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‘Feriepenger’: What you need to know about holiday pay in Norway

'Feriepenger': What you need to know about holiday pay in Norway
Photo: S'well on Unsplash
As an employer or employee in Norway, it is important to understand how the holiday time and pay system works. Here's our guide to the Norwegian holiday regulations and culture to help you clock-out and enjoy life outside of the job.

What is fellesferie?

Before we fully get into breaking down how the holiday time and pay system works in Norway, it’s necessary to explain how Norwegian culture has adopted a system called fellesferie, or collective holiday. Collective holiday occurs in the last three weeks of July. It is when a considerably large number of residents in Norway choose to take time off work. It is during this time a lot of shops close permanently for three weeks, and why even the capital city’s streets in Oslo feel almost eerily quiet.

So ingrained is fellesferie in a Norwegian’s way of life is that as an employee, you may insist to your employer that you get to take these three weeks off. Collective holiday is only three weeks, but the main period of vacation time in Norway lasts from June 1st until December 31st.

The legislation 

Family and work-life balance isn’t just an idea here in Norway. It’s practiced. And there have been laws set in place to make it easier to do so. The Annual Holidays Act, or ferieloven, is intended to ensure that employees receive annual holiday.

Holiday pay, which is a part of this legislation, is intended to ensure that employees do not lose out on salary during holiday periods.

Employees are entitled to four weeks and one day of paid holiday each calendar year. While four weeks and one day is the law, it is common for most companies to have a five-week arrangement in place, states national labour regulator Arbeidstilsynet.

Who is entitled to keep track of holiday pay?

We know learning a new system isn’t easy, but luckily it isn’t your job as an employee to punch in the correct numbers. It is the employer’s job to make sure the correct sum is paid out for holiday pay, and that it is paid out on time. 

For public businesses and institutions, and a majority of private run companies in Norway, it works like this. Every month you receive a paycheck with your pre-taxed earnings, called your brutto sum. The brutto sum is the amount of salary you made before taxes. Along with the amount for taxes being deducted, there is a percentage (a minimum of 10,2 percent) of your monthly earnings that has been withheld to be paid back out as holiday pay at a later date. 

Click here to calculate how much holiday pay you should receive. 

Holiday pay is most commonly paid out at the end of the month of June, or right before what Norway considers to be a collective holiday. Receiving holiday pay at the end of June is the most common practice, but in principle, holiday pay is to be paid out on the last regular payday before the time free from work is taken.

It’s also important to note that holiday pay is not taxed monthly, but it is taxed as a total sum on the month it is paid out. 

How much holiday pay and time are you entitled to?

The amount of holiday pay you make will be a collective monthly percentage of what you have made in the past year. If you have not worked in the year leading up to your holiday, you still have the right to take holiday, but without pay. 

While one can insist on taking time off during the three weeks of collective holiday, the remaining days of time off are to be agreed between the employee and employer in good time leading up to the holiday, according to the law. If it is impossible to find an agreement, then it is the employer who determines the time for the holiday.

As an employee, you are also not allowed to demand your holiday be divided up into individual days (hello four-day work weeks!) unless you have an agreement with your employer. 

And as much as you have the right to take your annual leave, you can also refuse to if you have been working for less then a year and your holiday pay is thereby less than your normal monthly salary. However, you can not refuse to take a holiday if your employer closes down in whole or in part in connection with holiday cancellations. During fellesferie, for example.

Didn’t get around to using all of your holiday time? It’s ok. As stated by holidays act, an employer and employee can agree in writing to allow up to two weeks of holiday to be transferred to the following year. 

Some additions to be aware of

Perhaps one of the rules most distinguishing Norway then from other countries holiday pay systems is this one. If you are sick during your holiday, then you are entitled to get the time back. That’s right, if you fall ill during your requested time off, then you can request a new set of days later in the year to take free. Before this starts to sound too good to be true, new vacation days are not given for having a common cold, for example. A sick employee requesting a new holiday needs to hand over a medical certificate to their employer proving they were ill as soon as possible.  

Norway offers a big present to those who turn 60! Employees aged 60 and older are entitled to one additional week of holiday for every year until they retire. The over-60s also have the right to withhold 12,2 instead of 10,2 percent of their monthly salary to be paid out as holiday pay. 

If you change jobs, your vacation time can be transferred to your new job, but it is most commonly paid out as a lump sum and attached to your last paycheck.

What are the national public holidays in Norway?

There are 13 days in the calendar year that are considered ‘red days’.  Red days are when most shops, public offices, and many attractions are closed. But before you start making plans, check with your employer. Depending on where you work, these are not guaranteed days off. 

This year, the red days are: are New Year’s day, Maundy Thursday (April 1st), Good Friday (April 2nd) The 1st and 2nd days of Easter (April 4th and 5th),  Labour day (May 1st), Norway’s National Day (May 17th), Ascension (May 13th), the first day and seconds days of Pentecost (December 23rd and 24th), Christmas Day and December 26th.

Useful Vocabulary 

  • ta fri take time off, finish work (literally: ‘take free’) 
  • Endelig, det er fredag!Finally, it’s Friday!
  • permission uten lønnunpaid leave
  • sommerferie – summer holiday 
  • biltur – road trip 

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