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Nordic nuances regarding whistleblowers and paternity leave

| By Björn Lindahl, Editor-in-chief

Nordic citizens have many rights that can seem nearly utopian to people elsewhere in the world. But in certain areas, there are surprisingly large differences also between Nordic countries. Paternity leave is one example.

From August this year, Danish fathers get nine weeks of earmarked parental leave. Left unused, they cannot be transferred to the mother. This makes a real difference from the two earmarked weeks fathers used to have.

In other Nordic countries, like Iceland, at least three earmarked months of paternity leave have been the norm for many years. 

A report released in 2019 showed that in Iceland and Sweden, the fathers take roughly 30 percent of the total available leave. In Norway, the figure is 20 percent, and in Denmark and Finland 10 percent.

What the law says and what happens in real life is not always the same, however. In the Faroe Islands, parents are in principle free to share as they see fit 34 out of a total of 52 weeks that new parents can take off. But because there is a ceiling for how much pay can be compensated, women tend to take most of the leave because they earn less on average.

Magnus Rasmussen, the Faroese Minister of Industry and Trade, has promised to raise the ceiling from 25,000 danish kroner (€3,360) a month to 27,000. 

“The ceiling should be at least 45,000 kroner (€ 6,050) a month to be sufficient,” says Mai Laksáfoss Simonsen in a commentary. She heads the Faroese Gender Equality Commission Javnstøðunevndin. 

Another difference we look at in this edition is the level of protection extended to whistleblowers. Reporting on irregularities – be it abuse, dangerous work environments, tax avoidance or environmental crime – is protected by law in several Nordic countries. But Finland is trailing behind. The Finnish government will finally propose whistleblower legislation later this year, as a response to he so called whistleblower-directiv from the EU commission..

Sweden is ahead of the Nordic pack on this issue. no other country has more far-reaching protection for employees who want to go public with irregularities in the workplace. The Swedish Work Environment Authority has also been tasked with setting up a control body which will make sure 30 Swedish authorities have routines and mechanisms to deal with whistleblowers.

Can the legislation go too far?

The latest changes to the whistleblower legislation have been has been called complex, partly because it is far too voluminous with its 10 chapters and 60 articles, compared to the former legislation that had a total of 10 articles.

For those who believe the fight for equality has reached its goal, we take a look at a group of people who are potentially discriminated against and who so far have had no protection – left-handers. In a slightly ironic way, we examine scientific studies which have looked at if there are occupations less suited for left-handed people, whether there are any wage differences and why there are so few products tailored for left-handers.

We also report on Sweden’s new basic agreement between trade unions and employers – perhaps the largest change since the 1938 Saltsjöbad agreement, which began a long period of consensus on the Swedish labour market and which has become a symbol of the Swedish model. 

To underline this the new agreement was also signed in Grand Hotel, Saltsjöbaden,

Among other things, the new agreement gives the employees higher compensation for studies and other skills development. The Swedish Trade Union Confederation, LO, also obtained an improvement for temporary workers who are not offered permanent employment in the customer company. In return, employers covered by the agreement are given greater opportunities to make exceptions to the order of rotation in the event of dismissal due to a lack of work than is the case under the Employment Protection Act.

Conflicts between unions and employers is one thing. Perhaps there should be an agreement regulating conflicts between different trade unions, or internal union conflicts? The Icelandic Trade Union Confederation leader Drífa Snædal surprised many by stepping down a few months before the end of her term, because of a conflict over just how radical the unions in Iceland ought to be. 

A problem that all the Nordic countries struggle with is the access to skilled workes. We look at the situation from the view of those who live on the Norwegian island Frøya, outside Trondheim. 


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