Norway: Latest developments in working life Q4 2019
The misinterpretation of an EEA provision by the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) and the increased attention paid to workplace violence in long-term nursing homes are the topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Norway in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Norwegian residents wrongfully accused of welfare fraud
On 28 October 2019, Norwegian Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Anniken Hauglie held a press conference where she stated that the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) had wrongfully denied Norwegian residents the right to export social benefits (the sickness benefit (sykepenger) and the work assessment allowance (arbeidsavklaringspenger)) to other European Economic Area (EEA) countries. Approximately 2,400 decisions concerning Norwegian residents had been made in breach of Article 21 of Regulation 883/2004 in EEA law since 2012. The wrongful application of the EEA regulation resulted in at least 48 cases of criminal convictions, including 36 cases of imprisonment, because of linked prosecutions regarding social security fraud and reimbursement claims from NAV. Legal experts added that courts and lawyers also failed to take due account of EEA law when Norwegian residents who had exported their benefits were convicted – one of these cases even passed the Supreme Court.  The press promptly called it a scandal.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs instructed the NAV to ensure a correct application of the EEA provision, to conduct a complete review of all relevant cases and to rectify the mistakes that have been made. In November, the government appointed an external commission with a mandate to investigate how such a misinterpretation could occur and how it continued for so many years.
- Government of Norway: Granskingsutvalget i EØS-saken er klart
Workplace violence in long-term nursing homes
As previously reported in a 2016 quarterly update, there was a change in the legislative text of the Norwegian Working Environment Act regulation to prevent and handle violence and threats of violence in the workplace.  Violence and threats of violence are important risk factors for long-term sick leave, and present in many occupations and industries. Exposure to violence, threats and harassment is associated with high costs for society, for businesses and for the individual workers who are exposed. Recently, there has been a growing national concern for the long-term care workforce.
According to the national surveillance system for working environments and occupational health managed by the National Institute of Occupation Health (STAMI), 31% of workers in long-term nursing homes for older people report violence or threats at work – more than four times the national average for all employees in all occupations (6.6%).  Workers at long-term nursing homes are particularly exposed to violence or threats from residents. The violence includes punching, kicking, pushing, pulling the worker’s hair and more.
The Fafo Foundation recently published a report addressing the issue, which was based on a survey among members of the Norwegian Union of Social Educators and Social Workers (a trade union for child welfare officers, social workers and social educators).  The report findings indicate that employees and managers perceive the situation differently.
In June this year, the state intervened and called off a dispute in the healthcare sector.  In November, the National Wages Board adjudicated on the dispute and endorsed the pay rise already agreed for nursing staff. The board also ruled that part-time workers would be entitled to pensions regardless of what percentage their part-time work is compared to the full-time equivalent. It is very rare that the board make changes to non-wage regulations, such as pensions, in its rulings.
- Government of Norway: Compulsory arbitration and settlements by the National Wages Board
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