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By Marcus Hoy
March 9—The Swedish government will require more employers to provide gender-related salary statistics and will require more frequent filing, a practitioner at the Stockholm-based Ving legal firm tells Bloomberg BNA, and will seek more gender equity in the use of occupational insurance and paternity leave. In a March 9 statement, attorney Frederik Dahl said that the tightening of the salary documentation requirements has been strongly criticized by industry. He added that, while reviews of Sweden’s parental benefit and occupational injury insurance systems are ongoing, new employer obligations are likely to be minimal.
On Feb. 11, the government presented an amendment to the Discrimination Act (2008:567) that expands companies’ obligations to provide gender-specific salary statistics to the national database Statistics Sweden. As of Jan. 1, 2017, reports will have to be submitted annually rather than every three years, and this obligation will be extended to companies with 10 or more employees rather than 25 as currently required. Affected companies will also be obliged to adopt policies and procedures designed to prevent harassment and further gender equality in the workplace.
While it has the support of the center-left government and of women’s advocacy groups, Dahl told Bloomberg BNA that the new requirement has been opposed by employers’ organizations such as the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (SN).
“Even today, the obligation to provide salary statistics every three years is seen by many companies as an administrative burden,” Dahl said. “The new rules mean that all companies with 10 or more employees must carry out these annual wage surveys, as opposed to 25 under the present regime. Although the task will be faster for companies with fewer employees, the reality is that these companies often lack an HR manager or other administrative staff with the right skills. If they are forced to outsource this task, it will lead to increased costs and inconvenience.”
Edel Karlsson Haal, a Labor Market Analyst of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, told Bloomberg in a March 8 statement that her organization has “strongly opposed” the change.
“We support equal salaries but are against this method,” Haal said. “The way that companies must survey themselves is particularly bureaucratic and time-consuming and can lead to significant expenses.”
“The issue of equal salaries that are gender-neutral is an important one for our member companies,” Hall continued. “Companies already have a strong incentive to achieve this goal in order to meet their recruitment needs and be seen as an attractive employer to anyone with the right skills, male or female. This requirement is already enshrined in most collective agreements.”
According to the government, a broad review of the nation’s state-funded occupational injury insurance system is needed to address the fact that female workers are far less likely to be awarded compensation as a result of workplace injuries. A commission set up in January 2016 is charged with creating a “more gender equal” system under which claims for workplace-related sickness have an equal chance of success, regardless of gender. The existing situation, Dahl told Bloomberg BNA, is due in part to the fact that most widely recognized injuries occur in male-dominated professions.
“Regarding the work injury issue, the government has identified that many typically female occupational injuries such as burnout and repetitive strain injuries in healthcare are not normally classified as a workplace injury when it comes to insurance benefits,” Dahl said. “The system today tends to focus on typical occupational injuries such as crushed hands or similar injuries resulting from a factory environment, that is to say, typical male professions. If there is a change in legislation in this field, it will most likely be directed against the authority charged with assessing the right to compensation for occupational injuries. In the longer term, such changes could have implications for employers in terms of their rehabilitation obligations.”
While ongoing review of the parental benefits system is aimed at encouraging more fathers to take advantage of Swedish parental leave, Dahl told Bloomberg BNA that the commission’s remit includes no leeway to change the actual amount of leave that can be taken by each parent, and any legal changes resulting from the review would likely have a negligible effect on employers.
Although the current system allows seven weeks of paid absence to be taken by either parent, leave is most often taken by the mother. According to the government, this situation can have a negative effect on women’s salary growth and opportunities for promotion.
The report on parental leave is due to be published in October 2017, and the commission on occupational injuries is to present its findings in March 2017. It is unlikely that any legal changes resulting from the findings will be presented before 2018, Dahl said.
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