In Vilhelmina Municipality, employees will not receive a Christmas present, nor will they have a special Christmas meal.
“A simple consequence of our financial situation,” municipal head Karl-Johan Ottosson said.
During the pandemic, employers who had the opportunity to do so spent a little extra on Christmas gifts, when the ceiling for tax-free gifts was temporarily raised.
But this year the ceiling has been lowered again, to a maximum of 500 kroner. According to Stefan Tengblad, professor of human resource management at the University of Gothenburg, most employers stay within that limit.
“Otherwise, the employees must pay tax on the gift. So it wouldn’t be that popular,” he said.
The tradition of giving a Christmas present can also contribute to strengthening the community in the workplace, according to Tengblad.
“It is quite smart for organizations and companies to use the opportunity to create a stronger relationship between employer and employee,” he noted.
Not getting a Christmas present – for the third year in a row
But not all employers take advantage of the opportunity to give a tax-free Christmas gift to workers.
This is the third year in a row that the employees of Vilhelmina Municipality in Västerbotten have neither received a Christmas present nor Christmas food, due to the municipality’s tight finances.
“In principle, we have a purchasing freeze on everything that is not absolutely necessary. In line with that, we have no Christmas present,” Ottosson explained.
On the other hand, employees in Karlshamn Municipality in Blekinge have received backpacks, cheese trays, or blankets in the last couple of years.
But nowadays, many employers have switched to giving gift cards instead, according to a new TT survey.
In Karlshamn, the municipality may also opt for a 150 kroner gift card.
“Stressful situation this year”
Digital gift cards, where employees can choose between gifts on a web portal, are also popular. Some employers skip Christmas presents and invest in Christmas food or a Christmas banquet instead.
“It can be difficult to find a gift that everyone wants. There is quite a lot of work related to shopping and handing over gifts, which you avoid if you give people a gift card or organize a Christmas banquet,” Tengblad noted.
In recent years, workers were called to a Christmas banquet at the Swedish Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården), but they didn’t get a Christmas present.
But this year, the employees will get both, following a decision by the authority’s leadership: a gift card of 500 kroner, plus a Christmas dinner for approximately the same amount per person.
“We have had a very stressful situation in the agency this year, and our employees around the country have done an excellent job and taken on a great deal of responsibility,” Stina Nyström, HR Director at the Prison Service, said.
Differences between the public and the private sector
Some municipalities have fragile finances, while some private companies make big profits – the opportunities to show employees that they’re appreciated at Christmas are different in Sweden.
“My view is that it can be more lavish in private companies, for example, consulting companies and IT companies,” Tengblad pointed out.