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READER QUESTION: Can my employer make me take holiday during ‘fellesferie’? 

Many opt to take holiday during Norway’s collective holiday period, ‘fellesferie’, but some prefer to wait until after the summer is over for cheaper airline tickets. But, can your employer force you to take time off?

Pictured are people at a beach in north Norway.
Here's what you need to know about whether or not your employer can make you take fellesferie in Norway. Pictured is a group of people at a beach in Norway. Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Question: My employer is making me take time off during fellesfeire, but I’d rather wait until tickets are cheaper to take holiday, is this allowed? 

Fellesferie is the collective leave period or general staff holiday period that many Norwegian companies have adopted, which takes place during July. 

In the interwar years, employers and employees in the Norwegian metal smelting industry agreed on a collective holiday period of three weeks. 

For the companies, it was more practical and profitable to let the workers all take holidays simultaneously and close their operations down completely than it was to let workers take holidays at different times and disrupt production levels. 

Eventually, the scheme caught on and is a cornerstone of Norwegian working life today. 

During fellesferie, Many companies will shut down entirely or operate vastly reduced opening hours. The reason why it takes place in July is pretty simple. Kids are on Sommerferie, or summer holiday and the days are still long and warm. 

But what are your rights when it comes to fellesferie? Fellesferie isn’t an official public holiday, nor can employers be legally forced to let staff take a holiday during fellesferie

In contrast, employers can make employees take a holiday during fellesferie if the business stops operating wholly or partly throughout this period. 

Essentially this means that your employer can indeed force you to take time off, even If you don’t want to, if they will be closing down or reducing operations due to a holiday period. 

Employees can refuse to take holiday if the holiday pay they have earned does not cover the loss of income during the holiday. 

On the flip side, employers aren’t obligated to give you fellesferie off, however, under the Holiday Act, employees can demand to take up to three consecutive weeks off during the main holiday period – between June 1st and the last day of September, though. 

This means that employees can still take an extended summer vacation that employers will have to grant. However, that doesn’t mean they have to give you vacation during fellesferie

One perk of the aforementioned Holiday Act, or Ferieloven, is that if you fall sick during your leave, you can request to have the time you were ill back as more holiday. You will need to provide your employers with a medical certificate, though. 

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WORKING IN NORWAY

What is Norway’s job market like for foreigners at the moment?

Currently, unemployment in Norway is at a very low level - but does that mean there are more job opportunities for foreigners in the country? 

What is Norway’s job market like for foreigners at the moment?

Unemployment in Norway remains at the low level of 2.6 percent of the workforce, according to the latest figures published by the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) for August,

At the end of the previous month, there were 76,900 registered fully and partially unemployed workers, as well as people looking for jobs receiving assistance from the NAV. 

Some Norwegian media commentators and politicians have openly stated that this is a fantastic opportunity to have more people enter the workforce.

In early September, Labour and Inclusion Minister Marte Mjøs Persen stated that employers should make use of the “particularly favourable times” and include “vulnerable groups in the work life.” 

According to Mjøs Persen, employers should pay particular attention to applicants with somewhat different skill and experience profiles. 

Should employers in Norway take heed of the minister’s words, this year could offer substantial opportunities for international workers looking to find a job in the country. 

READ ALSO: Why you should learn Norwegian even if you don’t need it for work

NAV: 2022 is a good year for foreigners seeking work in Norway

The Labour and Inclusion Minister is backed in her assessment by the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration, which believes this is a good year for foreigners looking for work opportunities in Norway.

“Developments in the Norwegian labour market this year are good for foreigners seeking work. The demand for labour is very high, and the unemployment rate is very low. 

“In fact, the unemployment rate has not been as low as it is now since before the financial crisis in 2008. In 2022, there has been a very high number of vacancies available for jobseekers,” Johannes Sørbø, a Senior Adviser at the Directorate of Labour, told The Local.

Furthermore, Sørbø pointed out that many different industries are looking for workers.

“There is a significant labour shortage in the health sector; skilled nurses, in particular, are in demand. There is also a labour shortage in the building and construction industry, especially in carpentry and other skilled workers in general. 

“Other occupations with a shortage (of labour) include cooks and ICT (information and communication technology) and -related professions,” the Senior Adviser noted.

Stormy skies ahead?

Despite the currently encouraging situation in Norway’s job market, it seems that the positive trend might be short-lived, as several indicators point to adverse developments in the years ahead.

In September, NAV director Hans Christian Holte warned that the decline in unemployment might soon stop and that unemployment had already somewhat increased among young people in August.

On the other hand, Statistics Norway (SSB) also recently updated its economic forecast. In June, the SSB estimated that the Norwegian economy would go through a period of growth during the year. 

Now, as the overall situation in the economy has worsened, it believes that Norway is moving toward a recession – most likely within a period of several years – due to inflation, interest rate increases, and international factors. 

According to NTB, the national statistics bureau believes that the Norwegian economy will continue to grow during the expected recession but warns that economic activity is likely to decrease, which typically leads to higher unemployment.  

Furthermore, it predicts unemployment will increase to 4.2 percent in 2025 – a marked increase compared to the current unemployment levels. 

However, not all is negative in the SSB’s new forecast, as the bureau predicts that the increased unemployment and lower economic growth might lead to Norges Bank lowering interest rates at the end of 2023.

READ MORE: Could a recession be on the cards for Norway?

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