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Sweden

1 The State duty to protect human rights [page 10-11]

Swedish legislation to protect human rights

“Through other legislation, such as civil law legislation on rights at work and on discrimination, as well as criminal law legislation, the State seeks to ensure that an individual’s human rights are also respected by third parties, including business enterprises.

A typical feature of the Swedish labour market and the Swedish model is that the relationship between employer and employee is largely governed by collective agreements. These agreements often contain regulations that supplement and replace the procedures established by law. The most important act in the area of individual labour law is the Employment Protection Act (1982:80), which regulates how employment contracts may be entered into and terminated. This Act includes provisions stating that indefinite-term contracts should be the general rule but that fixed-term contracts can be mutually agreed in some cases. The Act also states that notice of termination of an indefinite-term employment contract must be based on objective grounds.

In the area of collective labour law, the Employment (Co-determination in the Workplace) Act (1976:580) is the main act. This Act regulates, for example, the right of employee organisations to participate in negotiations ahead of certain decisions by an employer, for example regarding significant operational changes. The Trade Union Representatives (Status at the Workplace) Act (1974:358) is also part of collective labour law. This Act contains regulations on the status of trade union representatives and the right to participate in trade union activities at individual workplaces.

The purpose of the Discrimination Act (2008:567) is to combat discrimination and in other ways promote equal rights and opportunities regardless of sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, impairment, sexual orientation or age. The Act applies to employment in a broad sense, educational activities, labour market policy activities and employment services not under public contract, starting or running a business, supply of goods, services and housing, organisation of a public gathering or event, and health and medical care and social services.

Disputes concerning the relationship between employer and employee are often resolved in the Labour Court, which is a specialised court for examining labour law disputes. The Labour Disputes (Judicial Procedure) Act (1974:371) contains certain special regulations on labour law disputes.”

Criminal law provisions to protect human rights

  • “Protection of liberty and peace, through criminal liability for human trafficking, including for the purpose of exploiting a person’s labour …”

2 The corporate responsibility to respect human rights [page 13]

“For a company’s employees, human rights in the workplace are particularly important. The right to participate in collective bargaining and the right to form or join free trade unions are examples of such rights. Special measures should be taken to identify and prevent anti-union policies or actions. This applies both in Sweden and abroad. In some countries it may be difficult for employees to assert their human rights in the workplace.

The Government encourages companies to conduct a dialogue on these issues with stakeholders, trade unions and civil society organisations to identify problems and work constructively to find common solutions. It is particularly important to ensure that a dialogue is conducted with free trade unions. …

Companies should also help to defend and strengthen women’s rights, including through access to the labour market and by combating discrimination in all its forms. …”

Annex: Measures taken [page 21]

Regulations and legislation

  • “The Inquiry on protection of workers who blow the whistle on various unsatisfactory conditions, irregularities or offences submitted its report on 20 May 2014 (Swedish Government Official Reports 2014:31). The Inquiry proposes a new labour law act strengthening the protection provided to whistleblowers. Under the act, workers who have suffered reprisals for whistleblowing will be entitled to damages. The Inquiry’s proposals have been circulated for comment.
  • With a view to improving the protection provided to workers, amendments have been proposed to the Work Environment Act and the Working Hours Act. Under these amendments, financial penalties would largely replace penal sanctions to create a more effective sanctions system.
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