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Working in Sweden – things to consider

Have you landed a job in Sweden? Congratulations! In this episode we will explain important things to consider when you start working. You will learn about collective agreements and how trade unions  can support and help workers. Also we discuss the importance of joining an unemployment fund. Lots of great tips you don’t want to miss.

Pär Axelsson:

Hello. Have you been offered a new job? Congratulations.

In today's episode of new in Sweden podcast, we'll talk about some of the things that are good to know when working in Sweden. My name is Pär and I work at

Arbetsförmedlingen, the Swedish public employment service.

Pär:

First things first it's great news about your new job. Or perhaps you are listening so that you

know what to expect when the time comes to start working, because there is a fair bit you should know about.

Adiam:

Absolutely. In Sweden there are a lot of rules and agreements in order to support and protect you. As a worker you should be aware of this so you know what to look out for and don't miss out on any benefits.

Pär:

That's right, because your employer or boss won't always point these things out for you.

But not to worry, we're here to give you some tips for what to consider when you land a job. We'll talk about payment, working hours, and holidays.

We're also going to talk about what terms like fackförbund and A-kassa mean and why it's a good idea to become a member of these these organisations.

Adiam:

But the most important thing is that your employment contract clearly states your payment and employment type.

The most common types of employment in Sweden is permanent employment or tillsvidareanställning or fast anställning.

In Swedish there is also temporary employment. Or in Swedish, tidsbegränsad anställning. And finally we have probationary employment. That is provanställning in Swedish.

Pär:

That's right. When it comes to salary, there is also a special type of agreement in Sweden which determines how much workers will earn within different sectors.

These are called kollektivavtal, or collective agreements in English. When you begin a new job you can ask whether the employer has a kollektivavtal. Not all will, but they will still have

to pay salaries in accordance with a kollektivavtal.

Adiam:

I think we should clarify what exactly is a kollektivavtal. We spoke to an expert on the topic, Marielle Larsson, who works for Kommunal.

Marielle Larsson:

A collective agreement is an agreement of working conditions and benefits.

The agreement is negotiated between employers and the trade unions. To negotiate the terms of a collective agreement is one of the most important things the trade unions do. If there is a collective agreement at your workplace, it applies for all employees, even if you are a member of a trade union or not. In a collective agreement, there is regulations of occupational pension, which means more pension that you will get from the government, annual salary increase,

rules about working hours and form of employment, rules of overtime and unsocial working hours. Extra pay when you're on parental leave or long term sick-leave. And there is insurance that will cover you in case of an occupational injury and so on.

Adiam:

A collective agreement actually consists of several separate agreements which govern things like how much payment you should get, how many days

of holiday you are entitled to, your pension insurance, what happens if you work overtime or get sick, and so on.

Pär:

So if I were a bus driver, for example, I would be entitled to a certain level of payment, pay leave and pension contributions.

And the same principle would apply if I work as a child carer, in a shop or even at Arbetsförmedlingen.

Adiam:

Exactly. Certain things are not allowed. Let's say for instance, your employer

gives you 15,000 kronor in payment and you receive 10 days of paid leave.

At the same time, your colleague who does the exact same job gets 25,000 kronor and 25 days of paid leave. As you can see this is not allowed.

Marielle:

If there is no collective agreement, you don't have the rights to the benefits.

You don't get occupational pension, no guaranteed insurances, maybe shorter annual leave, which is the vacation days. And no annual salary increase.

Pär:

If there is no kollektivavtal, you should still ask whether the company has taken out insurance policies in accordance with kollektivavtal like Fora försäkring for example.

If you would like to know more about this, we suggest searching online as this isn't our area of expertise.

But to back up a bit. Marielle mentioned the term fackförbund a

few times when she's speaking about collective agreements, so maybe we should have started with that.

Adiam:

Yeah, it's hard to know which order to discuss things in as everything is interconnected.

But as Marielle mentioned, it is the fackförbunden or trade unions in English who negotiate the kollektivavtalen.

Let's hear a little more from Marielle about what a fackförbund actually is and what they do.

Marielle:

A trade union, often called a union, is an an organisation in which workers can become members. You will hear names like facket, fackförbund or fackföreningen in Swedish. This is just different names for the same thing. A trade union is run by its members.

This means the members in the trade union together decide how the trade union should be run and what the trade union should focus on.

There is a law in Sweden that gives a trade union an opportunity to represent their members at the workplace or in court.

This is important if your boss does not follow the law or agreements in your workplace. It's the trade unions who negotiate the collective agreement which gives you better terms and benefits as an employee.

Pär:

Great. Another thing that is good to know is that

nobody can demand that you tell them whether you are a member of a fackförbund. That's protected by our confidentiality. No employer can forbid you to join one either.

Adiam:

Exactly. Pär, Marielle mentioned that a fackförbund

can help you out in an event of a conflict at work.

For example, if you are fired from your job because you are pregnant, or if your employer refuses to let you take paid leave, you can go to your fackförbund and ask for help.

That way you won't have to face your employer alone.

Instead, you will have the entire union on your side, helping protecting your rights.

Pär:

OK, so you don't mean they will all turn up at your workplace to speak to the boss?

Adiam:

No, no, no, no, of course not. But they can help you and tell you what

rules apply and what you are entitled to, and maybe help you take to court if necessary. It's a little bit of extra security for you as an employee.

Pär:

Sounds great. At this point some of our listeners are

probably thinking this fackförbund thing sounds great. Sign me up!

