Questions & answers

About your rights at work


New job – how much should I be paid?

Sweden has a good reputation abroad but it is common for migrant workers to be cheated out of their wages.

In Sweden, there is no statutory minimum wage. Instead, wages are mainly regulated by collective agreements signed between trade unions and employers. Compensation for overtime, work at odd hours and on holidays, night shifts, and piece work is also based on collective agreements.

Ask if the employer has a collective agreement, in which case you are entitled to receive no less than the wage and the wage increases stated in the agreement. It does not matter whether you are a member of the union that signed the agreement or not.

Check what the minimum wage is under the collective agreement. Also check current wage statistics for your profession and industry, for example on the Statistical Bureau’s website. Actual starting wages are often well above the minimum level of collective agreements. Many collective agreements for salaried employees contain neither minimum levels nor guaranteed wage increases. In this case, wage statistics are crucial when making wage demands. If the employer is a municipality or region, you can request payroll records for your colleagues.

Your employer must inform you about the collective agreement you are covered by no later than one month after you have started working.

If the employer does not have a collective agreement, it is possible to adjust the wage to a reasonable level.

If you and your employer did not agree on a wage when you accepted the job, an appropriate wage is determined by the current salary statistics for the region that you work in and the collective agreements in the relevant profession. If the starting wages and the average wages in your region are higher than the minimum wage guaranteed by the collective agreement, it is an argument for your wage to be higher as well.

What should I do if I am underpaid?

If you are a member of a local trade union (LS) of SAC and your boss pays you less than what the collective agreement allows, the union can request negotiations and demand compliance with the agreement; your boss is obliged to negotiate within two weeks. If your LS is not the union that signed the collective agreement, we will demand the correct pay according to your employment contract (which takes its content from the collective agreement).

If your boss pays you less than you are entitled to, a wage debt grows every month. Wage debts can be recovered within ten years of the debt being incurred.

If your boss is not bound by a collective agreement and you and your boss agreed on a lower wage than the minimum wage guaranteed by the collective agreements in the relevant industry, you should of course demand a higher wage in line with the collective agreements and current wage statistics. If you agreed on a low wage, it is more difficult to get justice in court afterwards.

Your labor union may need to show that you are in an inferior position to your boss. Employees are generally in an inferior position, but you may need to be in a particularly vulnerable or weak bargaining position for the court to find that your pay is unfairly low. If the wage is well below the minimum level of the collective agreement, the court is likely to adjust the wage in order to bring it closer to the minimum level.

During the period when an unreasonably low wage has been paid, wage debts accumulate. In the context of an adjustment, employees can recover debts incurred to up to two years ago, not further back in time.

Collect evidence!
Save payslips, employment contracts or certificates, timesheets, text messages on your phone and work schedules. Take photographs of the systems where you record your working hours and record conversations with your boss (this is legal in Sweden if you yourself participate in the conversation). If your working hours are not recorded anywhere, take note of your working hours yourself. Otherwise, it is easy to forget.

Being a Member of an LS of the SAC

What can you expect from the union?

Even if you have come to Sweden only recently, you have the same rights at work as anyone else in the country. Some companies that employ migrant workers and undocumented migrants exploit their employees. They may not pay wages and break the law – often, over and over again. The companies can get away with this as long as the workers do not know their rights and cannot stand up for them. To do that, you need to act through a labor union.

When you are a member of an SAC local (LS), active members help each other and defend their rights at work so that your boss cannot fire you, cheat you out of your wages or expose you to dangerous working conditions.

How does an LS of the SAC work?

The local unions (LS) welcome all workers, regardless of profession and nationality, but not bosses. In Sweden, most workers are members of one of the trade union confederations LO, TCO or Saco. The SAC stands out because in the SAC it is the members who run the union. We as workers know what problems we have in the workplace and we are the ones who should decide what battles to fight and how to improve our workplaces.

How does the union help?

If you are being cheated out of your wages, fired, forced to work fifteen-hour shifts, are exposed to a dangerous work environment, etc. we can support you.

When we call the boss to negotiate, the law requires them to negotiate with us within two weeks. If we cannot reach an agreement with the boss, you and your colleagues can help put pressure on them. There are many effective and legal forms of pressure you can use, such as strikes and protests. If you have elected a health and safety representative, there are additional tools, supported by the Health and Safety at Work Act. Your pressure can also be supplemented by the union exposing the boss in the media and ultimately taking them to court. By working together we can get our demands through.

What does the union expect from me?

When you become a member of our union, you need to be active in union work and address your own problems at work. We also expect you to get involved and help others to the best of your ability, just as others will help you if you have problems at work or want to improve your working conditions.

If you and your colleagues have problems at the workplace, contact your LS, which will support you. The LS has negotiators and sometimes there are special negotiating committees.

All members are offered courses in negotiating and organizing in order to put pressure on the boss collectively.

How do I become a member?

Go to and click on “Become a member”. If you need help completing your application, you can contact the LS you will belong to once you become a member. You can find a list of all LS on and find the fitting LS by writing in your postal code.

You can call the secretariat of the SAC on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 13-15. People there speak Swedish and English.

Phone: 08 – 522 456 30

Working hours & vacation

How long should I work per day and per week?

Normal working hours in Sweden are forty hours per week, most commonly divided into eight hours a day, five days a week. This amounts to an average of 168 hours per month. If you work more than forty hours a week, this is called overtime. There is a limit to how much overtime you are allowed to work; it is 200 hours per year.

