Nordics: European View on Employment Law

11 July 2016

Katarina Åhlberg

Employees across the Nordics generally have a good standard of education and are highly represented amongst successful technology companies. Collective Bargaining Agreements (“CBAs”) cover as much as 80% of the work force.


The law across the Nordics is codified and case law helps to interpret these laws. Employment laws are mandatory to the protection of the employees and there is no employment at will. Mandatory law includes rules on acceptable grounds for dismissal. Any terms set by CBAs enjoy similar status to laws.

Did you know?

  • 50% of the employees are female 
  • Most of the workforce speak English and there is no obligation to translate policies or to provide bilingual employment agreements 
  • Fathers take parental leave in the Nordics. It is also a common practice to share the leave amongst parents 
  • A strong social security system exists in all countries; medical care is free or inexpensive 
  • Very stable labour market with few strikes 
  • Employees are typically hard working and loyal

Restructuring programmes: key issues

  • In Sweden obligation to consult with the trade unions before deciding to restructure (if there is a CBA in place); obligation to consult also exists in Finland but procedure is different to that in Sweden 
  • Social selection criteria are normally applied; selection methods differ from country to country. The most drastic method is the “last in– first out” principle in Sweden 
  • European rules on transfer of undertakings are implemented 
  • There is no “one size fits all”; rules differ considerably between the Nordic countries

General employment

  • The main rule is that employment continues until further notice 
  • Probationary periods and fixed term contracts are allowed 
  • Restrictive covenants must be compensated for in Denmark and Sweden but generally not in Finland

This is part of the Bird & Bird: A European view on Employment Law series.

See also: