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Norwegian tripartite agreement on sick leave

Norwegian tripartite agreement on sick leave

| Text and photo: Björn Lindahl

Norway's government and the social partners have reached a new agreement aimed at reducing sick leave. The agreement covers the next four years and prolongs the 2001 Inclusive Workplace Agreement.

One of the agreement's main points is that sick leave as a rule should be partial.

"Partial sick leave should be the main rule, sick workers must be given a better follow-up and we must remove the artificial divisions between being completely healthy and completely ill," said Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, as he and his Minister of Labour, Hanne Bjurstrøm, presented the agreement.

All the major trade unions and employers have signed the agreement. 

"Partial sick leave reduces the risk of being left outside working life. More partial sick leave is a positive thing," said the leader of Norway's Confederation of Trade Unions, Roar Flåthen.

Other measures include training those who grant workers' sick leave, and to make it compulsory for employers and employees to draw up a contingency plan after four weeks of sick leave (compared to the previous rule of eight weeks). After eight weeks there should be a meeting allowing the employer and employee to conduct a dialogue about the situation. This used to happen after twelve weeks. 

There will be no reduction in sick leave pay - which will stay at 100 percent of the salary - and there will be no introduction of a qualifying day, i.e. no sick pay for the first day of sick leave.

The aim is still to cut sick leave by 20 percent compared to the second quarter of 2001. That means the total level of sick leave should not top 5.6 percent. Today's figure is 7.7 percent. 

The agreement also aims to improve working life participation for people with physical handicaps, and to increase the retirement age by six months. It does not change how long the employer must cover the cost of sick leave (before state benefits kick in), nor does it change the number of days an employee can take off sick. 

"We are pleased with the new agreement. Doctors, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration, businesses and employees must pull together to reduce sick leave. We have agreed that everyone takes a greater responsibility," says John G Bernander, Director General of the employers' organisation the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise.

The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration - comprising job centres, the national insurance scheme and municipal social services - will manage a fund from which employers can apply for money to help in their work to manage people on partial sick leave.



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