In Sweden, there are no statutory definitions of white and blue-collar workers. Instead, these groups are defined by the applicable trade unions of which the workers are members and, therefore, different collective bargaining agreements apply to these two groups. In some labour market areas, the collective bargaining agreement regulations are uniform and a categorisation of these two groups of workers is not necessary.
General regulations regarding employment protection are found in the Employment Protection Act. Certain terms for employees in the public sector in Sweden are regulated through the Public Employment Act. However, the same rules essentially apply to private and public employees, and the Public Employment Act only contains a few specific rules for public employees.
The general rule is that an employment agreement is for an indefinite period, unless agreed otherwise. The Employment Protection Act allows for a general fixed-term employment when the employer is in need of fixed-term employees. A fixed-term employment agreement may also be concluded for a temporary substitute employment, for seasonal employment and after the employee has reached the age of 67.
If, during the past five years, an employee has been employed either for a general fixed-term employment for an aggregate of more than two years or as a substitute for an aggregate of more than two years, the employment is transformed into indefinite-term employment. A general fixed-term employment may also be transformed into an indefinite-term employment if the employee has been employed in consecutive different fixed-term employments.
Note that collective bargaining agreements may contain regulations deviating from the statutory rules governing fixed-term employment.
In Sweden, an employment agreement does not have to take any specific form in order to be valid. However, Sweden has implemented the directive on an employer’s obligation to inform employees of the conditions applicable to the contract or employment relationship. An employer must provide certain information in writing to the employee concerning the principal terms of the employment, within one month of the commencement of the employment. Failure to do so can result in an obligation to pay damages to the employee concerned.
The requisite information includes the name and address of the employer and the employee, the commencement date, the place of work, duties and title, whether employment is fixed or for an indefinite term, the length of the probationary period, periods of notice, payment and other employment benefits, the length of paid annual leave, the length of the normal work day or work week, and information on the applicable collective bargaining agreements.
The maximum normal working hours for a week are 40 hours. In addition to this, the Working Hours Act sets forth rules concerning overtime work as well as daily and weekly rest for employees.
Deviations from certain regulations in the Working Hours Act can be made by collective bargaining agreement, but not in individual employment agreements.
For part-time employees, the equivalent to overtime is called additional time, which comprises the working hours in excess of the employee’s regular working hours and on-call time. When there is a special need to increase the number of hours worked, an additional maximum of 200 hours may be worked per employee over a calendar year (general additional time). When there are special grounds, additional time in excess of general additional time may be worked, up to a maximum of 150 hours per employee over a calendar year. Together, extra additional time and general additional time may not exceed 48 hours per employee over a period of four weeks, or 50 hours over a calendar month.
Overtime comprises working hours in excess of regular working hours and on-call hours. Where additional working hours are required, overtime hours may not exceed 48 hours over a period of four weeks or 50 hours over a calendar month, subject to a maximum of 200 hours per calendar year.
Statutory law does not contain regulations regarding overtime pay, which is normally provided for in collective bargaining agreements. In general, employees may choose to receive overtime pay in terms of money or compensatory leave. If no collective bargaining agreement exists, the employee is not entitled to overtime pay unless agreed upon individually. If a collective bargaining agreement exists and provides a right to overtime pay, it may contain provisions that make it possible for the employee to waive the right to overtime pay and instead get compensation in the form of compensatory leave. However, such waiver usually only applies to employees who have flexible working hours, or if special reasons are at hand.
There are no provisions regarding minimum wage requirements in Swedish law, but such provisions are often found in collective bargaining agreements.
In Sweden, it is common for employers and employees to agree that part of the full salary will be paid as variable salary. The different types of variable salary vary and can be paid out, inter alia, as commission (eg, a certain percentage of the contractual sum for provided services) or bonus (eg, variable salary paid out in accordance with specific and determined targets with financial parameters of the performance of the employing company and/or personal performance of the employee). The payment of variable salary is not regulated in statute and is rather a matter of negotiation between the parties to the employment agreement. It is most common for the terms for payment of variable salary to be set out in the employment agreement, or for the variable salary targets and the payment of variable salary to be decided annually at the employer’s discretion. It should be noted that variable salary generally qualifies for the payment of vacation pay in Sweden.
Thirteenth-month payments are not normally applied in Sweden, but some employers choose to award their employees with an annual bonus paid at the company’s discretion if the company has performed well during the year. Such a bonus is paid as a gratuity and normally does not qualify for the payment of vacation pay.
