Falling ill is never a pleasant experience, but even more so with a new employer in a foreign country. Here's how the process works regarding your job if you fall ill in Norway.
Everyone experiences illness during a lifetime. And sometimes it isn't possible to work. If you are in a foreign country when this happens, it can be very hard.
The good thing is that sick pay in Norway is generous. But there are also some rules and formalities to keep track of. Here is what you should know about how sick pay works in Norway.
For minor illnesses (a heavy head cold or mild flu, for example) you can self-certify your illness. But if you are going to need more than three consecutive days off, you'll need to obtain a sick note from your doctor.
You can hand in a self-certification for a limited period. This means you don’t have to see a doctor. Maximum length is three consecutive days four times in a 12-month period. When you have used all the days, you have to get a sick note from a doctor.
It’s not up to you to decide you can’t work
First things first, if you believe you can go to the doctor and say you can’t work and automatically get a sick note, you’re wrong. That’s not the way it works in Norway.
Of course, it’s often obvious you are not able to work at all. But in cases of doubt a good doctor will have a thorough conversation about your ability to work either full-time or part-time. This includes suggestions about what adjustments your employer can make.
For example, if you’re pregnant, you can get more time to rest. If the reason is psychological, you might need your own office for a while or have the opportunity to work from home.
NAV can also assist financially, so the employer won’t carry the cost. For example, to pay for a taxi to and from work. They can also pay for special equipment. The doctor writes such suggestions on the sick note.
The sick note
Some hospitals and clinics use paper sick notes, but most doctors submit them electronically. This means it gets sent to NAV and the employer through the system simultaneously.
You receive a copy, but you actually hand in your sick note after the period is over. This is so you can report if there have been any changes during the period:
- You can work more than the note says. Even when on full sick pay this is encouraged.
- You can also personally cancel the sick leave before the end of the period. This without consulting NAV or your doctor.
- If you have vacation or other leave, you also report this.
When you are not able to work the scheduled hours, you have to ask your doctor to change the sick note.
Partial sick-note (gradert sykemelding)
When you are able to work part-time, the doctor will write a partial sick-note. Which is very common in Norway. If you can work 20%, this is better than nothing. You can discuss working hours with your boss. Depending on what kind of work you do, this is usually quite flexible.
Who will know your diagnosis?
NAV gets all the information from your doctor, including your diagnosis. This information is not sent to the employer. You are not obliged to share this information with your boss or anyone at work.
Questions from your boss should be like “what do you need from me now?”, “can I do something that will make you able to work more?”, or “do you receive treatment?”.
You are of course welcome to share whatever you want. But if they try to push you, they are overstepping the line. Even if it seems strange to talk about all of this, without them knowing what’s wrong with you.
And under no circumstance can your boss share information about your condition to others, without your consent. Believe me it happens a lot. Some people don't seem to understand that health and illness for many people is something very personal. And that this is also dependent on cultural background.
Sick pay and vacation
When you use vacation days, you are not technically considered sick and not entitled to sick pay. However, the period of time (one year in total) you can receive sick pay, will be prolonged.
If you are too ill to take vacation, you can usually postpone the vacation days. This also goes if you get sick during a vacation.
It’s not possible to take vacation part time. If you for example are on 60% sick pay, you use five vacation days a week, and not two.
Sick pay while on holiday or travelling
This applies to when you want to go travelling while receiving sick pay. And not if you are on holiday using vacation days.
You might have heard about the “NAV-scandal”, where around 80 people were wrongfully punished for fraud. In addition hundreds of people had to pay back the sick pay they had received. This was because they hadn’t informed NAV they were going abroad.
However, NAV didn’t take into account the EU/EEA-law, and this went on for years. Some even went to jail.
Anyway, applicable employment law and information is improved and up to date. But if in doubt, it’s important you check with NAV what rules apply to you.
When you consider going travelling while on sick pay:
- Ask your employer if the trip will prevent any activities at work.
- Check that the travel will not interfere with activities initiated by NAV.
- Ask your doctor if the trip will worsen your health or delay treatment.
