Sweden is notable for the major part played by collective agreements in governing the employment relationship. Around nine out of 10 employees have their pay and conditions set by collective bargaining, which occurs mainly at industry level. In many areas, employment legislation allows collective agreements to derogate from the statutory provisions — examples include probationary periods, fixed-term contracts, temporary agency work, working time, rest breaks/periods, annual leave and termination of employment. Collective agreements take precedence over individual employment contracts, which are therefore often brief and of only subsidiary importance.

Another distinctive feature of Sweden is the strong influence of trade unions. Some seven out of 10 employees are union members, and employers are obliged to negotiate with any trade union that has members among their employees.

The main item of employment legislation is the Employment Protection Act (Lag om anställningsskydd) which deals with matters such as employment contracts and dismissal. It should be noted that the Act does not apply to employees whose duties and conditions of employment are such that they may be deemed to hold a managerial or comparable position, or to domestic workers, employees who are members of the employer’s family, employees in supported employment schemes for people with disabilities, and certain apprentices. Other important laws include the Working Hours Act (Arbetstidslag) (this also excludes managerial staff), the Work Environment Act (Arbetsmiljölag), the Parental Leave Act (Föräldraledighetslag), Discrimination Act (Diskrimineringslag) and the Co-Determination in the Workplace Act (Lag om medbestämmande i arbetslivet). The case law of the specialist Labour Court (Arbetsdomstolen) interprets employment legislation.

This article deals only with the private sector.

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