Expat working conditions change in Sweden after ’Lex Laval’ rule change Expat working conditions change in Sweden after ’Lex Laval’ rule change

Expat working conditions change in Sweden after ’Lex Laval’ rule change
31 Jul 2017

In many countries, including Sweden, legislation regulates employment and its conditions. Employees who come to the country to work are, in general, covered by laws and agreements that also apply to the wider labour market.

But as of 1 June, 2017, an amendment to the Posting of Workers Act has resulted in changes for workers who have been posted to Sweden from overseas. To be posted is to be sent by your employer to work in another country for a limited period of time.

When sending employees to Sweden, companies based overseas must follow the Posting of Workers Act. The law is based on the European Union’s (EU) Posting of Workers Directive and covers everyone who has been posted abroad whether they come from inside or outside of the EU.

Because it is a Directive, it is up to each country to stipulate how the legislation will work in practice and, in Sweden, collective agreements play a central part here. Since collective agreements first appeared, employment conditions have been strongly regulated on both the employer and employee side, in an arrangement called “the Swedish Modell”. An important and profound element of collective agreements is the right to call industrial action, a right that was put to test at the start of the Millennium.

Lex Laval regulations

In 2004, conflict broke out at a Swedish construction project. Lithuanian construction firm Laval un Partneri Ltd and a Swedish affiliate were on one side of the dispute and two unions representing construction industry workers, Svenska byggnadsarbetareförbundet (“Byggnads”) and Svenska elektrikerförbundet (“Elektrikerna”) were on the other. These two powerful unions called for industrial action because arrangements for expats who had been posted to Sweden were substandard at the time and were also not covered by collective agreements.

The case was taken to the EU Court of Justice, with the aim of settling whether a foreign country’s collective agreement could be displaced by Swedish legislation as a result of industrial action. In 2007, the EU Court ruled in favour of such industrial action as the differences between the collective agreements of Sweden and Lithuania were found to be significant. It also ruled that workers had a positive right to undertake strike action, although such action had to be proportionate.

This verdict led to a change in Swedish legislation, which was thereafter referred to as the ‘Lex Laval’ regulations. They came into force on 15 April 2010 and meant that industrial action could take place in relation to the core rights laid out in the EU Posting of Workers Directive.

But as of 1 June 2017, Lex Laval has been subject to a new amendment. The move affects all organisations with employees in Sweden, whether the company itself is situated in the country or not, as the regulations cover subcontractors employing labour from other EU countries.

New amendment

A key difference between the old and new version of the legislation is that the so-called Rule of Proof has now been deleted. The Rule of Proof meant that industrial action was not justifiable if an employer could prove that the conditions workers were striking over were equivalent to those laid down in the collective agreements.

In other words, from now on, industrial action is considered justifiable in order to ensure workers are covered by Swedish collective agreements, even if such action fails. But whatever happens, workers will still be entitled to the core right of taking industrial action.

The amendment also improves the working conditions of expat workers who have been posted to Sweden as employers will be obliged to appoint a negotiating representative on their behalf. Unions will likewise be given extended legal rights to manage contracts, payslips, time reporting and filed payments to ensure that the terms of the collective agreements are fulfilled.

Workers can also request that the agreements are translated into either Swedish or English, whichever they prefer, if they are written in another language. This translation must be completed within three weeks of the request being made and during and up to four months after the posting has ended. If their employer fails to do so, they will have to pay an indemnity for violating the rules.


Zennie Sjölund is the branch manager of the Association of Swedish Accounting & Payroll Consultants, Sweden’s association for accounting and payroll consultants which was formed in 1936. Srf konsulterna promotes quality payroll by supporting and enabling process change, helping to develop professional payroll skills and offering professional certification.

In many countries, including Sweden, legislation regulates employment and its conditions. Employees who come to the country to work are, in general, covered by laws and agreements that also apply to the wider labour market.

But as of 1 June, 2017, an amendment to the Posting of Workers Act has resulted in changes for workers who have been posted to Sweden from overseas. To be posted is to be sent by your employer to work in another country for a limited period of time.

When sending employees to Sweden, companies based overseas must follow the Posting of Workers Act. The law is based on the European Union’s (EU) Posting of Workers Directive and covers everyone who has been posted abroad whether they come from inside or outside of the EU.

Because it is a Directive, it is up to each country to stipulate how the legislation will work in practice and, in Sweden, collective agreements play a central part here. Since collective agreements first appeared, employment conditions have been strongly regulated on both the employer and employee side, in an arrangement called “the Swedish Modell”. An important and profound element of collective agreements is the right to call industrial action, a right that was put to test at the start of the Millennium.

Lex Laval regulations

In 2004, conflict broke out at a Swedish construction project. Lithuanian construction firm Laval un Partneri Ltd and a Swedish affiliate were on one side of the dispute and two unions representing construction industry workers, Svenska byggnadsarbetareförbundet (“Byggnads”) and Svenska elektrikerförbundet (“Elektrikerna”) were on the other. These two powerful unions called for industrial action because arrangements for expats who had been posted to Sweden were substandard at the time and were also not covered by collective agreements.

The case was taken to the EU Court of Justice, with the aim of settling whether a foreign country’s collective agreement could be displaced by Swedish legislation as a result of industrial action. In 2007, the EU Court ruled in favour of such industrial action as the differences between the collective agreements of Sweden and Lithuania were found to be significant. It also ruled that workers had a positive right to undertake strike action, although such action had to be proportionate.

This verdict led to a change in Swedish legislation, which was thereafter referred to as the ‘Lex Laval’ regulations. They came into force on 15 April 2010 and meant that industrial action could take place in relation to the core rights laid out in the EU Posting of Workers Directive.

But as of 1 June 2017, Lex Laval has been subject to a new amendment. The move affects all organisations with employees in Sweden, whether the company itself is situated in the country or not, as the regulations cover subcontractors employing labour from other EU countries.

New amendment

A key difference between the old and new version of the legislation is that the so-called Rule of Proof has now been deleted. The Rule of Proof meant that industrial action was not justifiable if an employer could prove that the conditions workers were striking over were equivalent to those laid down in the collective agreements.

In other words, from now on, industrial action is considered justifiable in order to ensure workers are covered by Swedish collective agreements, even if such action fails. But whatever happens, workers will still be entitled to the core right of taking industrial action.

The amendment also improves the working conditions of expat workers who have been posted to Sweden as employers will be obliged to appoint a negotiating representative on their behalf. Unions will likewise be given extended legal rights to manage contracts, payslips, time reporting and filed payments to ensure that the terms of the collective agreements are fulfilled.

Workers can also request that the agreements are translated into either Swedish or English, whichever they prefer, if they are written in another language. This translation must be completed within three weeks of the request being made and during and up to four months after the posting has ended. If their employer fails to do so, they will have to pay an indemnity for violating the rules.


Zennie Sjölund is the branch manager of the Association of Swedish Accounting & Payroll Consultants, Sweden’s association for accounting and payroll consultants which was formed in 1936. Srf konsulterna promotes quality payroll by supporting and enabling process change, helping to develop professional payroll skills and offering professional certification.