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Sickness and Sick Leave

Written by Tekna’s legal department Sept. 15 2021

Anyone can be struck down by illness. If it happens to you, you’ll have to face many challenges because being sick can affect your ability to work. Here are regulations and advice regarding what you should do if you get sick.

In cases of illness, a doctor must always assess whether there are significant medical reasons for an individual to be completely absent from work (during both first-time sick leaves and subsequent ones). If a doctor believes that a patient needs to go on sick leave, a part-time leave should be the first alternative chosen. 
The degree to which you can perform work for your employer depends on 1) the nature of your illness and 2) the possibility of accommodating your workplace to your illness. If you are ill, you can get a good deal of support from your doctor, company union representative and/or the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV).

Timeline in case of sickness

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After having been employed for 2 months, an employee can self-certify their own illness for a period up to and including 3 calendar days (weekends are also counted). This right may be used up to 4 times over the course of a 12-month period, during which it makes no difference if the absence is 1, 2 or 3 days. A self-certification may only be used for entire days. If you’re sick for half a day, a partial sick leave or paid leave by agreement with your employer may be relevant for you.   

In the case of companies that have participated in a plan called Inclusive Working Life (IA-agreement), it used to be compulsory to allow an employee to use self-certifications for up to 8 calendar days at a time. The plan may be used for 24 calendar days over the course of a 12-month period (please note! not over the course of a calendar year), and there’s no limit to the number of times this allowance may be used.  
 
An expanded self-certification is no longer compulsory in the new IA agreement; as a result, this allowance must be agreed upon at each workplace.   

An employer may decide how their employees are to register their own self-certifications. The loss of the right to use self-certifications is in accordance with the National Insurance Scheme (section 8-27). This certification applies only to absence that’s caused by an employee’s own illness.  

A doctor may usually issue a sick note starting from the date their patient comes in for a consultation. If a patient can’t get an appointment with their doctor on the same day, or if there are good reasons for their being unable to meet, the date on which the patient has spoken with their doctor on the telephone is accepted as the start of the doctor’s sick note; however, this requires that the telephone conversation is followed up with an appointment at the doctor’s office a few days after this conversation.

If an employee is placed on sick leave over an 8-week period, an extended medical certificate must be filled out, including part II of the certificate entitled, “Medical assessment of ability to work during illness”. An extended medical certificate is usually filled out only once.

Your doctor (GP) is allowed to issue a pending sick note during the first 16 days of your sick leave (which your employer normally pays). A pending sick note is a message to your employer that a sick leave may be avoided if they can accommodate your needs at your workplace. In order to receive a pending sick note, you must fulfill the medical sick leave requirements; at the same time and based on a medical assessment of your situation, it must be possible for you to be active at work as well.

It’s important to remember that it’s the patient him-/herself who, in consultation with their employer, should assess if it’s appropriate for them to be absent from work, and if so, to what degree this absence should be. Getting a sick note from a doctor doesn’t automatically give you the right to receive sickness benefits; on the contrary, this is for the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) to decide. Indeed, NAV assesses whether all conditions for awarding sickness benefits have been met or not; similarly, an employer can contest and reject a sick note if they can present good reasons that cast doubt on the validity of a doctor’s sick note.

The right to receive sickness benefits requires as a rule that an individual’s disabled and therefore unable to perform any kind of work due to illness. In practice, work-related disability (disability in certain professions) is accepted for brief periods of time. The doctor must make an assessment in the sick note whether the patient can be reported fit for work and have this ‘fit for employment’ status clarified with NAV, which in turn can determine on its own whether this is the case. If you’re unable to perform the work you had at the time your original sick note was issued due to health reasons, but are otherwise disabled, the National Insurance Scheme (section 8-5) gives you the right to receive sickness benefits up to 12 weeks in accordance with other specified terms. An employment conflict is not considered a basis for claiming a job-related disability.

Research shows that participating in working life is an important factor for improving an individual’s health should they become ill.

In the Working Environment Act (sections 4-1 and 4-2), there are general requirements regarding the working environment as well as ones regarding accommodation, participation and development. An employer is required to ensure that all work is organized and facilitated so that employees are not subjected to negative mental and physical strains.

The Requirements (section 4-2) apply to all employees who have a reduced work ability or work capacity, no matter if this is short-term or long-term, and regardless of the employee’s age, position (part-time or full-time) or whether he/she is employed on a temporary or permanent basis.

According to the Working Environment Act (section 4-6), an employer also has a special requirement to make individual accommodations for employees who have a reduced ability to work as well as for employees who – at some point during the employment relationship – will need accommodations made so they can perform their job.

An assessment of «as much as it’s possible» and «necessary measures» are discretionary and must be thoroughly assessed for each situation. The boundaries for accommodation that are possible to make at the individual workplace are best clarified through dialogue and a mutual understanding of the challenges being faced. If you need help clarifying the accommodations you need at work, your company union representative will be able to assist you in this process.

Activity requirement

In order to receive sickness benefits, an individual must fulfill an activity requirement: The person on sick leave must – as soon as possible – try to perform work-related activities (see the National Insurance Scheme, section 8-4).

