Swedes struggle with the meaning of sick leave


As part of the continuing campaign to shed their hard-working stereotype, perhaps taking a cue from their more well-adjusted Norwegian neighbors, Swedes have been taking dubious sick leave in record numbers.

[A] study showed 40 percent believe it is enough to feel tired to stay home and draw benefits.

A survey of 1,002 Swedes by the board also showed 65 percent believed they could go on sick leave if they felt stressed at work and 41 percent thought a conflict with their boss or workmates was a good enough reason.

One fifth thought a strike at the child care center also made them eligible for the benefits and 71 percent said family problems entitled them always or sometimes to sick leave.

Reuters claims Dagens Nyheter as the source, but if you punch "Anna Hedborg" into DN:s search engine, asking for articles within the last week, it finds nothing. But if you ask Google, the article is right there: Trötta sjukskriver sig (The tired call in sick). Once again, Google finds a web page that the site itself cannot.

On a somewhat related note, a different type of sick-leave abuse has been detected.

According to the Social Insurance Board, several people have been drawing sick-leave pay for several years, while simultaneously working another job and receiving unemployment benefits.

Some cases are of ordinary people who defraud the Board in small amounts but over a long period of time. In the other cases, there are links to serious economic crime where, for example, money was paid out to fictitious employees at nonexistent companies.

(Raymond's bad translation.)

[Typo fixed 25 September.]

Comments (7)
  1. Anonymous says:

    When I lived in Sweden in the 70s it was well known that it was not allowed to make computer runs comparing the information in two systems.

    So for instance kindergarten charges were based on income before tax that you told them you had and the local authority was not allowed to match this with your tax returns.

    Oddly enough the people more easily able to afford kindergarten charges were usually the ones claiming low incomes (while bringing the kid to work by Mercedes).

    It’s all part of the Swedish "we can trust people" mentality and it maybe used to work but it doesn’t nowadays.

    It was well-known that Volvo had very high absenteeism on Mondays. But equally well-known that it was impossible for them to get rid of the worst offenders.

  2. Anonymous says:

    So what? Why is it NOT okay to take a sick day when you’re feeling tired or to leave if you’ve had an argument with the boss? Stop thinking like a boot-licker Ray.

  3. Anonymous says:

    (Um, because you’re not actually sick?)

  4. Anonymous says:

    I think we’re coming up against the American view of what’s acceptable. We have more holidays, and generally the law is more worker /family friendly.

    I don’t condone throwing a sickie because you really need to be sick to do so, but often people come in to work when they are sick and infect their whole office…

    Stress can make you unable to work, and in this country you can be signed off work by a doctor due to stress: you are counted as sick if you are unable to work due to health problems.

    Therefore you would also be unable to work if you were exhausted (but not just ‘tired’).

    If your nursery was on strike suddenly, you’d have to look after your kids. This wouldn’t be counted as sick leave, but would no doubt be treated with compassion by your employer, and maybe counted under your allowance for parental unpaid leave.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Lots of companies won’t allow people to take unpaid time while they still have paid time on the books. So the time they need off in effect, becomes sick time. Employees learn this and make it happen more often than not. I have taken days off for personal reasons, but here where I work we don’t have sick time, just PTO (Personal Time Off).

  6. Anonymous says:

    I don’t doubt that the system is abused. That said, it may often be better in the long run to not always wait until you are "actually sick" before you stay home. If it makes you come back to work much quicker, what’s the problem? Personally, I also prefer if my colleagues that think they are about to come down with a fever stay outside my breathing sphere.

    Of course I work in the IT industry, like everyone else reading this I guess, and it is commonly feasible for me to do large parts of my work from home at any time of the day, week or year. Thus I rarely call in sick unless I’m completely floored and instead do what work I *can* without exhausting myself even if it’s only responding to the occasional "What’s the deal with this bug?"-mail.

    I’m aware that this wouldn’t work quite as well if I were part of a team at an assembly line or a if I were a dentist.

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