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Sweden’s public holidays: How to maximise your annual leave in 2022

It's time to start planning your annual leave before your colleagues book up the most coveted days off in the Swedish calendar. Here's a list of Sweden's "red days" in 2022 and the public holiday hacks you need to know to get as much time off work as you possibly can.

a woman in the sunset in Malmö
Already thinking about how to get out of working next year? Here are a few handy hacks. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

If you’re on a full-time contract in Sweden, you should have a lot of annual leave even before you factor in public holidays.

By law, firms have to give full-time staff 25 days off, and many offer extra days and benefits on top of this. For example, most employees have the right to take four consecutive weeks off in June-August, and you may actually get paid more when you take time off.

What’s more, you can roll over days from previous years up to a total of 25 (usually five per year for five years). If the pandemic meant you didn’t use your full allowance in 2020 or 2021, you probably have more days to use in 2022. Make sure you speak with your company.

But on top of those paid vacation days, there are several so-called “red days” (röda dagar) in Sweden. By planning breaks around these public holidays you can get longer stretches of time off by only using a few of your precious vacation days.

Keep reading to learn the tricks to make the most of this, and the other factors to be aware of.

1. Check your company’s approach to annual leave around public holidays

Some firms offer de facto bonus “half days” (halvdagar) ahead of public breaks, while others ask staff to take annual leave in the days before or afterwards, in order to synchronise company work schedules.

The dates in-between public holidays are known as klämdagar which means “squeezed days”, for example a Monday that falls between a weekend and a public holiday the next Tuesday. Some employers offer these as extra vacation days. For those that don’t, they are popular days to take off, meaning some businesses offer a “first-come-first-served” policy for these days.

That means planning ahead if you want to take time off then, but consider whether you might prefer a few quiet days in the office while your boss stays at their summer house after a national holiday, perhaps saving your own annual leave for dark November or frozen February.

If you do shift work or your company has a collective bargaining agreement, you’re likely to get extra pay for working public holidays. If red days take place over a weekend, some firms – but far from all, this is not standard in Sweden – offer an alternative weekday off instead.

If you’re not sure what your company’s policy is, don’t be afraid of talking about holidays with your employer. This is especially important if you’re new, as the number of days you’ve worked may affect the number of paid vacation days you get – so make sure you discuss this with your manager. Sweden’s approach to work-life balance means they are more likely to think less of you if you don’t plan any time off.

2. Book early if you want to take time off

Swedes love to plan, so if you’re thinking about travelling, start organising sooner rather than later. That might not feel easy at a time when everything and especially travel is uncertain, but it means you’re more likely to get your first choice of dates if you want time off at a popular time, like around a public holiday or school holidays (which otherwise will be quickly booked up by your Swedish parent colleagues).

Usually, hotels, flights and even trains can get booked up months in advance of popular holidays, with prices rising as they get closer, so it’s wise to book early. It is also a way to show consideration to your managers and colleagues so that they can plan work scheduling around everyone’s time off, for example booking cover if necessary.

If you’re planning to book time off to travel, remember that Covid restrictions could change at short notice. It might be worth speaking to your manager or HR about whether it will be an option for you to cancel your leave if a planned trip can’t go ahead.

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Don’t be afraid of discussing holidays with your employer. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

3. Don’t forget to take time to recharge

If you normally use your vacation days to travel or visit family, it might feel frustrating to use them up in a time when your options are more limited. But make sure that you do book some time off. That’s not only because by law you need to take your minimum of 20 days (if you’re a full-time employee) but also to give yourself a real break. Planning ahead will give you more chance of getting the days you want.

Especially the summer break is usually when many Swedes leave the big cities and head to their parents’ places or second homes in the countryside, while many restaurants, cafés and museums close their doors for summer and public holidays, even in non-pandemic times.

So be aware that the cities may be eerily empty during holiday times.

4. Check school term dates

It’s obvious that if you’ve got school-age children, you’ll need to know when their term starts and finishes – be aware that these dates differ in different parts of the country.

But even for workers without children, it pays to check when the summer holiday is, as well as the spring break (sportlov or februarilov) and autumn break (höstlov or läslov). Traffic is often very busy at the start and end of these periods as families escape from the cities, and prices for accommodation and travel can also rise due to the spike in demand.

5. Is this a good year or a bad year?

Most Swedish companies don’t offer days off in lieu when a public holiday falls on a weekend, which means that the total amount of days you can get off a year depend a lot on the calendar – for this reason, you will see newspapers describe certain years as “good” or “bad” for employees or employers. Some public holidays such as Easter are always linked to certain weekdays, but others move around.

Swedes tend to appreciate when public holidays fall on a Tuesday or Thursday, giving them a chance to take a klämdag off while “spending” only one day of their annual leave, so this may be factored in when your colleagues talk about whether it’s a good or a bad year.

We’re sorry to say that 2022 is a bad year.

But on the upside it’s not much worse than 2021.

Full-time employees will have 253 work days to look forward to in 2022, the same amount as last year and one day more than in 2020. But hang in there, because in 2023 the tide will turn with the number of work days reduced to 251, followed by 251 in 2024 too, and 249 in 2025.

The 2022 Christmas period is especially bad, with Boxing Day the only public holiday that does not fall on a weekend.

So how do you maximise the number of days you can get off in Sweden? Keep reading below for a list of public holidays in 2022 and an insider’s guide to how to make the most of them.

Consider whether you may prefer staying in the city during the summer break. Photo: Ali Lorestani/TT

National public holidays in Sweden in 2022

January

Saturday January 1st – New Year’s Day – Public holiday

Many employers also offer New Year’s Eve December 31st as a day off.

