Employment Update Sweden November 2006

By Katarina Nordblom


New legislation

The following changes came into force from 1 July 2006:

Parental leave
The Parental Leave Act has been amended as follows:

  1. There is no longer a requirement that employees must have been in employment for a period of six months in order to qualify for parental leave and benefits.
  2. A new provision prohibiting negative treatment of employees or job applicants for reasons connected with parental leave has been introduced (§16 of the Parental Leave Act). The expression “negative treatment” includes actual loss, such as lower salary or less favourable benefits. However, negative treatment can also include other “negative issues”, such as exclusion from education, from higher positions or personal treatment such as bullying and harassment.
  3. Employees can now be represented by the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman when enforcing the laws which prohibit negative treatment.

There have also been changes to the Employment Protection Act that affect the rights of employees on Parental leave. In the case of a redundancy situation, an employee whose position is affected by redundancy may not be dismissed (by giving notice) until he/she returns from the parental leave. This has the effect that the employee on parental leave may benefit from changes to the company’s situation during the parental leave. Even where the redundancy situation is still at hand upon the employee’s return, the postponed date for the notice of dismissal has the effect that the period for priority rights for re-employment is prolonged accordingly. Thus, in a redundancy situation an employee on parental leave enjoys greater employment protection than other employees.

Information to employees on fixed term contracts
A further amendment to the Employment Protection Act means that employers are now obliged to inform employees on fixed term contracts of any vacant positions valid for indefinite term and any vacant positions for probationary employment. The information can normally be provided on a company’s intranet site, a notice board or similar tool. However, employees on parental leave should be notified via an individual message, for example mail or e-mail.

Case update

During this autumn there have been several rulings on discrimination by the Labour Court

Transfer because of membership of a religious community
In a recent judgment (8 November 2006) the Swedish Labour Court ruled that the transfer of a teacher against her will to another position constituted a breach of a collective bargaining agreement. This is because the transfer was not based on objective grounds but due to the fact that the teacher was a member of a nonconformist church parish. As such the Labour Court found that the teacher and her trade union were entitled to damages.

Discrimination due to ethnic background and/or gender
The Labour Court ruled, on 20 September 2006, that the promotion of a male employee with a Swedish background to the position of Managing Director within a remand prison was not discriminatory against a female colleague with Bosnian background. The reason being that the female employee could not prove that she was better qualified for the position.

Discrimination due to disability
In a recent ruling by the Labour Court (27 September 2006) a priest who was denied a position as a missionary in Brazil due to his food allergy was found to be entitled to damages for unlawful discrimination.