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Nine reasons Sweden is heaven for employees

You've heard it said - but is it true? Judge for yourself - here are nine reasons why working in Sweden rocks.

Nine reasons Sweden is heaven for employees
Photo: Getty Images

1. A whole heap of holidays

We’ll start with what might be the most obvious one. With five weeks of paid vacation by law and many companies giving employees six weeks, Swedes enjoy plenty of time off work. Indeed, it’s not uncommon for people in Sweden to take off an entire month or more in the summer. You won’t catch them checking work email during that time, either – holidays are sacred.

New to Sweden and interested in insuring your income? Read about the benefits of joining Akademikernas a-kassa

2. Hej då, hierarchy!

(Hej då means bye, FYI…) Swedes love equality. From preschool to university, teachers are addressed by their first names – and a similar force is at play in the business world.

If you work at a Swedish company, chances are you know the CEO personally. You call her (or him) by her first name and nor are you afraid to share your ideas with him (or her).

Of course that applies to gender equality too. Sweden is one the most gender equal nations in the world. And while it’s not perfect, you’ll find the glass ceiling in Sweden is much, much higher than in most other countries.

3. The importance of parenting

Here’s another one you’ve probably heard of: Sweden’s famous parental leave system. Swedish couples receive 480 days of parental leave per child, paid at about 80 percent of their salary. And if that’s not radical enough, at least 90 of those days must be used by the father – ensuring that men also get a chance to be stay-at-home dads. Parents are encouraged to split the leave as equally as possible.

We know of a few companies that even provide company hoodies for newborns before sending employees on their leave!

Photo: Getty Images

4. Awesome a-kassa (unemployment benefit funds, that is)

This one isn’t quite as famous a parental leave and holiday – but it should be!

Sweden has a great system in place to support those who lose their jobs. Those who sign up for membership pay a monthly fee – as low as 140 kronor a month for members of Akademikernas a-kassa, a fund specifically for those with post-secondary education. And then if you should become unemployed, you can get up to 80 percent of your salary (up to a maximum of 26,400 kronor per month before tax. Now that’s a safety net!

Think you could benefit for a safety net for your income? Find out more about how insurance with Akademikernas a-kassa works

5. Strong unions

In some countries ‘union’ can be seen as a dirty word. Not so in Sweden.

Here, there are unions for essentially all branches of work, and about 70 percent of all employees in Sweden currently belong to a trade union. Unions work with employers’ groups on a sector level to agree on conditions that apply across the board, and union-championed perks like a stipend for a gym membership are commonplace. And if a workplace has a “collective agreement” (kollektivavtal), agreed upon with a union, then that agreement applies to all employees – not just union members.

Members of unions frequently get perks like stipends or scholarships to help them learn new skills, too. Depending on the union, this could be anything from learning a new language to taking a class in marketing.

6. You can always learn

Speaking of learning new skills, did you know you can put your job on hold to go back to school?

In Sweden, any person who has been working at a company for at least six months has the right to take a leave of absences for studies. It’s unpaid, but your job will be waiting for you when you get back. That’s all thanks to the Employee’s Right to Educational Leave Act (Studieledighetslagen) of 1974. Booyah!

7. Fabulous fika (and how to do it remotely)

Fika is the Swedish social phenomenon – heavily enjoyed at work – where everyone drops what they’re doing and partakes of coffee and pastries. Many companies provide regular fika for employees in ordinary times.

You don’t want to miss out on some tasty office gossip and an even tastier cinnamon bun just because you’ve been forced to work from home, do you now? If the team fika breaks have ground to a halt during the pandemic, maybe it’s time to suggest staging one via video call. In fact, in Sweden you’re never required to work more than five hours without some sort of break, even if that break is just a ten-minute fika – that’s the law.

Photo: Jenny Jurnelius

Working in Sweden, you also get a real lunch break. Most people take a full hour off for lunch – and may even use it to enjoy some team-building fun. If you’re currently feeling trapped in your apartment while working remotely, use the time to go outside for some fresh air and (hopefully!) some sun.

8. English is everywhere

Granted, there are some jobs where Swedish is a requirement. But generally in Sweden – especially in the big cities like Stockholm and Gothenburg – you can get by just fine on English.

Many Swedish companies already use English as their language of business, and even if they don’t, Swedes are some of the world’s very best non-native English speakers. And if you do want to learn Swedish – which you very well should – chances are you can get paid time off to go to Swedish for immigrants (SFI) classes!

9. No polyester two-pieces

Day in, day out, same old suit in the same old cubicle … this is not a scene you would have seen in Sweden even before you started working from home.

Even in upper-crust lines of work, office attire in Sweden may be a lot more laid-back than what you’re used to. Swedish style is tailored and well-fitted but also very casual: jeans and a blazer is a perfect for both men and women in professional settings.

