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How sick leave pay in Norway compares to other countries in Europe

Jessica Phelan
Jessica Phelan - [email protected] • 28 Dec, 2022 Updated Wed 28 Dec 2022 14:52 CEST
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Your right to paid time off when you’re unwell varies considerably from country to country. From how many days you can take to whether you’ll get your full salary and when you need a doctor’s note, here’s how the rules in Norway compare to elsewhere in Europe.

All the countries The Local covers across Europe have some form of statutory paid sick leave. But from Norway to Italy, Sweden to Switzerland, it’s no surprise that there are big differences. 

And they determine how you claim sick leave, who’ll pay for it, and how much you’ll get.

Do you get days, weeks or even months to recover? Are your wages paid in full or only in part? Where are you covered if you’re self-employed? 

And which countries tell you to stay home in case they send a doctor round to check on you? (At least two do.)

Of course, your employer might choose to give you a better sick leave package. But at the very least, here’s what you’re guaranteed by law in each of the nine countries in The Local’s network starting with Norway.

Norway

Norway grants employees up to a full year of paid sick leave (sykefravær).

The first 16 calendar days are covered by your employer to the tune of your usual salary.

And if it’s just a short absence, you don't even need to produce a doctor’s note: provided you’ve been in the job for at least two months, you can take up to three days off just by notifying your boss you’re ill. They’ll simply ask you to fill out an egenmelding, or self-certification, though employers can limit the number of times you’re allowed to do this per year.

It’s only from the fourth day that you have to show a sick note (sykemelding) from a health professional.

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If you’re off for 17 days or longer, Norway’s national insurance scheme takes over your sick pay (sykepenger). They’ll match your average income from the past three months, up to the limit of 53,199 kroner per month. 

While these provisions extend up to 260 working days (52 weeks) if necessary, you and your boss are supposed to try to avoid that outcome. You’re subject to the so-called ‘duty to be active’, which includes making a plan with your employer about how you can return to work. 

This conversation must take place within four weeks, and at eight weeks, public welfare agency NAV will check to see that you are attempting at least some work-related activities, unless your doctor and/or employer certifies that’s impossible.

Austria

Austria’s rules on sick leave, or Krankenstand, entitle most employees to either six and eight weeks off on full pay from their employer, depending on whether they’ve been in the job less or more than a year. This rises to ten weeks after 15 years and 12 weeks after 25 years.

Employees can then take a further four weeks’ leave on half pay. 

In that case, you can claim sick pay (Krankengeld) from the government, which steps in to top up the amount once your employer stops paying your full salary. 

You’ll receive 50 percent of your salary for up to 42 days of sick leave, and 60 percent if you’re unwell for longer. You might be eligible for up to 75 percent of your usual wages if you have dependents to support.

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To claim leave or pay when you’re ill, you must notify your employer as soon as possible and ask a doctor for a sick note. You’ll usually only have to show it on the fourth day you’re off sick, but if your boss is a real stickler they can request it on the first day.

Remember to do this including if you get ill on vacation, as you can switch your days off to paid sick leave without using up your annual holiday.

Additionally, certain professions might have different rules - so check your Kollektivvertrag for more information.

Denmark

As an employee in Denmark, you’re allowed to take 22 weeks off sick within a nine-month period – and potentially longer, if your local authority agrees that you need it.

You’re supposed to inform your boss no more than two hours after you were due to start work to make sure your absence is properly logged and compensated.

Your employer is usually responsible for paying you for the first 30 days of sick leave. However, depending on what your contract says, you can’t necessarily expect your full salary.

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Past the first 30 days, the local municipality takes over your sick pay (sygedagpenge), which for 2022 is capped at 4,465 kroner per week. The exact amount you’ll receive depends on your average pay and hours worked during the previous three months. 

There are a few conditions attached: you must have worked for 240 hours within the last six months prior to your first day of sick leave. And for at least five of these months, you must have worked at least 40 hours in total that month.

But the good news is that self-employed people, people on unemployment benefits, people who have recently completed a vocational training programme and those who are doing an apprenticeship or working fewer hours for health reasons can also qualify for sick pay from their municipality. 

