Unfair treatment of employees on parental leave

The unfair treatment of an employee who is on parental leave is prohibited under the Parental Leave Act ('the Act'). This prohibition includes unfair treatment relating to pay and other employment terms for reasons connected with parental leave. A treatment is unfair if it causes the employee damage or a disadvantage. The determining factor when deciding if treatment is unfair is whether a negative effect occurs to the employee or not. The prohibition does not apply, however, if different terms or different treatment are a necessary consequence of the parental leave. The Swedish Equal Opportunities Ombudsman (appointed by the Swedish Government) has the right to bring an action under the Act. The Equal Opportunities Ombudsman recently took legal action against an employer who awarded two employees a smaller yearly bonus just because they were on parental leave for a part of the financial year. The bonus scheme in that case was not based on individual performance but instead on the company's yearly revenue. The Equal Opportunities Ombudsman claims that the employer did not comply with the requirements of the Act. We await a judgment in the case.

Sickness benefit

The Swedish Social Insurance Agency (SIA) coordinates various measures for the rehabilitation of certain employees on sick leave in order to make it easier for them to return to work. The employer is sometimes responsible for work-related measures during the rehabilitation. From 1 July 2008, new regulations on rehabilitation will apply in Sweden. Their objective is to reduce the period of time before it is established what capacity for work the employee has, in order to increase the possibility of the employee returning to work. According to the new regulations, there will be fixed time limits within which certain assessments of work capacity will have to be made. During the first 90 days of the sick period, the SIA will evaluate whether the employee has any ability to manage his ordinary work or other work that the employer temporarily has to offer. From the 91st day of the sick period, the SIA will, when evaluating the employee's right to sickness benefit, consider whether the employee can perform other kinds of work for the employer. During this process and at the request of the SIA, the employee shall hand over a confirmation letter issued by the employer. From the 181st day of the sick period, it will be decided whether the employee can support him/herself through other work on the labour market. When calculating the sick periods, previous sick periods will be added, irrespective of whether the earlier sickness is different to the new diagnosis, unless the employee has been working for at least 90 days since the previous sick period. As a consequence of the new regulations, the grounds for receiving sickness benefits will be changed.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.