There is no general government intervention on compensation and salary increases in Sweden, but such matters are often regulated in collective bargaining agreements. It should be noted that compensation in connection with vacation, parental and sick leave is statutory regulated.
Vacation and Vacation Pay
Vacation entitlement is regulated by the Annual Leave Act, which distinguishes between vacation days and vacation salary, and between a ‘vacation year’ (April 1st to March 31st) and a ‘qualifying year’ (the 12-month period prior to the vacation year). The normal and minimum vacation entitlement is 25 days per year. An employee earns his or her entitlement to vacation salary during the ‘qualifying year’, and is entitled to use his or her paid vacation during the ‘vacation year’. Collective bargaining agreements or employment agreements generally contain rules entitling employees to a longer period of annual leave – up to 30 paid days – if the employee is not entitled to overtime pay. This is normally the case for white-collar employees.
Employees are entitled to take a continuous four-week vacation during the period from June to August, unless there are circumstances justifying other arrangements. Employees who have been given a period of notice of termination of less than six months cannot be required to take their vacation entitlement during the notice period, unless they agree to do so. Under certain conditions, employees are entitled to exchange annual leave that has already been scheduled for sick leave or parental leave, for example. It is possible for employees to carry over their entitlement to paid vacation days to the next vacation year (but not unpaid vacation days), but only if the employee has earned more than 20 days of paid vacation, and only for those days that exceed 20 days.
Deviations from certain regulations in the Annual Leave Act can be made by collective bargaining agreement.
Vacation pay is usually paid out in connection with the employee’s use of their accrued vacation. According to the Swedish Annual Leave Act, vacation pay may be calculated in two ways – according to either the same salary rule or the percentage rule. The same salary rule applies to employees whose remuneration is calculated on a monthly or weekly basis, while the percentage rule applies to employees whose remuneration is not calculated on a weekly or monthly basis or has a high variable element. If the variable elements of the salary amount to at least 10% of the total salary during the year, the percentage rule shall be used.
According to the same salary rule, the employee is paid their regular salary plus a vacation supplement of 0.43% of their monthly salary per day. For variable parts of the salary, the employee is paid 12% of the variable salary if they are entitled to 25 days of vacation. According to the percentage rule, the vacation pay for employees is 12% of the total salary during the accruing year when the employee is entitled to 25 vacation days.
If the employment ends before the employee has taken paid annual leave to which he or she is entitled, the employer must pay the employee in lieu of the unused vacation pay entitlement.
An employee may go on parental leave until their child is 18 months old. Thereafter, the employee is entitled to leave for as long as he or she receives compensation from the state. Compensation is paid by the state for a total of 480 days per child. The compensation may be paid until the child reaches the age of 12 years, but only 96 days may remain when the child reaches the age of four years. In addition to parental leave, the mother is entitled to parental allowance during the 60 days prior to the expected birth of the child. The father of the child may also be on paternity leave for ten days in connection with the birth of the child. The entitlement to parental days is divided equally between the parents, but the parents have the right to transfer their entitlements to each other, with the exception of 90 days; these 90 days will be forfeited if they are not used. As a result, one parent may use a maximum of 390 days, during which the allowance is capped at 80% of the employee’s salary up to a certain salary level. If a collective bargaining agreement is in force in the workplace, the employee may be entitled to compensation from the employer in addition to the compensation from the state. A parent is also entitled to parental leave and temporary parental benefit if their child is sick.
An employee is entitled to mandatory sick pay payable by the employer, provided that the employment is expected to continue for more than one month or that the employee has been working for more than 14 consecutive days. During days 1-14 of the sick leave, the employee is entitled to 80% of salary and benefits, with the remaining 20% being a deduction (karensavdrag) of the estimated employment benefits the employee will receive during a week. If the employee falls ill again within five days, the previous sick leave period will continue and no further deductions will be made. From day 15 in the sickness period, the employee may be entitled to compensation payable by the state. The entitlement to such compensation is based on strict rules and is decided by the Swedish Social Insurance Agency. There is no obligation for the employer to provide any supplementary sick pay, unless such is provided for in an applicable collective bargaining or individual agreement.
