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Your right to receive sickness benefits while on unpaid parental leave

Written by Tekna’s legal department, Feb. 27 2021

How does being on unpaid parental leave influence your right to receive sickness benefits? If you are currently on unpaid parental leave, you might receive these benefits if certain conditions are met.

Maybe there were no openings at the kindergarten when you needed childcare? Or you wanted to spend more time at home with your child? There are different reasons why parents take unpaid parental leave. No matter the reason, it’s important that parents who choose this option think through the consequences of taking this step.

Tekna has recently gotten several inquiries from parents who are wondering how going on unpaid parental leave will affect their right to receive sickness benefits. We tell them that going on unpaid parental leave might give them the right to receive these benefits if certain conditions are met.

The law’s starting point – you lose sickness benefits after 14 days

There is a regulation in the National Insurance Act section 8-15 stating that an employee’s right to receive sickness benefits stops when an employment relationship is temporarily suspended for more than 14 days: Going on unpaid leave is considered to be a suspension of this relationship.

The reason for this regulation is that sickness benefits are meant to replace lost employment income, and since an individual doesn’t get any salary while on unpaid leave, he/she won’t lose employment income if they get sick, either.

The following are not regarded as suspensions to an employment relationship: statutory vacations, absences due to illness, taking compensation (‘comp time’) time off, or having your job periodically interrupted because you work on a permanent shift schedule.

Exception: You may still receive sickness benefits while on statutory parental leave

There are several exceptions to the 14-day rule.

One of the exceptions in the National Insurance Act section 8-47 involves employees who are on statutory parental leave in accordance with the Working Environment Act section 12-5.

The Working Environment Act gives employees the right to both paid and unpaid parental leave. In order to receive unpaid parental leave in accordance with this statute, the Act requires employees to take this leave immediately after their ordinary parental leave is over. Taking unpaid leave is something that each parent has the right to do for up to 12 months for each birth.

A parent doesn’t have the right to take unpaid leave if he/she combines leave with working part-time while on leave (partial leave).

Which conditions must be met?

In order to receive sickness benefits while on unpaid leave, this unpaid leave must be taken immediately after paid parental leave is over.

It’s also a requirement that individual who are going on leave have a contract with their employer to resume work after their leave is over. Tekna recommends having a signed contract stating when you are going to return to work.

Further, individuals who become ill must be able to provide proof of their income loss. This may sound strange since an unpaid leave provides no income. However, NAV (the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration) does make allowances for situations where, if the individual’s reason for being on leave no longer exists, it may then be said that a loss of income has taken place; therefore, this condition may be considered as having been met.

NAV refers to the following example in its circular on the Norwegian National Insurance Act section 8-47:
«Kari has been on one year’s unpaid leave after her paid parental leave, which is based on the Working Environment Law section 12-5. She has a contract to resume working after her leave is over. Three months before this time, she becomes seriouslly ill and is admitted to the hospital. Under these circumstances, Kari has the right to receive sickness benefits starting on day 15, because on this day she will no longer be the caregiver for her child, and so the reason for her leave will no longer exist».

Additionally, there is a requirement that the parent must have a financial basis for sickness benefits which at a minimum corresponds with the National Insurance Act’s basic amount ( a set amount on which most financial benefits are calculated). As of February 2020 this amount was set at NOK 99,850.

Which rights form the basis for the decision?

If all conditions are met, individuals taking unpaid leave have the right to receive 65 % of the sickness benefits basis from day 15 after a sick leave notice has been filed.

A sick leave period is the point in time at which the individual on unpaid leave consults with a doctor and is formally declared to be ill. Even if this doesn’t provide as many rights as during a regular illness that arises in a regular employment relationship, it is an important right to be familiar with if you are unlucky enough to start suffering from a long-term illness while on parental leave.

Brief summary

You may be entitled to sickness benefits while on unpaid parental leave from day 15 of your illness if:

  • The unpaid leave is taken immediately after the regular parental leave
  • You have a contract with your employer that states when you will resume working
  • You can prove that the initial reason for your leave no longer exists
  • You have a sickness benefit financial basis of at least 1G

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