Working as a doctor in Sweden during COVID-19 – the Swedish Medical Association’s information
Working as a doctor in Sweden during COVID-19 – the Swedish Medical Association’s information
What is it like working as a doctor in Sweden, a country well known for its organized and modern healthcare system, during COVID-19? In the middle of a pandemic, we take a closer look at the Swedish Medical Association’s information regarding the current work as a doctor in Sweden.
Due to the coronavirus, the government may issue special regulations on exemptions from the provisions of the Social Insurance Code, abbreviated SFB, on sickness benefits and waiting periods, in the event of extraordinary events in peacetime carrier allowance and temporary parental benefit and case management.
Staying at home with children
Försäkringskassan (the Swedish Social Insurance Agency) does not compensate parents at home with children who are not ill or where there is no certificate from the health service that the child should stay home from school.
Under labor law, there is no reason to leave or keep the salary in such a situation. This means that those employed in a region or municipality must therefore request leave, compensatory leave, or leave of absence. It is the employer who decides whether leave can be granted depending on the needs of the business. If the employer still chooses to grant paid leave, this is a personnel policy stance for the specific employer.
Suppose the municipality decides that a school, preschool, after-school center, or other educational activity is to be closed. In that case, the guardian may have an opportunity to report the need for childcare. This if your work effort is considered necessary to maintain socially essential activities.
The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency has asked employers to define whether they consider that they are conducting a socially significant activity and that they inform their employees that, if necessary, they may have the right to care during school closure.
Those who are on parental leave cannot be ordered because they are needed for duty. If you are on parental leave and the employer still wants to order you in, contact the member counseling.
Leave and holiday
On-call time can be taken out either as leave or as financial compensation. The employer and the employee must consult on the distribution between withdrawals in leave and money. However, it is the employer who ultimately decides on the allocation. You can, therefore, not unilaterally demand to receive the full on-call service in your free time.
If you are on leave with on-call time, it is easier to cancel such leave than, for example, a holiday, because you are on duty but compensated for hours worked. The starting point is that on-call duty should not be interrupted either, but there are more significant opportunities to do this than during holidays. Of course, you will be allowed to take the leave at another time if you work during your on-call duty. Contact the member counseling for further advice in your specific case.
It is ultimately the employer who decides on the arrangement of holiday leave if no agreement can be reached, in accordance with the Holiday Act. The employer must consult with the employee about taking a holiday. You also have the right to have your main holiday located for four consecutive weeks during the period from June to August. Here, there may be other provisions in current collective agreements.
Furthermore, if the accommodation is not agreed upon, the employer must notify the holiday leave at least months before the holiday. If there are special reasons, such notice may be given at least one month in advance. Thus, an employer can not force an employee to take special leave at short notice. This would be contrary to the Holidays Act.
According to the law, the employee must be notified of the arrangement of the main holiday of two months in advance. If there are special reasons, a notification can be made later, but at least one month in advance. Assessment of this is made in relation to each workplace. Special reasons may be that the employer cannot organize the work in any other way. It may also be that safety in the workplace and important societal interests cannot be achieved otherwise.
If you work in a region or municipality, your commenced holiday may be interrupted if there are special reasons (AB § 27 subsection 13). These must be extraordinary situations that cannot be foreseen, such as major accidents or outbreaks of epidemics. You can receive compensation for costs in connection with your interrupted holiday. Contact the member counseling for further counseling in your case.
If the employer can show special reasons, the employee is obliged to cancel his holiday. The employer must then pay for the extra costs that arise if you stay in another place. In the event of an interrupted holiday, you are compensated at most with five additional holiday days. These must be extraordinary situations that cannot be foreseen. You can receive compensation for costs in connection with your interrupted holiday.
If ordered to not come to work
If the employer orders you not to come to work, the starting point is that you receive a salary but that you are then at the employer’s disposal. As COVID-19 is classified as a general dangerous disease, this means that the provisions on carrier allowance can be applied. You can receive a carrier allowance if you have to give up working and lose income. You must have a medical certificate showing that you are not allowed to work because you are infected with a generally dangerous disease.
The Swedish Social Insurance Agency pays such compensation after an application from the employee.
However, if the employee can perform work at home without the risk of spreading the infection, this opportunity should be used. The employee then retains his salary and other possible employment benefits.