Loose-fitted denim, oversized blouses, and messy buns are also decidedly “in”, even in many public sector jobs. So, if you return to office working later this year, put the starch away – long live modern minimalism!

Akademikernas a-kassa pays up to 80 percent of your salary if you lose your job – find out more and learn how to join now

For members

WORKING IN SWEDEN

CHECKLIST: Here’s what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

What authorities do you need to inform before you leave, are you liable to Swedish tax and how can you access your Swedish pension? Here's a checklist.

CHECKLIST: Here's what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

Tell the relevant authorities if you’re leaving for more than a year

If you’re planning on leaving Sweden for more than a year, you will have to let the authorities know. The main authorities in question are Skatteverket (the Tax Agency) and Försäkringskassan (the Social Insurance Agency).

Försäkringskassan

You have to tell Försäkringskassan when you leave so they can assess whether or not you still qualify for Swedish social insurance. As a general rule, you aren’t eligible for Swedish social insurance if you move away from Sweden, but there are exceptions, such as maternity or paternity benefits if you’re moving to another EU country.

This also applies to any family members who move with you – any over-18’s should send in their own documentation to Försäkingskassan about their move abroad. If you’re moving abroad with anyone under 18, you can include them in your own report to Försäkringskassan.

If both legal guardians are moving abroad together, both need to include any children in their application. If one legal guardian is moving abroad and the other is staying in Sweden, you need the guardian staying in Sweden to co-sign your application. If you are the sole legal guardian of any under-18’s travelling with you, you don’t need any documentation from the other parent.

You can register a move abroad with Försäkringskassan on the Mina sidor service on their website, here (log in with BankID).

Skatteverket

If you are moving abroad for a year or longer, you also need to tell the Tax Agency. This also applies if you were planning on moving abroad for less than a year but ended up staying for longer.

If you move to another Nordic country, you will also need to register your move with that country’s authorities if you will be there for six months or more. You’ll be deregistered from the Swedish population register the same day you become registered in another Nordic country’s register.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll lose your personnummer – you’ll still be able to use it if you ever move back to Sweden – but you will no longer be registered as resident in Sweden.

Similarly to Försäkringskassan, you will also need to report any children you are bringing with you, and both legal guardians must sign the form, whether or not both guardians are moving abroad or not.

In some cases, you may still be liable to pay tax in Sweden even if you live abroad – particularly if you are a Swedish citizen or have lived in Sweden for at least ten years. This could be due to owning or renting out property in Sweden, having family in Sweden, or owning a business in Sweden.

You can tell the tax agency of your plans to move abroad here.

Contact your a-kassa, if relevant

If you are member of a Swedish a-kassa (unemployment insurance), make sure you tell them that you’re leaving the country. As a general rule, you have unemployment insurance in the country you work in, so you will most likely have to cancel your a-kassa subscription.

If you are moving to another country with the a-kassa system, such as Denmark or Finland, it may pay to wait until you have joined a new a-kassa in that country before you cancel your membership in Sweden.

This is due to the fact, in some countries, you only qualify for benefits once you fulfil a membership and employment requirement. In Sweden and Denmark, you must have been a member for 12 months before you qualify. In Finland, the membership requirement is 26 weeks.

If you qualify for a-kassa in Sweden before you leave the country, you may be able to transfer your a-kassa membership period over to your new a-kassa abroad and qualify there straight away, but this usually only applies if your period of a-kassa membership is unbroken.

Check what applies in your new country before you cancel your membership in Sweden – your a-kassa should be able to help you with this.

Contact your union, if relevant

Similarly, if you are a member of a Swedish union or fackförbund, let them know you’re moving abroad.

If you’re moving to another Nordic country, they might be able to point you in the direction of the relevant union in that country, if you want to remain a member of a union in your new country.

If you’re moving to another EU country, you may be able to remain a member of your Swedish union as a foreign worker with the status utlandsvistelse.

If you chose to do this, you will usually pay a lower monthly fee than you do in Sweden, and they can still provide assistance with work related issues – although it may make more sense to join a local union in your field with more knowledge of the labout market.

If you don’t want to be a member of a union in your new country and don’t want to be a member of a Swedish union, you should contact your  union and ask them to cancel your membership.

Collect relevant documents regarding your Swedish pension

If you have worked in Sweden and paid tax for any length of time, you will have paid in to a Swedish pension. You retain this pension wherever you move, but you must apply for it yourself.

To do so, you will need to give details of when you lived and worked in Sweden, as well as providing copies of work contracts, if you have them. If you have these documents before you leave Sweden, make copies so that you can provide them when asked.

If you move to the EU/EES or Switzerland, you may also have the right to other, non-work based pensions, such as guarantee pension for low- or no-income earners, or the income pension complement (inkomstpensionstillägg).

Currently, you can receive your Swedish pension once you turn 62 – although there is a proposal in parliament due to raise pension age to 63 for those born after 1961 from 2023, so this may change.

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