The Working Hours Act in Brief

The purpose of the Act is to give workers protection against working too much. The Act contains rules on how much you can work per day, per week and per year. The Act addresses concepts such as on-call time and stand-by, what breaks and rests you are entitled to and what rules applies to daily rest periods.

The Working Hours Act applies to all work in Sweden, with certain exceptions. The Act applies regardless of whether the company concerned is Swedish or foreign, as long as the work is carried out in Sweden. There are special regulations concerning the working hours of minors (under the age of 18).

Collective agreements can derogate from the Act

It’s possible to make exemptions from the Act in its entirety, or to derogate from certain sections in the Act through collective agreements. The collective agreement can then either replace the entire Act or certain parts of it. The rules that may be derogated from are specified in the third section of the Act. Collective agreements are handled by the Swedish National Mediation Office.

The Working Hours Act is based in part on mandatory EU rules in Directive 2003/88/EC concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time. The Directive allows parties to conclude collective agreements on working hours, but it contains certain minimum requirements on weekly rest, daily rest and total weekly working hours that may not be broken.

The Swedish Work Environment Authority is the supervising authority for the Working Hours Act and may grant exemptions from some of the Act’s rules. The Swedish Work Environment Authority is not the supervising authority for collective agreements and can therefore not assess whether they are considered to comply with the Act. The Swedish Work Environment Authority also does not examine whether collective agreements satisfy the requirements of the Directive. Such an examination may be made by the European Court of Justice.

The act does not apply to:

  • Work performed by a person who holds a company management position.
  • Work by employees entrusted with organising their own working time.
  • Personal assistants, au pairs and others who work in someone else’s home.
  • Work on board a ship.
  • Many types of road transport; the Swedish Transport Agency is responsible for rules for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.

In some situations, the exemption also applies

  • Uncontrollable work, i.e. where the employer does not control how the work is performed.

Exempt tasks

There are also tasks performed by the public sector that are exempt from the Act. These tasks relate to ensuring public safety and order. The exemptions do not apply generally, but rather depend on the circumstances. There are also exceptions for employees working on trains and planes that cross borders.

Different types of working time

According to the Act, working time means that you are at the workplace and performing work or are prepared to start working if necessary. Working time can be regular working hours, on‑call time, overtime or additional time:

  • regular working hours and on-call time must be planned, for example by means of a working hours schedule;
  • overtime and additional time may only be used when working hours need to be increased temporarily;
  • on-call time differs from regular working hours in that the employee does not perform any work but is only available at the workplace.

Stand-by is being on call, except that you do not have to be at the workplace.

Regular working hours may not exceed 40 hours per week in full-time employment according to the Act. In total the working hours may not exceed 48 hous per week, including on-call time, overtime and additional time.

Through collective agreements, it can be agreed to reduce or extend the maximum or minimum regular working hours.

Weekly rest, breaks and rests

According to the Act, employees have a right to an uninterrupted weekly rest of at least 36 hours for each 7 day period. If it’s possible, the weekly rest should be at the weekend.

A break means a longer interruption in the working time, for example a lunch break. The break does not count as working time and you may leave the workplace during this time. You may not work more than 5 hours without a break.

Rests are short Interruptions in the working time, like a coffee break. A rest counts as working time.

Night work

Daily rest includes the time between 0.00 and 5.00. This means in principle a ban on night work, with certain exemptions. Night work can also be agreed through collective agreements.

The Swedish Work Environment Authority may grant derogations from the rules on daytime rest and a ban on night work contained in Section 13 of the Working Hours Act. We can only process the application if the employer does not have a collective agreement that regulates day rest and/or night work.

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Last updated 2022-01-12