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Sweden’s public holidays: How to maximise your annual leave in 2022

It's time to start planning your annual leave before your colleagues book up the most coveted days off in the Swedish calendar. Here's a list of Sweden's "red days" in 2022 and the public holiday hacks you need to know to get as much time off work as you possibly can.

a woman in the sunset in Malmö
Already thinking about how to get out of working next year? Here are a few handy hacks. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

If you’re on a full-time contract 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 four consecutive weeks off in June-August, and you may actually get paid more when you take time off.

What’s more, you can roll over days from previous years up to a total of 25 (usually five per year for five years). If the pandemic meant you didn’t use your full allowance in 2020 or 2021, you probably have more days to use in 2022. Make sure you speak with your company.

But on top of those paid vacation days, there are several so-called “red days” (röda dagar) in Sweden. 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.

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

Some firms offer de facto bonus “half days” (halvdagar) 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 that 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 days.

That means planning ahead if you want to take time off then, but consider whether you might prefer 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, this is not standard in Sweden – offer an alternative weekday off instead.

If you’re not sure what your company’s policy is, don’t be afraid of talking about holidays with your employer. This is especially important if you’re new, as the number of days you’ve worked may affect the number of paid vacation days you get – so make sure you discuss this with your manager. 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 time off

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 school holidays (which otherwise will be quickly booked up by your Swedish parent colleagues).

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 Covid 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.

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Don’t be afraid of discussing holidays with your employer. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

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.

Especially the summer break is usually when many Swedes leave the big cities and head to their parents’ places or second homes in the countryside, while many restaurants, cafés and museums close their doors for summer and public holidays, even in non-pandemic times.

So be aware that the cities may be eerily empty during holiday times.

4. 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 (sportlov or februarilov) 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.

5. Is this a good year or a bad year?

Most Swedish companies don’t offer days off in lieu when a public holiday falls on a weekend, which means that the total amount of days you can get off a year depend a lot on the calendar – for this reason, you will see newspapers describe certain years as “good” or “bad” for employees or employers. Some public holidays such as Easter are always linked to certain weekdays, but others move around.

Swedes tend to appreciate when public holidays fall on a Tuesday or Thursday, giving them a chance to take a klämdag off while “spending” only one day of their annual leave, so this may be factored in when your colleagues talk about whether it’s a good or a bad year.

We’re sorry to say that 2022 is a bad year.

But on the upside it’s not much worse than 2021.

Full-time employees will have 253 work days to look forward to in 2022, the same amount as last year and one day more than in 2020. But hang in there, because in 2023 the tide will turn with the number of work days reduced to 251, followed by 251 in 2024 too, and 249 in 2025.

The 2022 Christmas period is especially bad, with Boxing Day the only public holiday that does not fall on a weekend.

So how do you maximise the number of days you can get off in Sweden? Keep reading below for a list of public holidays in 2022 and an insider’s guide to how to make the most of them.

Consider whether you may prefer staying in the city during the summer break. Photo: Ali Lorestani/TT

National public holidays in Sweden in 2022

January

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

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

Thursday January 6th – Epiphany – Public holiday

Tip: Epiphany falls on a Thursday in 2022, which means you can get a four-day weekend while using up only one of your annual leave days if you book the Friday (a klämdag this year) off.

April

Friday April 15th – Good Friday – Public holiday

Sunday April 17th – Easter Sunday – Public holiday

Monday April 18th – Easter Monday – Public holiday

Tip: Many parents will want to get the full week of Easter off to coincide with their children’s school break. Walpurgis Eve on April 30th is often a de facto half day, but in 2022 it falls on a Saturday – you could ask your employer if you instead get the Friday off as a half day.

May

Sunday May 1st – Public holiday

Thursday May 26th – Ascension Day – Public holiday

Tip: 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

Monday June 6th – National Day of Sweden – Public holiday

Friday June 24th – Midsummer’s Eve – Public holiday

Saturday June 25th – Midsummer’s Day – Public holiday

Tip: Midsummer’s Eve is officially not a red day, but along with Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve it still counts as a public holiday according to Swedish law and you don’t have to work.

November

Saturday November 5th – All Saints Day – Public holiday

Tip: The Friday before All Saints Day may be a half day at some companies, but make sure you ask your employer before clocking out early. There aren’t a lot of other public holidays in autumn, so if you need a break, now is a good time to use up some of your annual leave – depending on the nature of your work, your employer may even appreciate you taking time off now rather than during the summer.

December

Saturday December 24th – Christmas Eve – Public holiday

Sunday December 25th – Christmas Day – Public holiday

Monday December 26th – Boxing Day – Public holiday

Saturday December 31st – New Year’s Eve

Sunday January 1st, 2023 – New Year’s Day – Public holiday

Tip: Just like Midsummer’s Eve, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are not red days, but they are almost always treated as such anyway. In 2022, the main red days fall on weekends, so if you want a longer break you’ll need to use up your annual leave. Some offices close for an extended period over the holidays – policies on whether any enforced days off will be considered “bonus days” or will be taken out of your annual leave vary between companies, so double check with HR.

