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Leave of Absence – A Guide for Employers

20 November, 2023

Please be aware that this article primarily pertains to Swedish rules and regulations, which may not necessarily apply or be valid in jurisdictions outside of Sweden.

Do you have an employee in your team who dreams of sailing around the world, starting their own business, or pursuing their dream education, all without resigning? Regardless of the reasons behind their decision to take a break from work, it’s essential to understand what the regulations say. Flex is here to guide you!

Taking a leave of absence means that the employee is temporarily off work (without pay) while still retaining their employment. But what determines whether someone can take a leave of absence or not? Is it the law, the collective agreement, or is it up to the employer to set the rules? And what rights does the employee have when they return to work? Let’s dive deeper!

Here’s how leave of absence regulations work – five key points to keep in mind:

  1. Study breaks cannot be denied – but can be deferred
    Do you have an employee who wants to pursue their educational dreams? According to the Employee’s Right to Educational Leave Act (in Swedish), employees have the right to temporarily pause their work on a full- or part-time basis for as long as their studies require. The only requirement is that they have been employed for at least six months (or a minimum of twelve months in the past two years).Does this mean that you, as an employer, must grant a leave of absence request immediately, even if finding a replacement would be challenging? Answer: No! It’s crucial to remember that as an employer, you have the right to postpone the requested leave if it would disrupt the business.Here’s what the rules say about this:
    – The leave can be deferred for a maximum of six months if the company has a collective agreement (and the union does not agree to a more extended period).
    – A maximum of one or two years (depending on the length of the education) applies if the company does not have a collective agreement.

    Student finance for transition and retraining – study leave with 80% of the salary
    Starting from October 1, 2022, the leap from a full-time salary to student funding (CSN) no longer has to be financially devastating. Those amid their careers and seeking leave for studies can now apply for transition and retraining support from CSN, which generally provides around 80% of their salary for one year.

  2. Entrepreneurial Dreams? Go for It!
    Kalle wants to open a café while still retaining employment security – what are the rules? Well, being on leave to start or run one’s own business is also regulated by law, specifically the Right to Leave to Conduct a Business Operation Act (Tjänstledighetslagen för studier, link in Swedish).Here’s what you need to know:
    – You must have been employed by the employer for the past six months (or a total of twelve months in the last two years).
    – You can be on leave for a maximum of six months.
    – Your own business must not compete with your employer’s.
    – You must apply at least three months before you plan to start your leave.
  3. Caring for family members is also a valid reason
    If your employee has a family member, relative, or close friend who is seriously ill, the law is clear about taking time off work. In the case of a severe illness, this is regulated by the Compensation and Leave for Care of Relatives Act (Lagen om ledighet för närståendevård, link in Swedish). During the leave, the employee may receive a so-called benefit for care of closely related persons (Närståendepenning, link in Swedish) from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency.
  4. How about working for another employer?
    This scenario is a bit different. No specific legal provisions give the employee the right to try their luck with another employer. Some collective agreements may have particular conditions, and exceptions can also be made for those on sick leave. However, in most cases, the decision to grant or deny leave is entirely at your discretion as an employer.That being said, it’s common for employers to grant permission to employees to try a different job or to take a break (for instance, if wanderlust beckons) for a few months. In such cases, it’s essential to document the timeframes and conditions of the leave of absence.
  5. What if Lisa decides to cut her studies short? Can she return earlier?
    Yes, a leave of absence can always be terminated early at the employee’s request. However, there is some room for you as an employer to maneuver in this situation. If the employee has been on leave for more than a week (but less than a year), the return can be postponed by up to two weeks. If the absence exceeds a year, it can be postponed for one month.What rights does the employee have during the leave of absence, then? Are you allowed to make changes while the employee is away as an employer? In short, no, not really. The employee retains their job security, so you can’t terminate or dismiss them solely because they are or have been on leave. However, termination due to redundancy is still possible even during an ongoing leave of absence, provided that the order of priority rules (in Swedish) are followed.As a general rule, employees on leave of absence also have the right to return to the same tasks they had before. However, there are exceptions here as well. If, for example, a significant reorganization has taken place, the employee may not be able to resume precisely the same tasks, but they must still be equivalent.

Simplify Your Absence Management with Flex HRM

Sick child leave, sick leave, vacation, and leave of absence – do you and your colleagues find it complicated and time-consuming to keep track of your staff’s absences? In our personnel system, Flex HRM, you have everything you need to work efficiently. Employees can quickly and easily report sick leave and apply for leave, which the manager can approve or decline with just a few clicks on the computer or mobile device. Managers and administrators have a perfect overview of planned leaves and sick leave within their team, and with a smooth digital workflow, the job is also made more manageable for your payroll department. It’s a clear win-win!

Feel free to contact us if you’d like to learn more about how Flex HRM can make the workday more accessible for you and your colleagues.

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