Working in Norway: How to resolve disputes with your employer
Working in Norway comes with many perks, but it may not always be smooth sailing between you and your employer. Here's how you can resolve issues at work.
Whether it's the high wages, flat corporate structure, or work-life balance, many end up moving to Norway for a job.
However, things don't always pan out the way they should, leading to you and your employer not seeing eye-to-eye.
Being a foreigner can make these disputes even more distressing as you may not know typical working practices and the labour laws in Norway.
To begin with, it's worth knowing that disputes with your employer will generally fall into two categories. These are disputes at work or issues surrounding a dismissal.
For dismissals, a justified basis must be presented, and there are strict rules for terminating employment in Norway. In addition, employees in Norway are protected against unfair dismissals by Norwegian law.
Issues with the working environment come from everything from how you are treated by your employer, the hours you work and the salary you are paid.
When beginning to address an issue you have with your employer, one of the best things you can do is familiarise yourself with your rights as a worker.
You don't need to be an expert on employment law or fluent in Norwegian, either. The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority (Arbeidstilsynet), the government agency for ensuring the Working Environment Act is maintained, has an overview of workers' rights on its website.
On the site, you can get a basic overview of your rights regarding the working environment, your work hours, contracts and wages. The information is available in several languages, including English.
What can you do to resolve disputes?
When you have an issue with your employer, you should first approach your manager or the human resources department to raise the issue and outline the problem you are having.
From there, you can present and discuss your issues with your employer or the working environment. It is advisable to keep a record of all correspondence, conversations and incidents in relation to your issue, should the problem escalate and you wish to take further action later on.
If you are a union member, then your place of work will likely have a tillitsvalgt (trustee/trade union representative) that can present your complaint to your employer on your behalf.
Unions play a huge role in working life in Norway, with almost two million people being a member of unions, according to Statistics Norway. If you aren't a member, it may be worth joining one.
In some cases your union or employer will bring in a mediator to help resolve the conflict in an orderly manner.
If your rights protected by law are being violated, you can also contact the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority. The inspection authorities can be contacted on (+47) 73 19 97 00 or through the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority's service for foreign workers.
Once you have raised a violation of legal workers' rights with the inspectorate, it will conduct an investigation or inspection of the workplace, either announced or unannounced.
You can also opt to take your employer to court if you feel that your rights have been infringed, that you have been unfairly dismissed, or if you think that the issue you brought up wasn't addressed appropriately. This will be a time-consuming and costly process. Before proceeding with legal action, it is worth consulting with an employment lawyer or union representative to determine whether this will be a worthwhile course of action.
One thing to note is that, unfortunately, Norway doesn't have the equivalent of an employment tribunal process.
Legal fees will be covered by your union if you are a member and decide legal action is the best course of action. However, you cannot ask for legal support if you were not a union member prior to the issue arising or legal proceedings being taken.
Therefore, you shouldn't wait until there is a problem to join a union and should instead be a member as an insurance policy that will cover you if there are any issues with your job further down the line. One drawback to being a union member is the fees, though.
Should your mental health and wellbeing be affected by the conflict, you can be signed off from work by your doctor. And finally, in some cases the issue won't be able to be resolved in an orderly manner meaning that you may need to begin the hunt for a new job instead.