Find more details about sick leave in Denmark and how to claim it here.

France

If you work in the private sector in France, your sick pay is split between the state and your employer.

Social security pays out indemnités journalières maladie (daily sick pay) that amounts to half of what you’d usually be paid per day, up to a certain limit. Currently, the maximum you’ll get is €47.43 a day.

It’s up to your employer to top up the rest, so that you end up with the equivalent of 90 percent of your full pre-tax salary for the first 30 days of sick leave, and two-thirds for the next 30 days. Each five years you’ve been with the same employer earns you an extra ten days of paid sick leave, up to 180 days total. You have the right to take longer off, if necessary, but in that case your employer is no longer obliged to keep contributing to your sick pay. 

You can claim indemnités journalières from French social security for up to 360 days over three years. If you suffer from a long-term condition, you can claim for as many days as you need over the same period. 

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Note that state-covered sick pay only kicks in from your fourth day of absence and your employer is only legally obliged to pay you from the eighth day – so if you work for an especially miserly company, you could find yourself without any income at all for your first three sick days.

You usually have 48 hours to let your boss know you’re sick and file an avis d’arrêt de travail, a notice of absence from work that has to be filled out by a doctor (or midwife if you're pregnant) and shared with both your employer and your local public health insurance office (caisse primaire d’assurance maladie or CPAM). 

The doctor will specify how long you should remain off and whether or not you’re allowed to leave the house during this time. 

Unless stated otherwise, you’re supposed to be at home between the hours of 9-11 am and 2-4 pm every day you take off sick, including on weekends and holidays. The CPAM is authorised to check on you at home, and if they find you’re out when you shouldn’t be, your state sick pay can be docked or withheld.

If you're a job-seeker and are registered with Pôle emploi, the same process applies. 

Germany

In Germany, your employer has to cover up to six weeks of sick leave on full pay (so long as you’ve been working for them for at least four weeks beforehand, and even if you’re part-time). 

That’s per illness, so if you’re unlucky enough to fall sick multiple times in the same year with separate complaints, you can take up to six straight weeks each time. No wonder the Germans are famously in favour of calling in sick.

READ ALSO: Herbal tea and sick leave: An American’s ode to the German attitude towards health

They’re also famous for other things, of course, so it won’t surprise anyone that German sick leave (Krankenstand) comes with rules.

Chief among them, you have to inform your employer – even informally – before the start of the first work day you take off (the Krankmeldung, or notification of sickness). 

Then you need to see a doctor to request a Krankschreibung, a written sick note. By law, you have three calendar days before you’re required to produce one, even if suspicious bosses ask for one sooner.

READ ALSO: Working in Germany: The 10 rules you need to know if you fall ill

If the doctor judges you need longer to recover, you can take more than six weeks off, at which point health insurance – mandatory for every German resident – will take over your sick pay. You’re entitled to 70 percent of your usual salary, for up to 78 weeks over three years for the same illness. 

It’s pretty common to take leave in Germany for mental health problems, too, and it’s tough for an employer to fire you for needing even significant time off work. 

Italy

Exactly how much sick leave you get in Italy – and how much you’re paid for it – depends on which sector you work in, your employer and what kind of contract you have. 

At a minimum, you’ll be entitled to compensation from the Italian state, though not right away. 

It won’t cover the first three days off, though many employers will. This might be at full pay or a bit less, depending on your contract and how many days off you’ve already taken that year. 

From the fourth day, you become eligible for l’indennità di malattia (statutory sick pay) paid out of social security, equivalent to half your average daily wage. If you have to stay off for longer, this goes up to 66.66 percent from the 21st day of sick leave.

You can claim it for up to 180 days per calendar year. It’ll be paid to you directly by your employer, who then deducts it from their social security contributions.

Note that people in unemployment or apprenticeships also qualify for sick pay from the state, but self-employed people don’t.

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You’ll need a sick note from a doctor, which must be shared with the National Institute for Social Security (INPS). Usually the doctor can do this for you via computer, but double check: if not, you’ll be responsible for posting the paper copy to the INPS within two days.

It’s also important to remember that Italy expects everyone who takes sick leave to make themselves available for medical spot checks at their home.

