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How to maximise your Swedish annual leave in 2021

How to maximise your Swedish annual leave in 2021
Hikers in the fjäll, in northern Sweden. Photo: Jan Collsiöö/TT.
Keen for a long stretch of time off work this year, or keeping fingers crossed for travel restrictions easing up? Here are the holiday hints you need to know to maximise your time off work in Sweden.

If you’re working in Sweden, you should have a lot of annual leave even before you factor in public holidays.

By law, firms have to give full-time staff 25 days off, and many offer extra days and benefits on top of this. For example, most employees have the right to take at least four consecutive weeks off in June-August if they choose, and you’ll find that Sweden’s larger cities empty out in those months.

What’s more, you can roll over days from previous years up to a total of an extra 25 (usually five per year for five years). If the coronavirus pandemic meant you didn’t use your full allowance in 2020, you probably have more days to use in 2021. 

But on top of those paid vacation days, there are several so-called ‘red days’ (röda dagar) in the Nordic nation. By planning breaks around these public holidays you can get longer stretches of time off by only using a few of your precious vacation days. Keep reading to learn the tricks to make the most of this, and the other factors to be aware of.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about annual leave in Sweden

1. Check your company’s approach to annual leave around public holidays

Some firms offer de facto bonus half days ahead of public breaks, while others ask staff to take annual leave in the days before or afterwards, in order to synchronise company work schedules.

The dates in between public holidays are known as klämdagar which means ‘squeezed days’, for example a Monday which falls between a weekend and a public holiday the next Tuesday. Some employers offer these as extra vacation days. For those that don’t, they are popular days to take off, meaning some businesses offer a ‘first-come-first-served’ policy for these sought-after days.

That means planning ahead if you want to take time off then, but consider whether you might actually want a few quiet days in the office while your boss stays at their summer house after a national holiday, perhaps saving your own annual leave for dark November or frozen February.

If you do shift work or your company has a collective bargaining agreement, you’re likely to get extra pay for working public holidays. If red days take place over a weekend, some firms – but far from all – offer an alternative weekday off instead.

If you’re not sure what your company’s policy is, don’t be afraid of discussing holidays with your employer. Sweden’s approach to work-life balance means they are more likely to think less of you if you don’t plan any time off.

2. Book early if you want to take off ‘red days’


Photo: Christian Ferm/Folio/imagebank.sweden.se

Swedes love to plan, so if you’re thinking about travelling, start organising sooner rather than later.  
That might not feel easy at a time when everything and especially travel is uncertain, but it means you’re more likely to get your first choice of dates if you want time off at a popular time, like around a public holiday or during school summer holidays.

Usually, hotels, flights and even trains can get booked up months in advance of popular holidays, with prices rising as they get closer, so it’s wise to book early. It is also a way to show consideration to your managers and colleagues so that they can plan work scheduling around everyone’s time off, for example booking cover if necessary. 

If you’re planning to book time off to travel, remember that coronavirus restrictions could change at short notice. It might be worth speaking to your manager or HR about whether it will be an option for you to cancel your leave if a planned trip can’t go ahead.

3. Don’t forget to take time to recharge

If you normally use your vacation days to travel or visit family, it might feel frustrating to use them up in a time when your options are more limited.

But make sure that you do book some time off. That’s not only because by law you need to take your minimum of 20 days (if you’re a full-time employee) but also to give yourself a real break. Planning ahead will give you more chance of getting the days you want.

4. Be prepared for life to slow down in summer


Photo: Lina Roos/imagebank.sweden.se

In non-coronavirus times, public holidays are usually when many Swedes to leave the country’s big cities and head to their parents’ places or second homes in the countryside, while many restaurants, cafes and museums close their doors for summer and public holidays.

So be aware that, even if things are able to return to a kind of normality by summer, the cities may be eerily empty during holiday times.

5. Check school term dates

It’s obvious that if you’ve got school-age children, you’ll need to know when their term starts and finishes — be aware that these dates differ in different parts of the country. But even for workers without children, it pays to check when the summer holiday is, as well as the spring break (sportslov) and autumn break (höstlov or läslov).

Traffic is often very busy at the start and end of these periods as families escape from the cities, and prices for accommodation and travel can also rise due to the spike in demand.

Keep reading below for a list of Sweden’s public holidays in 2021.


Photo: Per Pixel Petersson/imagebank.sweden.se

National public holidays in Sweden in 2021

January

Friday January 1st – New Year’s Day – Public holiday

Many employers also offer New Year’s Eve December 31st as a day off. 

Wednesday January 6th – Epiphany – Public holiday

April

Friday April 2nd – Good Friday – Public holiday

Monday April 5th – Easter Monday – Public holiday

It’s Easter weekend. Many parents will want to get the full week off to coincide with their children’s Easter break from school.

Walpurgis Eve on April 30th is often a de facto half-day (but check with your employer first). In 2021 it falls on a Friday, giving you a long weekend if you get the half-day.

May

Saturday May 1st – Public holiday, but this year falling on a Saturday

Thursday May 13th – Ascension Day – Public holiday

There’s another chance at a long weekend later in May if you get the Friday after Ascension Day off. But it’s a popular klämdag, so make sure you get there before your colleagues.

June

Sweden’s national day on June 6th this year falls on a Sunday, so no luck.

Also Midsummer Day, on June 26th, falls in a weekend, on a Saturday.

December

Friday December 24th – Christmas Eve

Saturday December 25th – Christmas Day – Public holiday

Sunday December 26th – Boxing Day – Public holiday

Friday December 31st – New Year’s Eve

Saturday January 1st, 2022 – New Year’s Day – Public holiday

Just like Midsummer’s Eve, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are not technically public holidays, but they are almost always treated as such anyway. In 2021, these are the only chances for time off over Christmas without using your annual leave because the main red days fall on weekends.


Member comments

  1. Hi Roman, it’s a Thursday this year, but the guide is about public holidays in 2021, and December 24th falls on a Friday next year. God jul!

  2. Just noting that Midsummer’s Day is ALWAYS a Saturday, so it’s not quite correct to say it “falls on” a Saturday in 2021.

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