Citizens of EU/EEA countries
- When travelling within the EEA, you can keep the sick pay without applying. You can travel for four weeks during a 12 month period.
- If you travel outside the EEA, you are not usually entitled to sick pay. You can, however, apply in advance, because NAV makes some exceptions.
Citizens of countries outside the EU/EEA
- You must check if you can keep your sick pay when traveling outside the Nordic countries (Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland).
Who is covered by sick pay?
All of this has to apply to you:
- You were working at least four weeks before you got ill.
- You are a member of the National Insurance Scheme (Folketrygden). If you're an employee in Norway, you are a member.
- Your income must be at least half of the basic amount (G), which is presently NOK 55 739.
Who pays for sick pay?
If you are an employee, you receive your normal salary, and the employer gets reimbursed by NAV. The employer pays out of pocket for the first 16 calendar days.
Freelancer, self-employed or business owner
Freelancers get 100% pay and self-employed people 70% coverage. You receive money directly from NAV, but have to cover the first three days yourself.
Remember to invoice regularly, because how much you get paid is based on an average of the last three month’s income.
You run your own corporation
If you run an corporation (AS), are not considered self-employed but an employee of the company, you are entitled to 100% sick pay.
This means you should pay yourself a regular monthly salary at all times. This is because this affects how much you get paid from your own company, and then later reimbursed from NAV.
Follow-up plan and regular meetings
When you are sick in Norway, there is a system set in place, and there are some mandatory activities. This may seem scary when you are sick and vulnerable. And especially if you don’t get along with your boss, or the reason you are sick is because of your work environment.
But remember, everyone (employer, doctor and NAV) should be working towards the same goal. Which is to get you back to work.
You can also bring people to support you in meetings. Like a union representative, occupational health services (bedriftshelsetjeneste) or safety representative (verneombud). Your doctor can also participate, and this may also be initiated by your employer or NAV.
The follow-up plan is a document you write together with your boss. It is in order to keep track of and document things like adjustments and need for special equipment.
Sometimes it is not necessary to write a follow-up plan. For example when there is a certain recovery time, and you know when you will return to work. Or when the illness is so serious it is impossible to work.
The follow-up plan must be sent to the doctor when you have been on sick pay for four weeks. This is the employer’s responsibility.
- Before 7 weeks: meeting between you and your boss. If you are partially ill, a meeting may not be necessary.
- Within 6 months: meeting at NAV (your employer participates)
- All parties (you, employer and doctor), can ask NAV to arrange a new meeting before 12 months of sick pay.
How long can you be on sick pay?
Maximum length of sick pay is one year. If you take vacation days, the period will be postponed accordingly.
If you get back to work, and then back on sick pay, the periods will add up. In order for the one-year period to start again you must have been working for six months consecutively. This is regardless if you are on sick leave full time or part time.
At around 39 weeks of sick pay, you will receive a letter from NAV where you get information that the sick pay will stop in around three. They will also inform you what to do in order to apply for a work assessment allowance.
It is important to apply in advance, even though you are not sure if you will go back to work in time.You can, whenever you want, withdraw the application.
Sometimes the solution is to get other work, and NAV can help you change jobs. Don’t hesitate to contact them, they are there to help you.
Disability – Work assessment allowance (AAP)
Work assessment allowance is a temporary solution, where it is not certain when it is uncertain you will be able to go back to work. This is also a period to, if possible, participate in work-related activities initiated by NAV.
You do not need to be receiving sickness benefits in order to apply for AAP.
Who is entitled to allowance?
All of this has to apply:
- Your ability to work must be impaired by at least 50 per cent.
- You need treatment to improve your ability to work or help from NAV to retain or find work.
- As a rule, you must have been a member of the National Insurance Scheme for at least 5 years.
How much do you get paid?
Being on work assessment allowance implies a significant loss of income; you receive 66% of what you made the year previously. The maximum is 6G per year, which is at present NOK 441,449.
How long can you get AAP?
You can receive AAP for up to 3 years.
Do you have questions? We cannot help with personal queries. NAV has some good information about sick pay and sick benefits in English, and should be your next port of call with any questions.