After 8 weeks have passed, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Assocation (NAV) makes an assessment whether the individual on sick leave has fulfilled the activity requirement. In order to get an exemption from this requirement, there must be serious medical reasons that prevent the individual’s taking part in work-related activity. This assessment must be followed up by a detailed doctor’s certificate.

If the reason for a lack of activity doesn’t fall under statutory exemptions, sickness benefit payments will be stopped.

If you have a Work Assessment Allowance (AAP), it’s required that you contribute actively to the process of starting to work again (see the National Insurance Scheme, section 11-7).

Participation requirement and requirement to provide information

As an employee, you’re obligated to participate in clarifying your functional ability as well as your ability to work.

According to the National Insurance Scheme (section -8), you’re required to «give information to your employer and the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) about your functional ability and contribute to investigating and implementing appropriate measures at work to accommodate this functional ability». The right to receive sickness benefits stops if you «without reasonable cause refuse to give information or participate in an investigation, or without reasonable cause refuse to accept offers of treatment, rehabilitation, accommodation, trying to work or work-directed measures».

You choose yourself to which degree you want to share details about your own particular illness. An employer may not require an employee to give them information about diagnoses when this individual is absent due to illness. There is, however, a requirement for loyalty in an employment relationship that applies to both employee and employer. In order for an employer to meet your accommodation requirements, they must have information about your functional ability and possibility to perform work tasks. If you agree, information from your doctor may be requested.

Dialogue meeting

Your employer must call you in to attend an initial Dialogue Meeting with you (the employee) within 7 weeks. The company health service representative, company safety officer and company union representative may participate in this meeting.

The second Dialogue Meeting is run by the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) and must be held at the latest within 26 weeks of an employee’s illness-related absence. Either NAV, the employer, employee or person reporting the illness (f.ex. doctor) can suggest holding this meeting on an earlier date.

If necessary, NAV can call these parties in to a third Dialogue Meeting, either on its own initiative or that of the employer, employee or person reporting the illness (f.ex. doctor).

The purpose of having a follow-up plan/Dialogue Meetings is to create a dialogue between an employer and employee in order to 1) assess relevant measures that may be implemented and 2) discussing the possibility of having an employee return to work. The Dialogue Meetings also ensure that information about the situation is forwarded to the person reporting the illness (f.ex. doctor), NAV and any others involved in the situation, so that relevant work-directed measures can be assessed as soon as possible.

When it’s clearly unnecessary to do so, there’s no reason to hold the first Dialogue Meeting. Similarly, it’s unnecessary to hold the second Dialogue Meeting if there are medical reasons for not so, for instance admittance to a healthcare institution, an expected ‘fit to work’ declaration within 28 weeks of sick leave or the continuous implementation of measures that will most likely lead to a ‘fit to work’ declaration.

Follow-up from NAV

You can get help from NAV by calling tel. nr. 55 55 33 33 or by logging on to Ditt NAV. It’s important to note that NAV doesn’t normally assign one case worker to clients.

As mentioned above, after 8 weeks have passed, NAV will assess the degree to which the activity requirement has been met.

If an employee is still on sick leave after this time, NAV will at the latest after 12 weeks request a follow-up plan that the employer will create in cooperation with the employee. If the employer fails to comply with this request, NAV can impose a coercive fine on them (see the National Insurance Scheme, section 25-3).

For individuals who are unemployed, the social security office will at the latest at 12 weeks of sick leave assess if all medical conditions have been met, assess measures and produce a written administrative decision about this individual’s continued right to receive sickness benefits.

Sickness benefits

Sickness benefits correspond to a full annual salary up to a maximum of 6G, and may be paid for up to one year (52 weeks).

Usually, sickness benefits are equal to an employee’s salary paid out the last month before a sick leave started. It’s important to note that the National Insurance Scheme doesn’t compensate individuals for salary beyond 6 times the basic amount (G). Sickness benefits are equal to the degree of disability; for example, they may be paid from 100 percent disability all the way down to 20 percent disability.

During the first 16 calendar days of an employee’s sick leave, the employer pays sickness benefits. This period is called the employer period. Beginning on the 17th day of sick leave, the National Insurance Scheme pays sickness benefits.

While payments may be made directly to the individual on sick leave, their employer may also continue to pay the employee their salary themselves, filing for reimbursement for these payments from the National Insurance Scheme.  

Work Assessment Allowance (AAP)

If a sick leave lasts longer than 52 weeks, and your ability to work hasn’t been sufficiently clarified, then a Work Assessment Allowance might be necessary. There are strict requirements for being awarded this kind of allowance, including one on 1) having a reduced work ability of at least 50% for any kind of work and 2) having medical treatment or work-directed measures that may in time increase your ability to work.

A Work Assessment Allowance comprises the best alternative to receiving 66% of your income over the previous year before you became ill, or the average of the last 3 years before you became ill.  

Company plans

Many companies pay employees their full salary while they are ill. The company in this case pays salaries beyond the 6G covered by the National Insurance Scheme and is reimbursed by the Scheme’s provisions from NAV. Your employer may also have insurance policies that cover accidents and disability. Please contact your employer to clarify if you are covered by these types of plans.

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