Every day you’re not working, you’re supposed to be at your designated residence between the hours of 10 am to 12 pm and 5 to 7 pm, awaiting the visit of what’s sometimes known as a medico spia, or ‘spy doctor’. 

If they find you not at home (or fit to work), you can be denied your sick pay.

Spain 

In Spain, anyone who’s registered with the social security scheme and has paid contributions for at least 180 days in the past five years qualifies for partially paid sick leave – whether they work for a company or are self-employed. 

A statutory ‘temporary incapacity benefit’ (prestación por incapacidad temporal) kicks in from the fourth day you’re unable to work, so whether your first three days off are compensated or not depend on your arrangements with your employer. 

CHECKLIST: Everything digital nomads moving to Spain need to consider

At a minimum, your boss has to pay you for 15 days (starting from the fourth day) at 60 percent of your basic salary. 

After that, social security covers the cost. You’ll remain on 60 percent pay up to day 20 of sick leave, and 75 percent from day 21 onwards. 

If you’re self-employed, all this is covered by the National Institute for Social Security (INSS) or an associated insurance company.

Q&A: How will Spain’s new social security system for the self-employed work?

You can receive the incapacity benefit for up to 365 days, extendable by another 180 days if necessary. This adds up to a generous 18 months total.

To claim, you’ll need a sick note from a doctor with the national health service. If you’re self-employed, you’ll also have to submit a declaration to the INSS.

Sweden

As befits its reputation for comprehensive social welfare, Sweden offers paid lengthy sick leave for both employed and self-employed workers. 

One of the biggest pluses is how simple it is to claim a few days off: all you have to do is notify your manager, no sick note needed. It’s only if you’re taking off a week or longer that you have to produce a medical certificate.

More surprisingly, though, the first day of sick leave is usually unpaid. Sweden counts it as a karensdag, or ‘qualifying day’, for which most people who work regular hours won’t be compensated. (As you’d imagine, the system isn’t universally popular.)

READ ALSO: How will Sweden’s Employment Act reform impact foreigners?

But assuming you pass the karensdag, you’re entitled to sick pay (sjuklön) at 80 percent of your salary, which is paid out by your employer for the next 13 days. 

After these two weeks, your company reports your illness to the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan), which takes charge of compensating you. To claim, you’ll have to apply directly to Försäkringskassan, which will want to see evidence that your ability to work is reduced by at least a quarter.

If that’s the case, they will still cover 80 percent of your salary, but only up to a ceiling of 1,027 kronor per day according to the rates for 2022.

READ ALSO: Tjänstledighet: How to use Sweden’s generous right to unpaid leave

You can take a maximum of 364 consecutive sick days at this rate, after which the sick pay drops to 75 percent of your salary, capped at 963 kronor a day (though people with serious health conditions can benefit from the higher rate for longer).

Self-employed workers are also covered, though depending on their situation they may have to take their first 14 days’ sick pay out of their company’s earnings. 

Find a complete guide to taking sick leave in Sweden here

Switzerland

Swiss employment law only mandates that employers offer basic paid sick leave: generally three weeks in your first year in the job, rising with each additional year to around four months max, depending on the canton.

However, many Swiss employers take out insurance that covers a more generous sick pay deal. Individuals can also take out such insurance for themselves, including if they’re freelance or unemployed. 

READ ALSO: Freelancing in Switzerland: What foreign nationals need to know

It typically pays out 80 percent of your salary while you’re off sick, for around 720 out of 900 days. 

The first three days of sick leave are often counted as a ‘waiting period’ under such policies, during which you’ll usually be paid by your employer instead. 

From the fourth day, you’ll have to produce a sick note from a doctor, who must certify that your ability to work has been hindered by at least 50 percent or more. 

READ ALSO: Does my Swiss employer have a right to fire me when I'm sick?

While insurance may cover a lengthy absence, you’re not necessarily protected from getting the sack for the same period. 

According to labour laws, your boss only has to hold your job for you for 30 days in your first year at the company, 90 days in your second to fifth years, and 180 days from the sixth. 

And if you fall ill during your probation period, they can terminate your contract right away. 

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Jessica Phelan 2022/12/28 14:52

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