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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

WORK PERMITS

How foreigners can get on the fast track for a work permit in Sweden

It can now take about six months to get a work permit in Sweden, and a year for an extension. Here's how you can get on the fast track.

How foreigners can get on the fast track for a work permit in Sweden

How long does it normally take to get a permit to work in Sweden? 

According to the calculator on the Migration Agency’s website, 75 percent of first work permit applications are completed within three months, and 75 percent of work permit extensions are completed within 14 months. 

These numbers, though, are only for people in non-risk industries. If you are applying for a job in the cleaning, building, hotel and restaurant, or car repair industries — all of which are seen as high risk by the agency — applications can take much longer to be approved. 

For these industries, the calculator suggests a long 12-month wait for a first application and a 17-month wait for an extension. 

This is because of the higher number of unscrupulous employers in these industries who do not pay foreign workers their promised salaries, or do not fulfil other requirements in their work permit applications, such as offering adequate insurance and other benefits. 

So how do you get on the fast track for a permit? 

There are two ways to get your permit more rapidly: the so-called “certified process” and the EU’s Blue Card scheme for highly skilled employees. 

What is the certified process?

The certified process was brought in back in 2011 by the Moderate-led Alliance government to help reduce the then 12-month wait for work permits.

Under the process, bigger, more reputable Swedish companies and trusted intermediaries handling other applications for clients, such as the major international accounting firms, can become so-called “certified operators”, putting the work permit applications they handle for employees on a fast track, with much quicker processing times. 

The certified operator or the certified intermediary is then responsible for making sure applications are ‘ready for decision’, meaning the agency does not need to spend as much time on them. 
You can find answers to the most common questions about the certified process on the Migration Agency’s website

How much quicker can a decision be under the certified process? 
Under the agreement between certified employers and the Migration Agency, it should take just two weeks to process a fresh work permit application, and four weeks to get an extension. 
Unfortunately, the agency is currently taking much longer: between one and three months for a fresh application, and around five to six months for an extension. 
This is still roughly half the time it takes for an employee seeking a permit outside the certified process. 
The Migration Agency told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper in a recent article that in September the average decision had taken 105 days, while over the year as a whole, applications for certified companies had taken 46 days, and those for non-certified companies 120 days. 

How can someone planning to move to Sweden for work take advantage of the certified process? 
Unfortunately, it is very much up to your employer. If you are planning to move to Sweden for work, you should make sure to ask prospective employers if they are certified, or sub-certified through an intermediary firm, and take that into account when deciding which company to take a job with. 
Smaller IT companies are often not certified, as they tend to start off by recruiting from within Sweden or the European Union. 
If you have begun a work permit application with a company that is not certified or sub-certified, then you cannot get onto the fast track even if your employer gets certified while you are waiting for a decision. 
The certified process can also not be used to get a work permit for an employee of a multinational company who is moving to the Swedish office from an office in another country. 
If my employer is certified, what do I need to do?
You will need to sign a document giving power of attorney to the person at your new company who is handling the application, both on behalf of yourself and of any family members you want to bring to Sweden.  
You should also double check the expiry date on your passport and on those of your dependents, and if necessary applying for a new passport before applying, as you can only receive a work permit for the length of time for which you have a valid passport. 

Which companies are certified? 
Initially, only around 20 companies were certified, in recent years the Migration Agency has opened up the scheme to make it easier for companies to get certified, meaning there are now about 100 companies directly certified, and many more sub-certified. 
To get certified, a company needs to have handled at least ten work permit applications for foreign employees over the past 18 months (there are exceptions for startups), and also to have a record of meeting the demands for work and residency permits.  
The company also needs to have a recurring need to hire from outside the EU, with at least ten applications expected a year. 
The Migration Agency is reluctant to certify or sub-certify companies working in industries where it judges there is a high risk of non-compliance with the terms of work permits, such as the building industry, the hotel and restaurant industry, the retail industry, and agriculture and forestry. 
Most of the bigger Swedish firms that rely on foreign expertise, for example Ericsson, are certified. 
The biggest intermediaries through whom companies can become sub-certified are the big four accounting firms, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG, and Vialto (a spin-off from PwC), and the specialist relocation firms Human Entrance, and Alpha Relocation. Bråthe estimates that these six together control around 60 percent of the market. Other players include K2 Corporate Mobility, Key Relocation, Nordic Relocation, and some of the big corporate law firms operating in Sweden, such as Ving and Bird & Bird. 

What is the EU Blue Card, how can I get one, and how can it help speed up the work permit process? 
Sweden’s relatively liberal system for work permits, together with the certification system, has meant that in recent years there has been scant demand for the EU Blue Card. 
The idea for the Blue Card originally sprung from the Brussels think-tank Bruegel, and was written into EU law in August 2012. The idea was to mimic the US system of granting workers a card giving full employment rights and expedited permanent residency. Unlike with the US Green Card, applicants must earn a salary that is at least 1.5 times as high as the average in the country where they are applying.
Germany is by far the largest granter of EU blue cards, divvying out nearly 90 percent of the coveted cards, followed by France (3.6 percent), Poland (3.2 percent) and Luxembourg (3 percent).

How can I qualify for a Blue Card?

The card is granted to anyone who has an accredited university degree (you need 180 university credits or högskolepoäng in Sweden’s system), and you need to be offered a job paying at least one and a half times the average Swedish salary (about 55,000 kronor a month).

How long does a blue card take to get after application in Sweden? 

According to the Migration Agency, a Blue Card application is always handled within 90 days, with the card then sent to the embassy or consulate named in the application.

In Sweden ,it is only really worth applying for a Blue Card if you are applying to work at a company that is not certified and are facing a long processing time.

EU Blue Cards are issued for a minimum of one year and a maximum of two years. 

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