(Mar. 20, 2020) On March 11, 2020, the Swedish government announced that, in an effort to encourage Swedes with light symptoms of respiratory disease to stay home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, it was amending the annual state budget to allow for the temporary suspension of the first sick day deduction (karensavdrag). Later, on March 14, 2020, the government also announced that from March 13, 2020, until further notice it would suspend the requirement of providing a doctor’s note to employers for illnesses that are between seven and 14 days long.
Under Swedish law, employees who stay home because they are sick ordinarily receive 80% of their daily salary in the form of sick leave benefits from their employer (sjuklön) for the first 14 days of their illness. (6 § Lag (1991:1047) om sjuklön.) However, regardless of whether their sick leave is one or 14 days long, the employer deducts 20% of the first week’s salary (typically the equivalent of the total salary for the first sick day), leaving the employee to carry the cost of the first day of sick leave. (6 § 2 st.) This system was set up to discourage employees from taking sick leave unnecessarily. A doctor’s note is ordinarily required only on and following the seventh day of illness. (8 §.)
The Swedish government explained that as of March 11, 2020, until May 11, 2020, employees will not be charged this deduction, and the government has promised that it will carry this cost. In practice, the relief will be retroactive because sick employees will have to file a claim for compensation with the Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan), while the employer will continue to deduct the first sick day deduction. An estimate for the total cost connected with the measure has not yet been announced.
The government has also proposed that the state fund the entire cost of the employer-provided sick leave benefit (sjuklön) during April and May 2020 as a response to the coronavirus outbreak. However, this measure has not yet been approved in the Parliament.
Region Stockholm No Longer Testing for Coronavirus Infections
As of March 11, 2020, when the announcement to suspend the sick day deduction was made, 461 persons in Sweden had been confirmed infected with the coronavirus. Also on March 11, 2020, Region Stockholm, which then had 233 infected persons, announced that it would henceforth test only those persons who were admitted to the hospital for respiratory diseases. By March 11, 2020, 2,700 persons living in Region Stockholm (the regional health area) had been tested. The same date also marked the first death of a COVID-19 patient in Sweden. The total number of confirmed cases, as of March 19, 2020, stood at 1,423, including 10 fatalities.