Committee proposes simpler leave rules

In June 2003, after three years work, a Swedish governmental working time committee presented its final report. Its main proposals are for simpler rules on annual leave and other forms of leave for employees.

In late 2000, the Swedish government set up a governmental working time committee (Kommittén för nya arbetstids- och semesterregler, KNAS), with social partner involvement, to examine the entire system of legislation on working time and leave and make proposals for reform (SE0101176N). In June 2002, the committee issued a report (SOU 2002:58) proposing new legislation to give all workers an additional five days of leave per year (SE0206105F). On 17 June 2003, it presented its final report (SOU 2003:54), calling for a simplification of current rules on annual and other forms of leave for employees.

Under the proposals, the administration of the various forms of leave would be made easier for employers and the current seven items of legislation on leave would be consolidated into four. Furthermore, employees taking parental leave would receive more annual leave entitlement in some circumstances, while a group of about 20,000 workers on long-term sick leave would lose entitlement - though the committee believes that for most people the changes would be marginal.

The KNAS does not proposes a new right to work part time for employees over the age of 61, one of the issues it was asked to consider, stating that there was insufficient time to examine this issue, given its schedule. The new Swedish pension system allows workers to retire on at part-time basis at the age of 61, but there is currently no right to for employees to combine a part-time pension with part-time work, if their employer does not consent.

The committee's earlier proposal for an additional five days of annual leave is yet to be dealt with by the government. It may be that there is a hesitation to propose such a reform at present, given the poor economic situation and the view that such working time reductions would cost several SEK billion in reduced production growth.

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