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For members

WORKING IN SWEDEN

CHECKLIST: Here’s what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

What authorities do you need to inform before you leave, are you liable to Swedish tax and how can you access your Swedish pension? Here's a checklist.

CHECKLIST: Here's what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

Tell the relevant authorities if you’re leaving for more than a year

If you’re planning on leaving Sweden for more than a year, you will have to let the authorities know. The main authorities in question are Skatteverket (the Tax Agency) and Försäkringskassan (the Social Insurance Agency).

Försäkringskassan

You have to tell Försäkringskassan when you leave so they can assess whether or not you still qualify for Swedish social insurance. As a general rule, you aren’t eligible for Swedish social insurance if you move away from Sweden, but there are exceptions, such as maternity or paternity benefits if you’re moving to another EU country.

This also applies to any family members who move with you – any over-18’s should send in their own documentation to Försäkingskassan about their move abroad. If you’re moving abroad with anyone under 18, you can include them in your own report to Försäkringskassan.

If both legal guardians are moving abroad together, both need to include any children in their application. If one legal guardian is moving abroad and the other is staying in Sweden, you need the guardian staying in Sweden to co-sign your application. If you are the sole legal guardian of any under-18’s travelling with you, you don’t need any documentation from the other parent.

You can register a move abroad with Försäkringskassan on the Mina sidor service on their website, here (log in with BankID).

Skatteverket

If you are moving abroad for a year or longer, you also need to tell the Tax Agency. This also applies if you were planning on moving abroad for less than a year but ended up staying for longer.

If you move to another Nordic country, you will also need to register your move with that country’s authorities if you will be there for six months or more. You’ll be deregistered from the Swedish population register the same day you become registered in another Nordic country’s register.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll lose your personnummer – you’ll still be able to use it if you ever move back to Sweden – but you will no longer be registered as resident in Sweden.

Similarly to Försäkringskassan, you will also need to report any children you are bringing with you, and both legal guardians must sign the form, whether or not both guardians are moving abroad or not.

In some cases, you may still be liable to pay tax in Sweden even if you live abroad – particularly if you are a Swedish citizen or have lived in Sweden for at least ten years. This could be due to owning or renting out property in Sweden, having family in Sweden, or owning a business in Sweden.

You can tell the tax agency of your plans to move abroad here.

Contact your a-kassa, if relevant

If you are member of a Swedish a-kassa (unemployment insurance), make sure you tell them that you’re leaving the country. As a general rule, you have unemployment insurance in the country you work in, so you will most likely have to cancel your a-kassa subscription.

If you are moving to another country with the a-kassa system, such as Denmark or Finland, it may pay to wait until you have joined a new a-kassa in that country before you cancel your membership in Sweden.

This is due to the fact, in some countries, you only qualify for benefits once you fulfil a membership and employment requirement. In Sweden and Denmark, you must have been a member for 12 months before you qualify. In Finland, the membership requirement is 26 weeks.

If you qualify for a-kassa in Sweden before you leave the country, you may be able to transfer your a-kassa membership period over to your new a-kassa abroad and qualify there straight away, but this usually only applies if your period of a-kassa membership is unbroken.

Check what applies in your new country before you cancel your membership in Sweden – your a-kassa should be able to help you with this.

Contact your union, if relevant

Similarly, if you are a member of a Swedish union or fackförbund, let them know you’re moving abroad.

If you’re moving to another Nordic country, they might be able to point you in the direction of the relevant union in that country, if you want to remain a member of a union in your new country.

If you’re moving to another EU country, you may be able to remain a member of your Swedish union as a foreign worker with the status utlandsvistelse.

If you chose to do this, you will usually pay a lower monthly fee than you do in Sweden, and they can still provide assistance with work related issues – although it may make more sense to join a local union in your field with more knowledge of the labout market.

If you don’t want to be a member of a union in your new country and don’t want to be a member of a Swedish union, you should contact your  union and ask them to cancel your membership.

Collect relevant documents regarding your Swedish pension

If you have worked in Sweden and paid tax for any length of time, you will have paid in to a Swedish pension. You retain this pension wherever you move, but you must apply for it yourself.

To do so, you will need to give details of when you lived and worked in Sweden, as well as providing copies of work contracts, if you have them. If you have these documents before you leave Sweden, make copies so that you can provide them when asked.

If you move to the EU/EES or Switzerland, you may also have the right to other, non-work based pensions, such as guarantee pension for low- or no-income earners, or the income pension complement (inkomstpensionstillägg).

Currently, you can receive your Swedish pension once you turn 62 – although there is a proposal in parliament due to raise pension age to 63 for those born after 1961 from 2023, so this may change.

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