Parental leave is Sweden is amongst the most generous is the world. The system and rules, however, are rather complicated. Based on my own experience of moving to Sweden, here’s a basic guide to how the system works and how you can make the most of the precious time that is available to you.
My own story
My daughter was born in England and was 2 months old when we moved to Sweden. As an Irish national who had never worked in Sweden, you can imagine my surprise when I got a call one day from Försäkringskassan (The Swedish Social Insurance Agency) to ask me how I would like to take my maternity allowance. Naturally, I assumed they had made a mistake and I confirmed my lack of Swedish employment credentials. (As I couldn’t speak Swedish at the time, my lack of Swedishness was already evident).
An unimportant detail, as it turned out. I was still entitled to the basic amount of parental leave which is available to those with low or no income. Such nice people these Swedes, I thought.
The Försäkringskassan’s administrator tried to explain that I could wait to take my maternity leave until I got a job, if I liked, as this would give me more money. But I really couldn’t get my head around this idea. I was just so surprised that they were offering me any money at all and I was still far too occupied with adjusting to life in Sweden and being a first time mum to give any thought to if/when I might get a job in Sweden. The whole concept of taking maternity leave at some distant time in the future was a little too difficult to grasp at the time. So I just said “Yes please, some money now would be lovely thank you”.
Hindsight is always 20/20
In hindsight, saving parental leave until I had a job would have been a much better option for me for two important reasons; the old classics, time and money.
If I had waited until after I got a job to take some of my parental leave, I would have got a lot more money, as the amount you get is income related. More importantly, it would have given me the option to take extra time off work to cover holidays, both at pre-school level and from school. School children in Sweden get 16 weeks holiday a year in total. As any working parent knows, it can be really difficult to arrange child-care for all those holidays until your child is old enough to be home alone, especially if you don’t have family around who can help out.
Although it’s hard to think ahead to pre-school and school holidays when your child is a baby, if you don’t need the extra money immediately and are planning to stay in Sweden longer term and to get a job, it’s well worth saving as much parental leave as you can.
Parental leave in Sweden – some basic facts
1. How long is it?
Parents in Sweden are entitled to a total of 480 days paid leave to look after each child. (Note. This figure is not doubled for twins but, amazingly, you do get an additional 180 days)
2. How much will you get?
It depends on your income. 390 of the total 480 days are income related (The amount you will receive varies between 250 kr per day, the lowest possible rate for those with no or low income, to maximum 942 kr per day. The ceiling for the maximum amount is reached at a salary of 443 000 kr per annum. The rate you get is based on your income for the previous 6 months). 90 of the total 480 days are paid at the rate of 180 Kr, irrespective of income.
3. Who is eligible?
Anyone who is registered in Sweden (i.e. has a Swedish Personal Identification Number) is entitled to paid parental leave. It does not matter if you or your child were born outside of Sweden or whether you have worked in Sweden.
Some important concepts to understand about Swedish parental leave
1. Shared leave
Both parents can share the total 480 days i.e. it’s not just maternity leave. Note: There are some rules about this. For example, for children born in 2016 and later, a minimum 90 days must be taken by each parent. For children born before 2016, 60 days must be taken by each parent. This means that these days cannot be transferred – part of a gender equality campaign by the Swedish government to get fathers to take more parental leave which essentially forces them to “use it or lose it”.
2. You can spread out your parental leave
It is possible to spread out your parental leave from one day a week to 7 days a week. Half days, quarter days and even one eight of a day is allowed. You can take out your parental leave up to the time your child turns 12 years of age. Note: you can only save 96 days after your child turns 4 years of age.
3. Double days
It is possible for both parents to be home at the same time. A maximum of 30 “double days” are allowed.
4. Sick leave
If you are sick when you are on parental leave and cannot take care of your child, it is possible to pause your parental leave and be on sick leave instead.
5. Equality bonus
If you share your parental leave equally between both parents, you can get an “equality bonus” of 50 kr each per day.
6. Shorter working hours
If your child is under the age of 8, you are entitled to reduce your working hours by up to 25% i.e. you can work 75%.
Although you are entitled to take parental leave, obviously all leave has to be agreed with your employer.
Always double check
Försäkringskassan’s rules are complicated and additional rules may apply in your particular case. There are also rules about the order is which you can take your parental days. Always double check your own circumstances with this Swedish agency. Their website, www.forsakringskassan.se also offers a lot of valuable information. I was very lucky that Försäkringskassan called me. Normally you have to actively investigate and pursue your own application. Best of luck!
A little about me
Originally from Ireland, I arrived in Sweden in 1998 with my Swedish husband and a new born baby. We’d moved here after 6 years in England and Germany so already had some practise of being new in town. We thought we’d try out Scandinavian living and so far, so good. Almost two decades later with two teenage children well on their way through school, I’ve got a good handle on making the most of Sweden and work as a relocation consultant. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have about parental leave or any other relocation matters at firstname.lastname@example.org or see my company’s website www.relocatetosweden.com, for more information.