Limitations on Confidentiality
An employee’s obligation not to reveal confidential information about the employer’s business follows from the employee’s duty of loyalty during the employment. However, according to the Trade Secrets Act, a disclosure of a company’s trade secret by an individual for the purpose of making public or revealing to a public authority or other authorised body a matter which may reasonably be suspected of constituting a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment or which is deemed to constitute another serious irregularity in the company’s business activities is not considered an unlawful disclosure. A comparable principle is found in the Whistle-blowing Act. As a main principle, there are no limitations on confidentiality agreements in terms of time, but such an agreement may be considered unreasonable and unenforceable by a court if it is too burdensome for the employee.
Non-disparagement clauses are not that common in Sweden, but the duty of loyalty includes a duty not to be disloyal towards the employer by way of disparagement. However, an employee has a right to put forward critique towards the employer when it is justified, as mentioned above.
The main principle is that the employer is responsible for all damage caused by the employee in the employment. For damage that an employee causes through fault or negligence in his or her employment, the employee is responsible only to the extent that there are exceptional circumstances with regard to the nature of the act, the employee’s position, the interest of the injured party and other circumstances, according to the Tort Liability Act.
The main rule is that post-employment restrictive covenants are valid only if they are reasonable, taking many different factors into account, such as whether employees receive some kind of compensation for the restriction, whether the restriction is limited to certain companies, whether the restriction is limited geographically, etc. An overall assessment of all relevant factors has to be made in each individual case.
According to collective bargaining agreements and market practice, employers are obliged to pay approximately 60% of the monthly income from the employer as compensation for inconvenience caused by the non-competition clause. However, a general assessment of the reasonableness of a non-competition clause must be made in each individual case, which means that other types of compensation may also be accepted as long as they are linked to the non-competition clause.
Post-termination covenants are valid under certain circumstances. Covenants regarding confidentiality are normally used for all kinds of employees. However, non-compete covenants should normally only be used for employees whose position in the company makes such restrictions necessary. In principle, the period of a non-compete covenant should not exceed nine months, or, under certain conditions, a maximum of 18 months.
Non-compete covenants are normally combined with a contractual penalty, which must be reasonable in relation to the employee’s salary. Such a penalty is usually set at between three and six months’ salary for each breach. Furthermore, restrictive covenants may also be combined with a continuing penalty, and the employer can also be entitled to further damages if the damage caused by the employee exceeds the amount of the contractual penalty.
For employees, there is no limitation in time for non-solicitation covenants, but they generally follow the same time limitations set forth in non-compete covenants. A clause regarding the non-solicitation of employees does not usually need to be combined with any compensation in order to be considered reasonable (unlike non-competition clauses) but should be limited; eg, to colleagues that the employee has worked with. A general assessment of the reasonableness of a non-solicitation clause must be made in each individual case.
With reference to customers, there is no limitation in time for non-solicitation covenants, but they generally follow the same time limitations set forth in non-compete covenants. Furthermore, in the same way as non-competition clauses, a clause regarding the non-solicitation of customers needs to be combined with compensation in order to be considered reasonable. However, a general assessment of the reasonableness of a non-solicitation clause must be made in each individual case.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is applicable in Sweden and provides protection for individuals against violation of their personal integrity by the processing of personal data. Accordingly, there are restrictions on employers’ use of data regarding employees, former employees and applicants. There are certain basic requirements for any form of processing of personal data that is fully or partly computerised, according to the GDPR.
Personal data may only be processed if it is lawful to do so. The personal data must be collected for specific, explicitly stated and justified purposes. The collected personal data needs to be relevant and necessary for the purpose stipulated, and may not be stored for longer than necessary with reference to the specified purposes. It must also be accurate and processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security of the personal data. The GDPR also stipulates situations in which personal data may be processed if the individual has not given his or her consent to the processing. For example, personal data may be processed in order to satisfy a purpose that concerns a legitimate interest of the employer, provided that this interest outweighs the interest of the registered person in protection against violation of their personal integrity.
Certain types of personal data are considered special categories of personal data – for example, information about employees’ or applicants’ race or ethnic origin, genetic data, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, membership of a trade union, or personal data concerning health or sexual preference. Special categories of personal data may only be processed in special circumstances.
The GDPR sets forth certain rights for the registered individuals, such as the right to information concerning the processing of their personal data, the right to access, and the right to rectification, erasure and restriction of processing.
