What you need to know before the holiday period in Sweden: can employers withdraw pre-approved holiday leave?

By Madelene Ackheim


Finally the summer holiday period has arrived! It brings sun, sea, and swimming but also some tricky employment questions like whether an employer can in fact withdraw pre-approved holiday leave under Swedish law.

Surprisingly to many, the answer is yes – but only in certain circumstances. For example, where there are "special reasons", the employer can cancel or withdraw already approved holiday. To do this, the employer needs to show there are unforeseen circumstances. This could be an unexpected issue where the employee's holiday may jeapardise the business of the company, but it can not be due to poor planning, such as needing payroll staff to come to work to pay wages. 

In cases where employees have to cancel their holiday to come back to work, the employer is liable for costs associated with coming back to work such as cost for cancelling a trip. If the employer cancels holiday without there being "special reasons", the employer can be liable for damages. 

A recent Labour Court decision demonstrates an example where the employer can in fact withdraw already approved holiday leave: a group of midwives had their holidays moved or cancelled by their employer due to unforeseeable circumstances and the court ruled in favour of the employer. 

However, most employees need not to worry about their upcoming holiday! The general rule is that holidays should be approved by the employer two months in advance, and once decided the employer cannot cancel or change the holiday period. It is also worth mentioning that the employee is not required to be contactable during their holidays so planning within the team is key...

Bird & Bird Sweden wishes you all a great summer holiday!