Health and Benefits|Employee Experience|Future of Work
Employer Action Code: Act
Employees in Sweden with at least six months of service can normally request unpaid leave for formal studies, with few restrictions on the kind of organized courses pursued and no requirement that the education be work-related. As part of a recent national Job Security Agreement between the social partners, a new program will provide government-paid benefits, starting in 2023, to eligible individuals while they pursue approved studies to broaden their work-related skills and strengthen their position in the labor market.]
The program is administered by the Board of Student Finance (CSN) and funded by an annual budget allocation from the government (1.3 billion Swedish krona for 2023, which is expected to fund about 5,650 students). CSN accepts and reviews applications for support from individuals twice a year and approves applications meeting the program criteria until the budget is exhausted.
Participants studying full time receive a grant equal to 80% of their previous salary, with the 2023 grant amount capped at 21,298 Swedish krona per month or 5,143 Swedish krona per week, payable for up to 44 weeks. For approved part-time study (of at least 20% of full-time study), the grant amount and the maximum duration of support are adjusted proportionately (e.g., for half-time study, the grant amount is halved and the maximum duration is doubled). The grant amount is also reduced proportionately for participants who continue to work during their studies; up to half-time work is permitted, with no cap on earnings. Participants may also take out loans from CSN, but aggregate support may not exceed prior salary.
Support is available for approved education programs that commence after January 1, 2023, and under certain conditions for continued studies that started before 2023.
The program also includes support from career-counseling organizations that help employees who are being made redundant, need skills development or are facing a career change (the level of support depends on the relevant collective agreement).
In general, applicants must be between the ages of 27 and 62 and have worked at least eight years out of the past 14 years and at least 12 months out of the past 24 months, subject to additional conditions on average monthly working time and pay.
The studies must strengthen the employee’s qualifications for positions/work where there is unmet labor market demand. Training that employers should normally provide and training to meet the specific needs of an employer are ineligible for support.
The great majority of employers surveyed (75%) by WTW do not have a formal program to support the continuing education of employees, and this looks unlikely to change with the establishment of this new paid study leave program. Approval of applicants for the new study leave is, however, limited by the funds budgeted and is targeted at studies preparing applicants for the parts of the labor market with significant unmet demand, so not all who apply will be approved. If the program leads to greater interest in continuing education on the part of employees, it may lead to increased demand for employer-supported programs. Employers should review the impact of the new support scheme on their education-support policies for employees.