ska hindra smitta

Scrapping the waiting day for sickness benefit is intended to prevent infection

Karensdagen innebär att du inte får sjuklön under din första sjukdag

The qualifying day means that you don't get sick pay on your first day of sickness


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