A guide to the rules and regulations that govern working hours in Norway.
In some parts of the world, people grow up with the idea that working hard is one of the most important things in order to succeed in life—and this usually equates to putting in as many hours as possible.
In Norway, working hours are covered by employment law. And even though most employers appreciate you making an extra effort, working long hours is not necessarily a good thing.
In fact, it could also be illegal. There are companies who have been seriously fined for not complying with the law. Including the public sector, which is not at all best in class.
So what are the rules for working hours in Norway? This is what you should know.
Normal working hours
- A normal work week in 100% position is 40 hours per week.
- A normal work day is 8 hours per day.
08-16 is traditionally considered office hours in Norway. Although many employers allow flexible schedules.
Paid break or not?
Working 40 hours per week doesn’t mean you get paid for everything. If your 30-minute break per day is unpaid, you only get paid for 37.5 hours a week.
Your break should be paid if: you must stay at the workplace and can’t generally leave to run errands etc. (although many allow it). There is also an expectation of being somewhat available. The same applies if there is no sufficient break room.
Your break is usually unpaid if: you are allowed to leave the workplace and are unavailable for the employer.
This should be a part of your employment contract.
So the question is: could you skip your lunch break and leave earlier for work? The short answer is no. The employer’s responsibility is that everyone gets a break during the day. A break at the end of the day isn’t considered sufficient.
37.5 hour week
Some companies have a 37.5 hour week including the break. This means they are at the workplace only from 0800-1530. For example, this applies to people working for the Norwegian government.
Length of the break
So how many minutes of breaks should you have in a day?
- If you work more than 5 ½ hours, you are entitled to at least one break. There is no specific rule for how long this should be. But according to The Norwegian Labour Inspection Agency, a break should be at least 20 minutes.
- If your day is 8 hours or more in total, you are entitled to at least 30 minutes of break-time during the workday.
- If you work more than 10 hours in total, you are entitled to additional break-time.
So how much can you actually work?
This is quite complicated and detailed, but here are the basics.
Your normal schedule
This is normally specified in your employment contract.
- Maximum work hours per 24 hours is 9. For example working Monday-Friday: 9 + 9 + 6,5 + 6,5 + 6,5 = 37,5 hours.
- Maximum work hours per week is 40.
Calculating average/flexible schedules
This means working longer for a period and correspondingly shorter hours during other periods. Which is normal and legal. Many companies have their own negotiated rules for flexible schedules, and software that keeps track of everything.
There are also certain limitations for calculating average.
An absolute maximum is working 13 hours in a day or 54 hours in a week.
And forget all the above. It doesn’t apply to working overtime. Then another set of rules applies.
Working overtime should be something your boss asks you to do specifically. You should also agree that it is actually considered overtime work. This is especially because you have to be compensated with pay. The minimum is 40% added to your regular pay rate.
Overtime cannot be used as a permanent arrangement, and is only permitted when there is an exceptional and time-limited need.
How much overtime you can put in, depends what agreement the employer has with unions/employee representatives. They can also apply to exceed the limit to The Labour Inspection Authority.
So the answer to how much you actually can work in total:
- Per day: maximum is 16 hours.
- Per year: maximum overtime is 400 hours. So add that to your 100% schedule.
When you are pushing the limits, you are in your full right to say no. This is only for those who are willing to carry it out.
And yes, there are exceptions for doctors who can work 19 hour days and 60 hour weeks.
There are also rules for off-duty periods. Employees are entitled to a minimum of:
- 11 hours of continuous off-duty time per 24 hours
- 35 hours of continuous off-duty time per 7 days
It is possible for the employer and the unions/employees to negotiate this down to 8 hours per 24 hours, and 28 hours per 7 days.
There are a number of exceptions to be aware of when discussing working hours legislation These include:
- People who have very inconvenient and irregular schedules, for example working night shifts, have a shorter average work week.
- There are less strict rules when it comes to passive work. For example being on night watch or call duty.
- The law may not apply to those in managerial positions or with a high level of independence.
- There are special rules for employees under 18 years old.