First, there was paperwork. If you are new to Sweden and Swedish labour law and work culture, it can be a bit tricky to get your head around everything, especially if some things are in Swedish. Some things are more important than others, though, so make sure you keep track of the following words and concepts:
Provanställning | Probationary period
When you sign a permanent contract, tillsvidareanställning, there is usually a six-month probationary period, called provanställning. During this period, it is relatively easy to cancel the contract for both parts, and this is a way for employers and employees to explore if they are a good match. Don’t stress too much about this though, most people do continue their employment unless something very serious happens.
Bear in mind that it is unlikely that anyone will acknowledge the date when the probationary period is over. You will not sign a new contract, and there is probably no mention of this new set of circumstances either.
Anställningsavtal | Employment contract
Your employment contract, where a few, but not all (!), things related to your employment are stated, is called anställningsavtal. In fact, most of the information you need is to be found in your collective agreement, kollektivavtal, if this is something your employer is bound to.
Kollektivavtal | Collective agreement
Collective agreements — kollektivavtal — are particular to Sweden or the Nordics, and something you will need to understand in order to understand your employment contract and the way your salary is set. A collective agreement is a contract between the employer and a trade union that determines respective parts’ rights and liabilities, such as salary levels, work hours, holidays, notice period and pension. There are of course national laws on most of these topics, but collective agreements override national laws, as long as they are in favour of the employees.
Having a collective agreement is not mandatory, and some companies (especially small ones or start-ups) don’t have any. You don’t need to be a member of the trade union to be covered by the collective agreement; if the employer has a collective agreement, it covers all employees.
You may find your employment contract, anställningsavtal, brief and vague, but remember that it often refers to the collective agreement, and it is in the latter you will find important information about your employment.
As an employer you can’t negotiate the content of the collective agreement, this is something between the employer and the trade union.
Fackförbund | Trade union
Joining a trade union —fackförbund — is not seen as bad by your employer. Trade unions representatives mediate between employers and employees, meaning direct confrontation is avoided. There are, in fact, several reasons why you should do join a trade union. You could see it as a form of insurance. On top of that, your trade union can organise mentorship programmes, give you advice on salary, and help out to resolve certain disagreements.
There are several trade unions, most of them representing a specific sector. One of them is called Unionen, so don’t get confused, Unionen doesn’t mean “the union” — the word for that would be facket or fackförbundet.
DIK — culture and communication
Akavia — law, economics
Naturvetarna — natural sciences
Sveriges arkitekter — architecture
Sveriges ingenjörer — engineering
Sveriges läkarförbund — medical doctors
Finansförbundet — banking & finance
Unionen — private sector
Journalistförbundet — journalism
Handels — trade and commerce
Hotell- och restaurangfacket — hospitality
Not part of the confederations
Ledarna — managers and executives
A-kassa | Unemployment insurance
Unemployment insurance, arbetslöshetskassa or simply a-kassa, doesn’t come automatically in Sweden, but you need to sign up for it and pay a fee. This is administered through the trade unions, but you don’t need to be a member of the union to register for a-kassa.
Inkomstförsäkring | Income insurance
You may want to complement your unemployment insurance with income insurance, again, administered through your trade union. Contact them right away and sign up, this can’t wait.
Försäkringskassan | The Swedish Social Insurance Agency
The Swedish Social Insurance Agency, Försäkringskassan, provides you with an income when you can’t work because of illness, or parental leave, or VAB (caring for a sick child). Make sure you register with them right away; they are also in charge of covering your healthcare costs.