Citizens of countries outside the EU must have a work permit to work in Sweden. In order for a person to obtain such a permit, the employer must have prepared an offer of employment and advertised the job in Sweden and the EU for ten days (this applies to new recruitment). The terms of employment must be equal to or better than those provided under a Swedish collective bargaining agreement or that are customary for the occupation or sector. In addition to this, the employee shall be entitled to health insurance, life insurance, industrial injuries insurance and occupational pension insurance. The employee must also earn enough from the employment to be able to support himself or herself, the gross salary should be at least SEK13,000 per month and the relevant trade union must have been given the opportunity to express an opinion on the terms of employment.
The Posting of Workers Act applies to posted workers in Sweden.
EU and EEA citizens do not need a visa and have the right to work in Sweden without work permits or residence permits. People who have a residence permit in an EU country but are not EU citizens can apply to obtain the status of long-term resident in that country, thereby enjoying certain rights similar to those of EU citizens.
Almost one out of ten employers in Sweden are members of an employers’ organisation and approximately 70% of employees in Sweden are members of a trade union. There are approximately 110 different trade unions and employers’ organisations on the Swedish labour market. The parties have agreed on more than 650 collective bargaining agreements, so trade unions are very prevalent on the Swedish labour market. The “Swedish model” of industrial relations is characterised by a high degree of organisation, even though trade union density is currently falling.
The Co-Determination Act contains the general provisions governing the relationship between employers and the trade unions in areas such as association, information, negotiations, industrial actions and labour stability obligations.
According to the Co-Determination Act, an employer has certain consultation and information obligations towards the trade unions. For example, prior to any decision to reorganise the business or terminate employment contracts, the employer must call for and conduct consultations with the trade unions under the applicable collective bargaining agreements (at both local and national level, if applicable). Even if the employer is not bound by any collective bargaining agreement, they are obliged to consult any trade union of which an employee concerned is a member regarding the planned reorganisation and potential redundancies.
The act also contains certain interpretation regulations, to the benefit of the trade unions. Generally, these rules give the trade union the right to interpret the collective bargaining agreement until the matter has been finally decided by court, and are therefore important in the case of disputes.
The local trade unions usually elect one or more representatives to represent the employees at a workplace, under the provisions of the Trade Union Representatives Act. Employees who are trade union representatives may not be prevented from carrying out union work during working hours, may not be discriminated against due to their union activities and are entitled to a reasonable leave of absence to carry out their union activities. The local trade union representative shall manage questions relating to labour at the specific workplace – issues of salary, work environment, reorganisations, etc, are normally covered. A trade union representative enjoys extended protection in a redundancy situation.
Furthermore, the Board Representation Act entitles employees of private companies that are bound by collective bargaining agreements and have at least 25 employees to appoint two ordinary and two deputy employee representatives to the board of directors. Employees of companies that have at least 1,000 employees and are engaged in different industries are entitled to appoint three ordinary and three deputy employee representatives to the board of directors.
Moreover, Sweden has implemented the Works Council Directive and the Directive establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community.
Lastly, in a workplace where at least five employees are regularly employed, one or more safety representatives should be appointed, in accordance with the Working Environment Act. If the employer is bound by a collective bargaining agreement, the safety representatives are appointed by the trade union; otherwise, they are appointed by the employees.
The Swedish system is based on the principles that law and collective bargaining agreements together shall provide a comprehensive framework.
Through membership in an employers’ organisation, the employer is bound by the collective bargaining agreements applicable to that organisation. The employer is also obliged to apply the terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreement to employees that are not members of a trade union. It is also possible for an employer to sign a collective bargaining agreement directly with one or more trade unions.
Once a collective bargaining agreement has been entered into and is in effect, an obligation to refrain from industrial action comes into effect and prohibits strikes or lock-outs. Breaking the peace obligation will incur liability for damages on the breaching party.
A dismissal must be based on objective grounds, which are not defined by statute or case law but can be either objective reasons or subjective personal reasons. Objective reasons are dismissals based on redundancy, reorganisation or the economic situation of the employer, while subjective personal reasons are all dismissals that relate to the employee personally, such as the employee’s conduct or performance. An overall assessment of all the factors involved must be made when determining whether there are objective grounds for dismissal. A dismissal with notice will never be considered as being based on objective grounds if there were other alternatives available to the employer, such as relocating the employee elsewhere within the business. Thus, an employer must investigate whether there are any vacant positions within their business that the employee can be offered before a notice of termination is given.
The procedure for dismissing employees varies to some extent, depending on whether the dismissal is due to objective reasons or subjective personal reasons. The procedural requirements to follow are laid down in the Employment Protection Act. Prior to terminating an employment agreement due to objective reasons, the employer may be obliged to conduct consultations under the Co-Determination Act if the employer is bound by a collective bargaining agreement or if the employee is a member of a trade union.