You are entitled to at least eleven hours of free time per day and at least thirty-six consecutive hours of free time per week. This means that you must not work a shift longer than thirteen hours.

It can be illegal for your boss to pressure you into working long hours and to work much overtime.

If your boss wants to change your work schedule, you must be notified at least two weeks in advance.

PLEASE NOTE: In some cases, Arbetstidslagen (the Working Time Act), allows your employer to deviate from the rules. There are also collective agreements that allow it. But always check with your labor union whether deviations from the rules are legal or not.

How about my breaks?

Arbetsmiljöverket (the Swedish Work Environment Authority, which is a government agency) recommends a five-minute break every hour when the work is heavy (e.g. on assembly line jobs).

Every five hours, you are entitled to a longer break. If you eat during your break, it should be at least half an hour. On an eight-hour working day, you should have at least one hour off in total. You should be able to sit down in peace and quiet during your break.

What can unions do?

The union can talk to your boss and demand that you work a reasonable amount of time, about eight hours per day and forty hours per week. A health and safety representative can demand that the working hours be such that they are not harmful to your health.

If the employer does not listen, the health and safety representative can in some cases ask Arbetsmiljöverket to intervene and force the employer to comply with Arbetstidslagen.

Remember that you should be paid for every hour you work. If you work overtime, you should be paid for it, every hour. This is the law.


As a worker, you are legally entitled to twenty-five days of vacation every year. To receive holiday pay during your leave, you usually have to have earned it the previous year. This means that you must have worked for one year, between April 1 and March 31, in order to receive full holiday pay during your vacation the following year. If you have only worked part of the year, you will receive holiday pay corresponding to the period you have worked.

Example: If you start your new job on January 1 and work ninety days until March 31, you are entitled to seven days of paid leave during the following 12 months (April 1 to March 31).

If you terminate your employment and have accumulated holiday entitlement, you will receive your outstanding holiday entitlement in money equivalent when you leave your job.

As a temporary employee, you usually do not have vacation but instead receive a holiday allowance, which is paid as a supplement to your salary.

What happens if I get sick during my holidays?

If you fall ill, you can interrupt your holiday and save it for a later date. Notify your boss as soon as possible that you are ill and that you want to interrupt your holiday. You must be able to prove the reasons for interrupting your holiday if your employer requests it. The reasons must meet the regulations of Försäkringskassan (the Swedish Social Security Agency) for entitlement to sickness benefits. You can also interrupt your holiday if your child falls ill.

Försäkringskassan is a government agency. It should not be confused with the unemployment insurance fund, A-kassan, which can provide money when you are unemployed.

Types of employment

There are different types of employment.

You can agree on an employment contract orally or in writing. Whatever form the agreement takes, you must receive written information about it. Among other things, it must specify your type of employment. If you have not received written information or if the information is wrong or incomplete, the union can claim damages on your behalf.

 Simply put, there are two types of employment:

  • Permanent employment, also known as indefinite employment, which is employment with no end date.
  • Temporary employment, which is limited in time with a set end date.

Permanent employment

If you are a permanent employee, your boss must have objective reasons for firing you. Such reasons can be work shortage or personal offenses. Work shortage means that the company is struggling, that there is less work to be done, or that the boss simply wants fewer employees.

If you are fired from your job for personal offenses, your misconduct must have been serious to be accepted by the courts. Two examples are refusing to work or stealing from the company.

Probationary period

When a job is new, it is common for the permanent contract to begin with a probationary period. A probationary period can last up to six months, after which the contract automatically becomes permanent.

If you are a probationary employee, your boss can refuse to extend your contract or terminate it early. This is usually legal and does not require a specific reason.

Temporary employment contracts

By law, there are three types of temporary contracts (in addition to probationary contracts):

  • Fixed-term contracts
  • Seasonal contracts
  • Substitute contracts

A fixed-term contract automatically becomes permanent when you have worked for more than twelve months in the last five years. A substitute contract becomes permanent after twenty-four months. A fixed-term contract also becomes permanent if you have worked during a twelve-month period with the boss mixing the fixed-term contract with seasonal and substitute contracts.

If you have a fixed-term contract, your boss might not extend your contract; but it is normally not possible to terminate a fixed-term contract early.

In many collective agreements, there are further types of temporary employment contracts.

What happens if my boss fires me?

Has your boss stopped giving you work? Are you afraid of being fired if you speak up? Are you afraid of getting into trouble if you join a labor union?

Sweden has a good reputation abroad, but it is still common for companies to fire migrant workers in violation of laws and regulations. Labor unions can help you keep your job, or get it back and receive compensation when you have been fired.

If you are a union member and a permanent employee, we will negotiate and demand that you get your job back. If the boss refuses, the union has the legal right to claim a large amount of compensation for you, usually several hundred thousand SEK. If you are fired because you are a unionist, the damages are even higher.

If you have a fixed-term or substitute contract, the boss must negotiate with the union if the company does not want to extend your contract, and the union can fight for a new one. If you are a probationary employee, the union can also negotiate but it is more difficult to win.

If you suspect the boss is going to fire you – collect evidence! Record conversations with your boss on your phone. This is legal, as long as you participate in the conversation yourself, but do not post it on the internet.

More questions and answers are coming soon