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WORKING IN SWEDEN

How to make the most of Sweden’s public holidays in 2023

As the dust begins to settle on the festive season, it's time to start planning the year ahead. Here's an insider's guide to how to make the best use of Sweden's public holidays and get as much time off work as you possibly can.

man swimming in a sunny stockholm
It's time to start planning your days off in Sweden. Photo: Ali Lorestani/TT

If you’re on a full-time contract in Sweden, you should have a lot of annual leave even before you factor in public holidays.

By law, firms have to give full-time staff 25 days off, and many offer extra days and benefits on top of this. For example, most employees have the right to take four consecutive weeks off in June-August, and you may actually get paid more when you take time off.

What’s more, you can roll over days from previous years up to a total of 25 (usually five per year for five years).

But on top of those paid vacation days, there are several so-called “red days” (röda dagar) in Sweden. By planning breaks around these public holidays you can get longer stretches of time off by only using a few of your precious vacation days.

Keep reading to learn the tricks to make the most of this, and the other factors to be aware of.

1. Check your company’s approach to annual leave around public holidays

Some firms offer de facto bonus “half days” (halvdagar) ahead of public breaks, while others ask staff to take annual leave in the days before or afterwards, in order to synchronise company work schedules.

The dates in-between public holidays are known as klämdagar which means “squeezed days”, for example a Monday that falls between a weekend and a public holiday the next Tuesday. Some employers offer these as extra vacation days. For those that don’t, they are popular days to take off, meaning some businesses offer a “first-come-first-served” policy for these days.

That means planning ahead if you want to take time off then, but consider whether you might prefer a few quiet days in the office while your boss stays at their summer house after a national holiday, perhaps saving your own annual leave for dark November or frozen February.

If you do shift work or your company has a collective bargaining agreement, you’re likely to get extra pay for working public holidays. If red days take place over a weekend, some firms – but far from all, this is not standard in Sweden – offer an alternative weekday off instead.

If you’re not sure what your company’s policy is, don’t be afraid of talking about holidays with your employer. This is especially important if you’re new, as the number of days you’ve worked may affect the number of paid vacation days you get – so make sure you discuss this with your manager. Sweden’s approach to work-life balance means they are more likely to think less of you if you don’t plan any time off.

2. Book early if you want to take time off

Swedes love to plan, so if you’re thinking about travelling, start organising sooner rather than later. It might feel odd planning your summer holidays in January, but it means you’re more likely to get your first choice of dates if you want time off at a popular time, like around a public holiday or school holidays (which otherwise will be quickly booked up by your Swedish parent colleagues).

Usually, hotels, flights and even trains can get booked up months in advance of popular holidays, with prices rising as they get closer, so it’s wise to book early. It is also a way to show consideration to your managers and colleagues so that they can plan work scheduling around everyone’s time off, for example booking cover if necessary.

3. Don’t forget to take time to recharge

Make sure that you do book some time off. That’s not only because by law you need to take your minimum of 20 days (if you’re a full-time employee) but also to give yourself a real break. Planning ahead will give you more chance of getting the days you want.

The summer break especially is usually when many Swedes leave the big cities and head to their parents’ places or second homes in the countryside, while many restaurants, cafés and museums close their doors for summer and public holidays.

So be aware that the cities may be eerily empty during holiday times.

4. Check school term dates

It’s obvious that if you’ve got school-age children, you’ll need to know when their term starts and finishes – be aware that these dates differ in different parts of the country.

But even for workers without children, it pays to check when the summer holiday is, as well as the spring break (sportlov or februarilov) and autumn break (höstlov or läslov). Traffic is often very busy at the start and end of these periods as families escape from the cities, and prices for accommodation and travel can also rise due to the spike in demand.

5. Is this a good year or a bad year?

Most Swedish companies don’t offer days off in lieu when a public holiday falls on a weekend, which means that the total amount of days you can get off a year depend a lot on the calendar – for this reason, you will see newspapers describe certain years as “good” or “bad” for employees or employers. Some public holidays such as Easter are always linked to certain weekdays, but others move around.

Swedes tend to appreciate when public holidays fall on a Tuesday or Thursday, giving them a chance to take a klämdag off while “spending” only one day of their annual leave, so this may be factored in when your colleagues talk about whether it’s a good or a bad year.

We’re delighted to announce that 2023 is a pretty good year. Full-time employees will have 251 work days, two fewer than last year.

So how do you maximise the number of days you can get off in Sweden? Keep reading below for a list of public holidays in 2023 and an insider’s guide to how to make the most of them.

National public holidays in Sweden in 2023:

January

Sunday January 1st – New Year’s Day – Public holiday

Friday January 6th – Epiphany – Public holiday

April

Friday April 7th – Good Friday – Public holiday

Sunday April 9th – Easter Sunday – Public holiday

Monday April 10th – Easter Monday – Public holiday

May

Monday May 1st – Public holiday

Thursday May 18th – Ascension Day – Public holiday

Tip: There’s a chance at a long weekend in May if you get the Friday after Ascension Day off. But it’s a popular klämdag, so make sure you get there before your colleagues.

June

Tuesday June 6th – National Day of Sweden – Public holiday

Friday June 23rd – Midsummer’s Eve – Public holiday, sort of

Saturday June 24th – Midsummer’s Day – Public holiday

Tip 1: Give yourself a long weekend by taking Monday June 5th off.

Tip 2: Midsummer’s Eve is not officially a red day, but it still counts as a de facto public holiday according to Swedish law and you don’t have to work.

November

Saturday November 4th – All Saints Day – Public holiday

Tip: The Friday before All Saints Day may be a half day at some companies, but make sure you ask your employer before clocking out early. There aren’t a lot of other public holidays in autumn, so if you need a break, now is a good time to use up some of your annual leave – depending on the nature of your work, your employer may even appreciate you taking time off now rather than during the summer.

December

Sunday December 24th – Christmas Eve – Public holiday, sort of

Monday December 25th – Christmas Day – Public holiday

Tuesday December 26th – Boxing Day – Public holiday

Sunday December 31st – New Year’s Eve – Public holiday, sort of

Monday January 1st, 2024 – New Year’s Day – Public holiday

Tip: Just like Midsummer’s Eve, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are not officially red days, but they are almost always treated as such anyway. Try to get December 27th-29th off to maximise your annual leave – ten days for the price of three out of your annual holiday allowance. Some offices close for an extended period over the holidays – policies on whether any enforced days off will be considered “bonus days” or will be taken out of your annual leave vary between companies, so double check with HR.

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