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POLITICS

What you need to know about the ‘biggest reform of the Swedish labour market in modern times’

The Swedish government is putting forward a proposal to change the country's labour laws, following long-running negotiations that sparked a significant political crisis.

What you need to know about the 'biggest reform of the Swedish labour market in modern times'
One of the main changes related to Sweden's 'last in, first out' rule regarding lay-offs. Photo: Melker Dahlstrand/imagebank.sweden.se

The law under review is the Employment Protection Act, called Lagen om anställningsskydd in Swedish and usually referred to as LAS.

One of the key principles is “last in, first out” when it comes to redundancies. If a company needs to restructure or cut jobs, the most recently hired person should generally be first to go. There are exceptions, such as if that employee performs a key role that can’t easily be done by someone else, but the proposals would make this even more flexible.

Under the new proposals, employers would be allowed to exempt up to three employees from the “last in, first out rule”. That’s more than under current regulations, which allow small companies with no more than ten staff are allowed to exempt up to two employees.

“Having employees with the right skills is becoming ever more important,” Labour Market Minister Eva Nordmark told a press conference on Tuesday morning, presenting the proposals which she called “the biggest reform of the Swedish labour market in modern times”.

The centre-left government agreed to “modernise the Employment Protection Act” as part of its 2019 deal (the January Agreement) with the Centre and Liberal Parties, where these centre-right parties were given considerable influence in policies in order for the Social Democrats and Green Party to be able to govern.

So the government ordered a review of the law, presenting its first results in June 2020.

Under those proposals, the changes suggested were even more significant than those put forward this week: up to five employees would be exempted from the “last in, first out” rule, and it would not be possible for any dismissal from a small company (up to 15 employees) to be declared invalid.

The ruling Social Democrats criticised these proposals, as did many trade unions, so talks began between politicians, trade unions and employers’ organisations. But these collapsed, which meant that under the January Agreement, the responsibility fell to the government to put forward a new set of proposals.

That’s what it is now doing.

Another big change in the new proposals is that in the case of disputes over unfair dismissals, the employer would not always have to pay the salary of the affected employee until the issue is resolved, as is the case today (if a court rules that the dismissal was unfair, the employee would then receive their salary for the time the dispute was ongoing).

It would become more difficult in general for employers to dismiss employees for so-called personal reasons. And there would be greater opportunities for employers to get funds for adjustment and skills support for staff, even when they are not covered by collective bargaining agreements.

These proposals are currently set to become law on June 30th, 2022, and companies and organisations will be able to start applying the new rules from October 1st, 2022. However, they will need to be passed by parliament first.

There is broad consensus in favour of the latest proposals among employers’ organisations and trade unions, Swedish newswire TT reports, though smaller businesses and some unions represented by blue-collar trade union confederation LO have criticised the government’s suggestions as too inflexible for smaller companies.

Member comments

  1. Was part of the intention of LAS to help keep employers from firing their most highly paid employees (because getting rid of them would offer the greatest savings in labor cost)?

    Also, do these changes to LAS actually help this problem? –

    – “I didn’t speak any Swedish when I moved here so I got the first English-speaking job I could find, two months after landing here, in customer support for a tech startup in Stockholm. They laid me off two weeks before my six months were up, with no warning or cause.

    – “I thought that was obviously a one-off thing — shady company, shady people, bad luck, what have you. Two weeks later I got another English-speaking job, in Uppsala. Another tech startup but much longer established. The job was in one of my actual fields (marketing). A month after I started, another girl started as well, same department. It was a great job, an awesome place with lovely people all around. I loved it,” she said.

    – “Two weeks before my six months were up, they laid me off, citing costs and the pandemic. A month later, they also laid off the girl that started after me, also two weeks before her six months were up. *One month after we were both gone, they hired someone else.*

    All of the quotes are from this Local article:
    https://www.thelocal.se/20201023/either-in-or-out-why-swedens-strict-labour-laws-hurt-foreigners/

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For members

SWEDEN ELECTS

Sweden Elects: The latest political news as the election campaign kicks off

What's Sweden talking about this week? In The Local's Sweden Elects newsletter, editor Emma Löfgren rounds up some of the main talking points ahead of the Swedish election.