If you are granted a carrier allowance from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency, you will not receive a salary from the employer at the same time if you are at home. Those who cannot work may be entitled to sick pay from the employer or from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency.
If you belong to a risk group
The National Board of Health and Welfare has identified the risk groups. Groups of individuals who are most at risk of suffering from a particularly severe illness course when they develop COVID-19. These people may have a particular need for care.
The employer is responsible
It is the employer who has the overall responsibility for the work environment. If an employee runs a severe risk of becoming infected with, for example, COVID-19, risk-minimizing measures must be taken immediately. Efforts are needed to prevent the employee from being exposed to ill health or accidents. This means that it is not the employee who can decide whether it is risk-free or not going to work. The employer must make that decision, regardless of whether the employee thinks it is good or not.
If you believe that you have an increased risk of becoming infected, you should first consult with your employer about this. As an employee, you go to work; otherwise, this can lead to labor law consequences.
As it currently stands, the recommendation is that if you want to interrupt your work, first contact the safety representative at the workplace, the local medical association, or the medical association’s member counseling for advice and support.
The Swedish government has decided on temporary compensation for people in risk groups who are at risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. The decision applies to those who have a job or are self-employed and who must wholly or partially refrain from working to avoid becoming infected. When applying, the Swedish Social Insurance Agency needs access to a medical certificate that clarifies that you or close relatives belong to a risk group.
The Swedish Medical Association’s recommendation is that pregnant workers should not work with patients who have been confirmed or suspected of being infected with the virus.
In other respects, according to the Swedish Work Environment Authority’s regulations (AFS 2007: 5), the employer must always carry out an individual risk assessment concerning all occupational health and safety factors in the pregnant doctor’s work environment when knowing an employee’s pregnancy. It should be done with the support of occupational health care and in close collaboration with safety representatives. Suppose it is not carried out or considered that the risk assessment is incorrect and you, as a pregnant woman, feel anxious and do not hear from your boss about your situation. In that case, you should first contact your safety representative.
In a situation that could not have been foreseen by the employer that is directly related to a natural or accidental event or other similar circumstance and that involves an imminent danger of damage to life, health, or property, emergency overtime may be taken for work to the extent required by the circumstances. When the threat to life and health is eliminated, the situation is no longer seen as an emergency.
If there is a local employee organization, emergency overtime may only be taken out provided that the employer notifies the organization of the overtime work as soon as possible. If such notification is not made, overtime work is considered general overtime.
Framework for working hours
Framework for working hours according to the Working Hours Act, AB and the Special Provisions for Physicians continues to apply, which means, among other things, that the maximum total working time, including overtime, is still 48 hours on average per week during a four-month period. Daily rest and weekly rest must be taken care of as usual.
In extraordinary circumstances, which mean that the population is exposed to general danger, exceptions can be made from the protection rules regarding maximum working hours. If the crisis agreement is activated the situation is seen as such a special circumstance. In this case, the framework for total working hours is set aside.
The crisis agreement stipulates 48 hours per week for a calculation period of a maximum of 4 weeks for regular working hours, and also, employers can order unique emergency overtime.
The Working Hours Act’s protection rules do not apply to an activated crisis agreement. Compensation for unique emergency overtime is given in increased crisis compensation according to the crisis agreement.
Everyone who lives in Sweden (including foreign citizens) has a duty to serve regardless of gender. This applies to people between 16 and 70 years old. You may thus be obliged to help in a crisis situation.
Conscription includes military service, military service, and, in the event of heightened preparedness, public service. An example of a crisis situation that could lead to full military service in peacetime is that the government has announced that Sweden has gone into autumn readiness due to the current pandemic.
Public service includes people who, for example, have been called up to work in healthcare. The doctors are such a group that is part of the total defense when there is a need. Anyone who refuses to perform compulsory military service may, with the support of the law mentioned above, be sentenced to imprisonment for a minimum of six months and a maximum of four years.
Sweden is continuously working to improve the current worldwide situation with the main focus on its citizens. Day by day, the situation changes, and the government analyzes different alternatives to control the virus. To keep yourself updated about the current COVID-19 situation in Sweden, you can read more information from the Swedish Medical Association here.
Are you interested in working as a doctor in Sweden, Norway, or Denmark? Please, register now.