The basic principle to be applied when the labour force has to be made redundant due to objective reasons is that the employee with the longest aggregate period of employment with the company should be entitled to stay the longest: the employer must select those to be laid off on a “last in, first out” basis. A condition for continued employment is that the employee has sufficient qualifications for one of the available positions that may be offered.
Prior to terminating an employment agreement for subjective personal reasons, the employer must notify the employee concerned in writing and the trade union if the employee is a trade union member, two weeks in advance. If an employer wants summarily to dismiss an employee without notice, the information must be given one week before the actual dismissal. The employee or the trade union may request consultations with the employer concerning the dismissal, within one week of receiving the information.
The employer must observe certain formal rules set out in the Employment Protection Act when serving a notice of termination to an employee. Notices shall always be made in writing and must state the procedure to be followed by the employee if they wish to claim that the notice of termination is invalid or to claim damages as a consequence of the termination. The notice shall also state whether or not the employee enjoys rights of priority for re-employment. Several statutes contain limitation periods for bringing employment claims, including the Co-Determination Act, the Annual Leave Act and the Employment Protection Act. Furthermore, the Limitations Act stipulates limitation periods for salary and pension claims.
In Sweden, there is no principal difference between a termination due to objective reasons (eg, redundancy) involving one employee or such a termination involving 150 employees. Hence, the Co-Determination Act does not recognise the term “collective redundancies”. In contrast to many other European countries where the obligation to consult collectively is triggered only if there are several redundancies, the provisions on obligations to consult according to the Co-Determination Act are applicable even if the redundancy concerns only one employee. Please see the outline for termination due to objective reasons described above.
If more than five employees are subject to a redundancy situation and their employments are being terminated, the employer is obliged to notify the Swedish Employment Agency a certain period in advance, depending on how many employees are being terminated. This also applies if the total number of notices of termination is expected to be 20 or more during a 90-day period. Failure to observe this notification obligation may result in a liability to pay a special fee to the state.
Statutory notice periods from the employer’s side vary between one and six months, depending on the length of the employment term, as described below:
The length of the notice period may be extended by virtue of collective bargaining agreements or individual contracts. During the notice period, the employee is obliged to perform work for the employer, and is entitled to salary and all other employment benefits. It is possible for an employer to release the employee from the duty to perform work during the notice period.
The minimum notice period in the case of a termination from the employee’s side is one month, but can be extended by a collective bargaining agreement or an individual employment contract.
There are no statutory provisions regarding severance pay. However, an employee may be entitled to severance pay in accordance with an employment agreement or an exit agreement.
Please see above regarding union consultations and union representation where the employee is a member of a trade union.
Summary dismissal may take place where the employee has grossly neglected his or her obligations to the employer.
The summary dismissal may not be based exclusively on circumstances of which the employer was aware either longer than two months prior to the notice of summary dismissal or, should such a notice not be issued, longer than two months prior to the summary dismissal.
Prior to summarily dismissing an employee, the employer must notify said employee in writing and the trade union, if the employee is a trade union member, one week in advance. Within one week of receiving the information, the employee or trade union may request consultations with the employer concerning the dismissal.
The summary dismissal shall be in writing and shall be given to the employee personally. In the notification of summary dismissal, the employer shall state the provisions with which the employee must comply if he or she wishes to bring legal action alleging that the summary dismissal is invalid or to seek damages on the grounds of the summary dismissal.
Upon the employee's request, the employer shall state the circumstances invoked as grounds for the summary dismissal, in writing if the employee so requests.
Summary dismissal shall be deemed effected when the employee receives the notification of summary dismissal.
Summary dismissal means that the employee is not entitled to any notice period or other termination benefits, according to the employment agreement.
The employer and employee are free to enter into a final settlement in a termination agreement. Hence, the employment may be terminated disregarding the strict rules of the Employment Protection Act. Consequently, an employee may waive his or her contractual rights. As a rule, an employee cannot waive rights laid down in mandatory law which are not yet accrued, but an employee is free to waive rights that are already accrued. Normally, but not always, the employee is financially compensated in order to enter into an exit agreement with the employer that includes a full and final release. There are no specific procedures or formalities to consider when entering into a termination agreement with an employee.
There are no specific requirements for termination agreements in Swedish law. However, all agreements can be deemed unreasonable and amended or declared invalid by a court, according to general contractual law.