Thursday January 6th – Epiphany – Public holiday

Tip: Epiphany falls on a Thursday in 2022, which means you can get a four-day weekend while using up only one of your annual leave days if you book the Friday (a klämdag this year) off.

April

Friday April 15th – Good Friday – Public holiday

Sunday April 17th – Easter Sunday – Public holiday

Monday April 18th – Easter Monday – Public holiday

Tip: Many parents will want to get the full week of Easter off to coincide with their children’s school break. Walpurgis Eve on April 30th is often a de facto half day, but in 2022 it falls on a Saturday – you could ask your employer if you instead get the Friday off as a half day.

May

Sunday May 1st – Public holiday

Thursday May 26th – Ascension Day – Public holiday

Tip: There’s another chance at a long weekend later in May if you get the Friday after Ascension Day off. But it’s a popular klämdag, so make sure you get there before your colleagues.

June

Monday June 6th – National Day of Sweden – Public holiday

Friday June 24th – Midsummer’s Eve – Public holiday

Saturday June 25th – Midsummer’s Day – Public holiday

Tip: Midsummer’s Eve is officially not a red day, but along with Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve it still counts as a public holiday according to Swedish law and you don’t have to work.

November

Saturday November 5th – All Saints Day – Public holiday

Tip: The Friday before All Saints Day may be a half day at some companies, but make sure you ask your employer before clocking out early. There aren’t a lot of other public holidays in autumn, so if you need a break, now is a good time to use up some of your annual leave – depending on the nature of your work, your employer may even appreciate you taking time off now rather than during the summer.

December

Saturday December 24th – Christmas Eve – Public holiday

Sunday December 25th – Christmas Day – Public holiday

Monday December 26th – Boxing Day – Public holiday

Saturday December 31st – New Year’s Eve

Sunday January 1st, 2023 – New Year’s Day – Public holiday

Tip: Just like Midsummer’s Eve, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are not red days, but they are almost always treated as such anyway. In 2022, the main red days fall on weekends, so if you want a longer break you’ll need to use up your annual leave. Some offices close for an extended period over the holidays – policies on whether any enforced days off will be considered “bonus days” or will be taken out of your annual leave vary between companies, so double check with HR.

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For members

WORKING IN SWEDEN

IN NUMBERS: How freelance profits in Sweden compare to actual salaries

Employers in Sweden pay taxes and pension payments for each employee, so if you go freelance, you end up having to pay them yourself. The accountancy firm Frivision has estimated for The Local how profits from a solo company correspond to a salary as an employed person.

Woman working on laptop from sofa
Freelancing has plenty of perks, but make sure you've done your sums right or you could get a nasty shock when tax season comes. Photo: Margareta Bloom Sandebäck/imagebank.sweden.se

Tobias Ryberg, director of Frivision, says that people who decide to go freelance or work as a self-employed consultant can be tempted to see the payments that come in from clients as earnings. But this can cause problems if they haven’t budgeted for the taxes and social fees that they’ll need to pay later, either at the end of the month, quarterly or yearly. 

“It’s easy to think that everything you earn is your income,” he told The Local.

“But in fact, you have a lot of taxes, so in the worst case, people end up spending all the money they’ve made, and then they are behind with taxes, sometimes forever, so that’s a potential trap.”

Employees in Sweden are required to make a seven percent contribution to unemployment insurance, pensions, family benefits, and health insurance, while employers contribute 31.42 percent. 

When you go freelance, whether you set up a one-person company or register for “F-skatt”, Sweden’s sole trader tax system, you have to pay these contributions yourself (albeit at a slightly reduced rate). 

This means, Ryberg estimates, that you need to make a net profit of 500,000 a year at your company to have the same effective salary as an employee earning 31,705 a month (or 380,460 kronor a year). 

Here are Frivision’s numbers: 

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So what should foreigners bear in mind before going freelance or setting up a one-person business? 

"First, you need to know what your cost base is and if you need some materials. For example, if you're a photographer you need expensive cameras and to budget for travel costs," Ryberg said. 

"Then if you want to make, say, 30,000 kronor a month in salary, you need to know that the company must bring in about 40,000 kronor in net profit, because you will pay all these additional taxes and welfare payments."

It's also important to note that the above figures don't take holiday into account. While employees in Sweden get at least 25 days of paid annual leave, plus public holidays, freelancers and self-employed people need to budget for this themselves. 

And if you're comparing with a specific salary, for example when judging whether it's worth quitting a job to go freelance or weighing up a job offer and a freelance agreement, remember to look at the entire compensation package. With many jobs in Sweden, this will include an employee pension and possible extra perks such as a contribution to fitness and wellness expenses (frikshetsbidrag) which you'll need to cover using your profits as a self-employed person. Of course, as a self-employed person there are some tax deductions you can make yourself as well.

Another tip from Ryberg is to have at least one reliable customer when starting out, if you can, to maintain some level of regular recurring income.

"If you're a freelance journalist, you for example know that 'I will work with this newspaper', so you have a customer base." 

And finally, it is probably a good idea to save up a cash buffer so that you can survive any lean months that come your way. 

"What do you do if you don't get any revenue next month? You need to make some kind of appropriate security planning according to your level of comfort. Some people are okay not to know, but others might want to have a good buffer tougher to feel safe and secure." 

And should you set up your own company or pay F-skatt? 

Ryberg generally recommends that clients set up their own company. This means if the business goes bankrupt, they are protected. It can also be more tax-efficient, particularly for high earners such as computer programmers and consultants. And, it also means you can avail yourself of government schemes, like the support packages for businesses introduced during the pandemic. 

For those on lower incomes, the total tax take can be slightly lower for someone on F-skatt, but he believes that the advantages above generally outweigh this. If you're unsure, it may be worth seeking personalised advice from an accountant.

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