Sweden Elects: The latest political news as the election campaign kicks off

In an interview that could have jeopardised his job a decade ago, Social Democrat Immigration Minister Anders Ygeman’s suggestion in DN that there should be a 50 percent cap on non-Nordic immigrants in troubled areas of Swedish cities showed how the debate has shifted in recent years.

That said, his comments did not go without criticism. The Left Party slammed them as “racist”, the Greens and the Centre Party also criticised them, and so did the Moderates and some within the Social Democrats.

Ygeman himself said that he had been misunderstood, that he had never meant it as an actual proposal, and that factors such as crime and unemployment were far more important in terms of integration.

“But of course segregation is not just class-based, it also has an ethnic dimension. If you have areas where almost everyone is from other countries, it’s harder to learn Swedish, and if it’s harder to learn Swedish, it’s harder to get a job,” he told public broadcaster SVT.

What do you think? Email me if you want to share your thoughts.

Campaign posters and a new poll

The centre-left Social Democrats and the Moderates, the largest right-wing opposition party, both unveiled their campaign posters last week, which I guess means that the summer holiday lull is officially over and the election campaign is now definitely under way. Just over a month to go.

It’s interesting that the Social Democrats are clearly trying to turn this into a “presidential” style campaign, taking advantage of Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s overwhelming popularity compared to the Moderates’ Ulf Kristersson, whose reception among voters is lukewarm.

A poll by the DN newspaper and Ipsos a month ago suggested that 37 percent of voters want to see Andersson as prime minister, compared to 22 percent who preferred Kristersson (12 percent preferred the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats’ leader Jimmie Åkesson, and the other party leaders did not get more than four percent each).

Andersson is in the unique position where voters like her way more than they like her party – a new opinion poll by Demoskop suggests that 28.7 percent would vote for the Social Democrats if the election was held today (the Moderates would get 20.3 percent). The same poll has all the right-wing parties with a slight majority compared to the left-wing parties.

Anyway, the Social Democrats’ campaign posters cover pensions, schools (specifically, limiting profit-making free schools), crime and law and order. Climate change is conspicuously absent, but a party spokesperson told reporters it will be more prominent in its social media campaigns.

When Kristersson, on the other hand, spoke at his party’s event to kick off their election campaign, he emphasised how he’s got a viable coalition on his side – a jibe at the Social Democrats, who will struggle to get their partners (specifically the Centre and Left parties) to collaborate.

He also reiterated his praise for the Sweden Democrats, and The Local asked several experts if the Moderates are the same party that fought the 2018 election, when Kristersson promised Holocaust survivor Hédi Fried he would not cooperate with the Sweden Democrats after the election.

Election pledges

The Local’s Becky Waterton has looked at the election pledges of Sweden’s four main parties, the Social Democrats, Moderates, Sweden Democrats and Centre Party. Click here to read her guide, it’s a really useful roundup.

And what about Covid? Is Sweden’s handling of the pandemic not going to be a talking point in this election? No, at least not if the parties have their way. The Social Democrats run the government, but most of the regions (who are in charge of healthcare) are run by right-wing coalitions. So from a strictly realpolitik perspective, no party is able to attack another without putting themselves at risk of becoming a target. Best forget about it.

In other political news…

… a Sweden Democrat member of parliament has been accused of sending unsolicited dick pics to women, the Moderates want to legalise altruistic surrogacy in Sweden, the Christian Democrats want a national scheme to improve maternity care, the Liberals want to make it harder for people with a criminal record to become Swedish citizens, and Centre Party leader Annie Lööf hit the campaign trail just before the weekend by pledging to reject any proposal for raised taxes after the election.

Sweden Elects is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues in the Swedish election race. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column plus several extra features as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.

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