Dismissals that are considered discriminating according to the Discrimination Act are prohibited. Furthermore, several other regulations protect employees from unfair dismissals. For instance, an employee may not be dismissed on grounds related to parental leave or leave of absence for educational purposes, or part-time employment. Trade union representatives also have specific protection against dismissal and against discrimination based on their union activities.
A trade union representative may not be given less favourable working conditions or employment terms and conditions as a result of his or her activities. Upon termination of his or her duties, the employee shall be ensured the same or a comparable position in respect of working conditions and employment terms and conditions as if he or she had no trade union-related duties. Furthermore, in conjunction with a termination due to redundancy and in conjunction with layoffs, the union representative shall be given priority for continued work, provided it is of specific importance for trade union activities at the workplace.
In the case of wrongful termination of employment, the termination could be challenged by the employee as not having an objective ground, and could be declared invalid by the court. The employer may be obliged to pay salary and benefits during the court proceeding, punitive damages (normally not exceeding SEK100,000), compensation for economic loss and the costs for the litigation.
Anti-discrimination legislation consists of the Discrimination Act, which prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination as well as harassment in working life based on sex, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation, transgender identity or expression, and age.
Furthermore, employers may not discriminate against part-time or fixed-term employees, nor may they treat an applicant or an employee unfairly on grounds related to parental leave under Swedish law. Trade union representatives are also protected from discrimination based on their union activities.
Where a person who believes that they have been subject to discrimination or reprisals proves facts that give cause to believe that they have been subject to discrimination or reprisals, the defendant must prove that there has been no such discrimination or reprisals.
A party who violates the prohibitions against discrimination or reprisals, or who fails to fulfil its obligations to investigate and take measures against harassment or sexual harassment under the Discrimination Act, shall pay compensation for discrimination for any humiliation and personal indignity resulting from the violation. When compensation is decided, the specific purpose of combating such violations of the Act shall be taken into consideration. The compensation shall be paid to the person offended by the violation.
An employer who discriminates against an employee, applicant, etc, or breaches the provisions regarding prohibition against reprisals shall also pay compensation for the loss incurred. However, this does not apply to loss that is incurred in conjunction with a decision pertaining to employment or promotion, nor to loss incurred as a result of discrimination in the form of insufficient access.
Furthermore, if someone is discriminated against by a provision in an individual contract or in a collective bargaining agreement in a manner that is prohibited under the Discrimination Act, the provision shall be modified or declared invalid if the discriminated person requests it.
The Labour Court is the first and only instance for employment disputes concerning a collective bargaining agreement or in accordance with the Co-Determination Act, or if a collective bargaining agreement applies between the parties. Other employment disputes are resolved in the district courts, with the Labour Court as the instance of appeal.
Negotiations and consultations between employers and organisations can be held at both a local and a central level.
Regarding judicial disputes, since a trade union organisation has the right to bring an action before the court – regarding a dispute of collective bargaining agreement, for example – this constitutes a form of class action. According to the Class Action Act, an organisational class action can be commenced by a non-profit association that, according to its statutes, will protect the interest of its employees. Class action claims are uncommon in Sweden.
Further, the right to resort to industrial action is a constitutional right laid down in the Instrument of Government, which applies only to trade unions, employers or employers’ organisations. Restrictions of this right are set forth in the Co-Determination Act, which stipulates that an employer and an employee that are bound by a collective bargaining agreement may not initiate or participate in industrial action if an organisation is party to that agreement and has not duly sanctioned the action.
Normally, the employee is represented by a union representative in court if they are a trade union member. Hence, the employee bears no costs for his or her representation in court, as the costs are borne by the trade union. Employers are also sometimes represented by their employers’ organisation, but more often they are represented by an in-house legal representative or by a law firm.
The employer and the employee may agree in an employment agreement that any future disputes shall be settled by arbitration. Such a clause may be deemed unreasonably burdensome for the employee and set aside by the courts, particularly if the employee does not occupy a managerial or comparable position.
Dispute resolution regulations may also be specified in collective bargaining agreements.
For employment disputes, the main principle regarding liability for litigation costs is found in the Swedish Code of Judicial Procedure – ie, the losing party shall be ordered to bear the prevailing party’s litigation costs. However, according to the Labour Disputes Act, each party may be ordered to bear its own litigation costs if the losing party had reasonable grounds to bring the action. However, this rule is normally only applied in collective bargaining disputes.