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Advice and Tips

Leave of absence

Written by Tekna’s Legal Department Published: June 14 2023

Leave is a temporary absence from work. The most common types of leave are 1) parental leave and 2) education leave. An employee can choose to take either paid or unpaid leave.

Going on leave should not be confused with being laid off, which means that your employer has the right to put your working relationship aside for a period of time. This also means that your employer is under no obligation to pay you a salary or offer you work. 

The Working Environment Act stipulates that employees have certain rights to take leave from work, while the National Insurance Law stipulates that employees have the right to receive cash benefits while they are on certain types of leave. Several employers provide benefits that are better than those provided by the minimum legal requirements.  

One important plan for Tekna members guarantees that they will receive their full salary during parental leave. It is common for the employer to pay the difference between the National Insurance  plan’s maximum payment of 6 G (its basic payment) and the employee’s full salary. 

If you are considering the option to take a leave of absence, you may have questions regarding termination, assignment of new work tasks when you return and other points, all of which will be briefly explained below. While this explanation by no means provides a complete overview of the rules and practices connected with taking leave, it describes the most important points you need to  know. 

Parental leave 

The right to leave in connection with childbirth is regulated in the Working Environment Act §§ 12-3 to 12-6. According to § 12-5, the parents are entitled to 12 months of paid parental leave. The first six weeks of leave are reserved for the mother.

A father is entitled to two weeks of care leave in connection with childbirth. However, the law does not provide for the right to pay during this period. This is a benefit that many employers offer. The rule on how long a part of the leave is reserved for the mother or father is constantly changing, and reference is made to NAV’s website regarding this.

The regulations on the length of the leave that each parent is entitled to is constantly changing, so please refer to NAV’s website to find out current information on this topic. 

Each parent also has the right to a one-year unpaid leave of absence that must be taken immediately after their first year of leave. This type of leave does not give you the right to receive any allowance from the National Insurance plan. 

It is also possible to combine work and leave by taking a partial leave of absence as stipulated by the Working Environment Act § 12-6, in which the mother or father receives a reduced amount of parental allowance while extending their leave of absence. This plan requires a signed written agreement between the employee and employer. 

Unpaid leave

Each of the parents is entitled to 12 months of additional unpaid leave for each birth after the ordinary parental leave. This leave must be taken immediately after the paid leave. If you need a few extra months of leave before you get a daycare place, or want to wait to work until the child gets a little older, you will have the right to leave as long as there is no break between paid and unpaid leave.

You will not be entitled to unpaid leave if you have had partial leave, meaning that you have combined working part-time while on leave. If you have had partial leave and still want or need unpaid leave, for example because you have not received a daycare place, you can inquire with your employer about the possibility of this. If it does not work out, you may have the right to reduced working hours due to important welfare reasons.

You should check if you are still covered by the pension and insurance schemes with your employer when you are on unpaid leave. Furthermore, it is important to be aware that in connection with unpaid leave, you lose part of your sickness benefit entitlements. You can read more about this in the article: Your right to receive sickness benefits while on unpaid parental leave

Compassionate leave 

According to the Working Environment Act § 12-9, if a child under the age of 12 falls ill, each of this child’s parents has the right to take up to 10 days of compassionate leave per year: for single parents this right lasts up to 20 days.  

Read more: What are your rights when either you or your children gets sick?

Education leave 

After three years of general employment and two years of employment with the same employer, an employee has the right to take an education leave lasting up to three years.  

In accordance with the Working Environment Act §12-11, there is a stipulation that the employee must pursue an education that is job-related and does not “interfere with their employer’s reasonable planning of operations and employee tasks”. Any disagreements between employer and employee are to be taken up by the Dispute Resolution Board. 

Employees must fund their education leave themselves.  

National Insurance allowance during maternity/paternity leave 

The main condition that must be met in order to receive maternity/paternity allowance is that the mother/father has been working during six of the past ten months before taking leave.  

He or she may choose between receiving either a 100% allowance that is paid out over 49 weeks or an 80% allowance that is paid out over 59 weeks. 

A mother starts her benefit period at the latest three weeks before her due date. She will receive a maternity allowance for six weeks immediately after giving birth. 

The parental allowance period is divided between the mother and father. Please contact NAV for more information on this topic.  

Determining the amount of parental allowance is related to the same calculations made to determine sick pay. Currently, your full salary is paid during illness and parental leave. A “cap” of 6 G (National Insurance basic amount) has been set for National Insurance payments of both sick pay and parental allowances. The employer often covers the difference between 6G and your full salary. 

Common employer-related benefit plans  

The majority of Tekna members are covered by plans that give them their full salary during a leave of absence. These plans may be part of their collective bargaining agreement, personnel handbook or  individual employment contract. For our members who have an annual salary exceeding 6 G (National Insurance basic amount), this plan helps ensure an employee’s income level during a leave of absence.  

It is important to note that a plan that includes full salary during a leave of absence ensures that a pension premium is paid out to the organization’s pension scheme and that vacation pay is accrued during the entire leave of absence. The National Insurance plan allows vacation pay accrual only during the first 12 months of the leave of absence.  

Many employers give fathers full pay during the two weeks of parental leave in connection with childbirth. The National Insurance Scheme does not provide anything for these two weeks of leave.

Termination and change of work tasks  

Being on leave does not provide protection against dismissal, but for employees who are on parental leave, the notice period does not start until the leave period is over (Working Environment Act § 15-9 no. 2).

The fact that you are on leave cannot by itself be used by your employer as a reason to dismiss you. 

If you as an employee want to give notice during your leave of absence, the notice period will start on the first day of the month after you have given notice if no other agreement has been made.   

Most people will experience that work tasks are constantly evolving in an employment relationship, but the change cannot entail that the basic character of the position is changed. When you return to work after a leave of absence, your employer is basically required to assign you the tasks you had before going on leave. Please contact Tekna if you experience any challenges with this after returning to work.   

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