Innovative Policy 2013 on Employment

Sweden’s inclusive labour market building

The Swedish general labour law provides employment rights on an equal basis with others. This appears to be the most important reason for Sweden having the highest employment rate of persons with health problems or disability in the whole OECD.

The Employment Protection Act No. 80
Founded on:1982
Country/Region
of origin
Sweden
Beneficiaries targetedThe act applies to all employees, save four exceptions: employees who are classed as managerial executives or occupy an equivalent position; the employer’s family members; employees who are employed specifically to work in their employer’s personal household and individuals who are given a job under certain government-funded schemes to combat unemployment. The act also applies to employers of all kinds, failing any special legislative provisions.
Responsible bodySwedish Labour Committee
StakeholdersPublic and private sector

IN BRIEF

Employers’ obligations under the Swedish Employment Protection Act No. 80 of 1982 seem to be the key for achieving the OECD’s top disability employment rate. Most importantly, 50% of disabled persons with reduced ability to work are employed, which is significantly higher compared to countries such as Denmark, where that rate is as low as 26%. Indeed, persons with disabilities in Sweden enjoy the same rights in employment protection as their non-disabled counterparts, as lesser capability because of age, illness or acquired disability is not an objective ground for dismissal and employers must make all reasonable efforts to retain the worker.

FACTS & FIGURES

  • In 2010, Sweden’s employment rate of persons with health problems or disability was at 62%, the highest in the entire OECD.
  • In addition, around 50% of persons with disabilities and reduced ability to work are in employment – a situation, which is significantly different from other countries such as Denmark, where only 26% of disabled persons with reduced ability to work are being employed.
  • In 2009, 75% of Swedish employees with reduced ability to work reported that they required adaptation of their working conditions, such as adapted work duties, work rates, working time, aids etc, and the absolute majority stated that they received the help needed.

INNOVATIVE ASPECTS

Protection from unjustified dismissal
A dismissal must have objective grounds such as economic redundancy or personal circumstances.

Employment rights on an equal basis with others
Lesser ability to work due to age, illness or disability is not an objective ground for dismissal. The employer has the duty to rehabilitate the employee, try to adjust the workplace and transfer her or him to other suitable work.

Fair dismissal
Dismissal is only fair if an employee’s ability to work is permanently reduced to such a degree that she or he can no longer be expected to perform work of any significance with the employer.

Safeguards in the case of collective redundancy
Employees with a reduced ability to work enjoy protection in the case of redundancy as they are exempted from the usual the last-in, first-out rule.

HISTORY

Sweden stands out for its comprehensive statutory protection of employees against arbitrary or unjustified dismissal consisting in the Employment Protection Act No. 80 of 1982 (widely referred to by the initials LAS), which represents a further development of original legislation dating from 1974. When first introduced, on the basis of tripartite negotiations, trade unions feared that the high standards of workers’ rights, which formerly were agreed on in collective agreements, would be quickly weakened by politicians. However, with the time passing by, the LAS acted to uphold a standard of employment protection. With decreasing collective bargaining power, the act can be expected to gain even more importance. In 2007, the act was amended and flexibility measures, such as the possibility to make short-term contracts, were introduced in its article 5.

«Protection of employees with disability-related reduced ability to work in general labour law appear to have helped Sweden to create the most inclusive labour market of the whole OECD.»

Maria Ventegodt Liisberg, Team Leader, Danish Institute for Human Rights

KEY FEATURES

The LAS is an example of general labour law which promotes an inclusive labour market for persons with disabilities. Its protection, which applies from the first day of employment, is essentially designed to ensure that the normal case for an employee is an employment of unspecified duration and that an employee in such permanent employment cannot be dismissed unless the employer is able to prove just cause. Objective grounds for dismissal are deemed not to exist if an employee could reasonably have been transferred to other work (article 7). With a view to keeping people with reduced ability in work, the LAS sets standards for the accommodations which must be provided by employers, in order to ensure that workplaces are inclusive. In the case of lesser capability because of age, disease or disability, the employer has first to try to adjust the workplace, to rehabilitate the employee or to transfer the employee to other suitable work. Only if all reasonable efforts fail, the situation can constitute just cause for dismissal, particularly if it constitutes an undue hardship for the employer. If deemed unfair, the dismissal is void and the employee with disability must be reintegrated in the workplace at the expenses of the employer. In the case of redundancy, employees with a reduced ability to work are exempted from the last-in, first-out principle (article 23). If unfairly dismissed, the employee receives compensation and damages.

FUTURE DEVELOPMENT

At present, changes to article 22 on collective redundancies (which possibly affects article 23). Beyond the act’s standards for accommodations which must be provided by employers, specific guidance on reasonable accommodation and employers’ incentives for workplace adaptation are needed.

CONTACT

Ms. Maria VENTEGODT LIISBERG
Team Leader, Danish Institute for Human Rights
+45 32 69 86 11
mvl@humanrights.dk
www.humanrights.dk


Ms. Sofie REHNSTRÖM
Jurist, Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO)
+46 8 796 25 00
sofie.rehnstrom@lo.se
www.lo.se

SOURCES

The Swedish Employment Protection Act, SFS 1982:80, as amended in 2007, is available at: http://www.sweden.gov.se/sb/d/5807/a/76536

Maria Ventegodt Liisberg, Disability and Employment. A contemporary disability human rights approach applied to Danish, Swedish and EU law and policy, Intersentia, 2011.

Nominated by: Ms. lisa WADDINTON, EDF Chair of European disability law, University of Maastricht