Bill clarifies employers' responsibility for occupational health

In May 1999, the Swedish government presented a bill to parliament on occupational healthcare, aiming to clarify the rules in the Work Environment Act.

A new Bill presented to parliament on 6 May 1999 provides a new definition of "occupational healthcare" in the Swedish Work Environment Act (arbetsmiljölagen, SFS 1977:1160, 2b§ ). It states that the employer should be responsible for making arrangements for all kinds of occupational healthcare required by the working conditions at the specific workplace. By "occupational healthcare", the law means an independent expert resource in the areas of the work environment and rehabilitation. Occupational healthcare should be designed so as to prevent health risks in workplaces and to outline the links between the work environment, organisation, productivity and health. The new paragraph will become operative from 1 January 2000.

In this way the government hopes to clarify the contents of the concept of "occupational healthcare". The basis for this new definition has its roots in a memorandum of March 1998 (SE9804181F). Since January 1993, occupational healthcare in Sweden has operated under market conditions. The central agreement on this issue between private sector employers and the trade unions came to an end in autumn 1992, whereafter state subsidies were withdrawn. However, the state employers' body, the National Agency for Government Employers (Arbetsgivarverket), and the trade unions in the governmental sector still have a collective agreement, negotiated in July 1992. The municipal authorities have also had a separate collective agreement since 1993. Enterprises and local trade unions in the private sector have come to varying kinds of local agreements. "The existing collective agreements will not be undermined by the new rules and there will be no restriction on the ability of the social partners to negotiate agreements in the future," the Minister responsible, Mona Sahlin, states in the foreword to the bill.

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