What should they do next or how can they find out exactly which fackförbund is right for them?

Adiam:

That's a great question. It isn't always easy to know. There are

over 50 different fackförbund in Sweden. Some of the biggest ones are Kommunal,

Unionen, IF Metall, Handels, Hotell- och restaurang, Sveriges ingenjörer and so on.

Let's hear what Marielle has to say about deciding which fackförbund to join.

Marielle:

There are several trade unions in Sweden. They all represent different occupations.

What trade union you can join and become a member of depends on what you work with and who your employer is.

Many times the information in a job advert will say if there's a trade union at a workplace and which one.

Sometimes there's an intranet or a notice board at your workplace that will have information about the union.

In an employment contract it usually says if there is a collective agreement and what trade union it's with.

Pär:

Another tip is to do a google search, to ask your friends or colleagues for their advice.

Adiam:

That's an excellent tip, Pär. And perhaps the easiest option too. You can always call the

fackförbund you are interested in joining and make sure it's the right one for you. The unions will also know what a fair payment is in your sector, so you can ask them about that, too.

Pär:

OK, well, I think I'm ready for a little break now, but we still have another very important topic to discuss today.

We need to talk about what an A-kassa is. But before we tell our listeners about that, could you tell me something?

Adiam:

Absolutely. I'm intrigued. What would you like to know?

Pär:

I was hoping you could tell me about your first job. Was it a summer job or have you just always worked for Arbetsförmedlingen?

Adiam:

My first job was a temporary job and it

was as a caregiver in a nursing home.

Pär:

Is there anything you wish you would know

back then when you got your first job, I mean?

Pär:

Adiam, thanks. Next time you can ask me something, but for now, let's move on to A-kassan.

Adiam:

Yes, let's talk about it. I've met so many people who aren't sure

about the difference between A-kassa and fackförbund.

Pär:

Very good question. It can be a little complicated if no one ever explained it to you.

So let's clear some things up. Marielle, can you get us started by

explaining what an unemployment insurance found or an A-kassa actually is?

Marielle:

A-kassan is short for arbetslöshetskassan, which means the unemployment insurance fund.

This insurance is voluntary, which means that you can choose to sign up. As a member of A-kassan,

you can receive unemployment pay up to 80 per cent of a monthly salary of 33,000 kronor. There are several unemployment insurance funds. There are requirements you need to meet to be able to receive full benefit, and you can read all about it on their websites.

Adiam:

Members of an A-kassa pay membership fees. This means you will be entitled to

payments if you end up being unemployed. So it works a bit like an insurance plan,

which means you continue to receive money for a limited period even if you lose your job.

But do not forget that you must be registered with Arbetsförmedlingen from your first day of unemployment.

Pär:

And just like the fackförbunden, there are many different A-kassor.

but they are often linked to a particular fackförbund. It's up to you whether you want to belong

to an A-kassa and a fackförbund, but what matters is that you understand the difference between them and what joining involves.

Adiam:

Exactly. The A-kassa pays out if you become unemployed, while a fackförbund supports you whilst you are in your employment.

You can be a member of one or the other, both or neither.

Pär:

But joining either is an active decision you must make.

It isn't something that just happens automatically as soon as you get a job.

Adiam:

I think it's time to wrap things up for today. If anyone found this hard to keep up or wants to read more on their own, what can they do?

Pär:

Many of the fackförbund have a lot of great information on their websites.

You can find information about holidays, the working environment, payment, membership and more.

Adiam

I would also recommend visiting our website and make sure to to check out the working in Sweden page. There is plenty to read there, not just on the topics we discussed today, but lots of other good and important things too.

Adiam Tsehaye:

And my name is Adiam Tsehaye. Welcome to today's episode.

Adiam:

Exactly. So please listen carefully and consider taking some notes so you can read afterwards. We also have Marielle Larsson from the trade union Kommunal here with us. She's going to help us explain some important things. So let's talk about salary shall we?

Pär:

Yeah, we'll cover some basics to begin with.

For example, when you start a new job, the

employer will ask you to sign a contract.

The contract should state how much you will get paid.

Before signing the contract, you might want to have a salary negotiation.

In other words, discuss the amount of money you will receive in return for the work you perform.

A good tip here is to visit our website Arbetsförmedlingen.se. Check out the fine job sections where you can read about what people usually earn in different sectors and professions.

Pär:

Absolutely not. Sweden is a pretty unique country when it comes to holidays.

We have a law called the holiday act which states, among other things, that you are entitled to at least 25 twenty five days of paid leave every year if you work full time

Adiam:

Yes, all employers have to follow the same rules concerning minimum wage and paid leave, but there may be other benefits that you will not be entitled to if your workplace doesn't have a kollektivavtal. Marielle can tell us more.

Adiam:

Yes, I wish I'd joined an

unemployment insurance fund, that is A-kassa, in Swedish. Because eventually when my work contract ended, I wasn't entitled to any unemployment benefit.

We are going to explain some more about that now.

Pär:

Thanks to Marielle Larsson from the Kommunal fackförbund, who has helped us get our heads around a few things today. And a big thanks to you for listening.

You have been listening to the New in Sweden podcast by Arbetsförmedlingen.

You can find all previous episodes at Arbetsförmedlingen.se/play Have you got any questions, tips or ideas? Please, email us at

podcast@arbetsförmedlingen.se. This episode was produced in spring 2023.