Employers should pay 25 percent of the costs associated with employees who are on sick leave for more than 90 days, according to the government's proposal. It's seen as part of an effort to stem the growing number of people on sick leave.
"The government also invite unions and employers, and calls on them to introduce measures to improve the working environment and get people on sick leave back to work," according to a press statement published on the government's website Wednesday.
The number of people on sick leave in Sweden has increased steadily since 2009, reports news agency TT. In the government's proposal, which will now make the rounds of various stakeholders in a review period that ends June 7, the government will save an estimated SEK 2 to 4 billion in sick leave compensation. With those savings the government proposal says it can lower payroll taxes by 0.16 percent and offer an incentive to employers to improve health conditions at work.
At a press conference Wednesday the Minister for Social Security Annika Strandhäll, who is a member of the Social Democrats, said that pay outs for sick leave are predicted to reach as high as SEK 50 billion by 2020, much higher than the SEK 29 billion paid out in 2010.
"This is very, very serious," said Strandhäll. "The government will not shy away from this. We'll do everything that is required to reverse this trend."
TT reported that the idea of introducing a cost to employers for cases of long-term sick leave was also floated 10 years ago. But it met sharp criticism from employers.
The Chairman of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKL), Lena Micko, suggested that employers weren't the only key to the problem of a rise in long-term sick leave.
"Not everything is the employer's responsibility," she told TT. "When experts describe the complexity surrounding sick leave and that people feel bad, there are lots of reasons. The employer's responsibility is only part."
Johan Forssell, a spokesperson for social security issues for the opposition Moderate party, was more critical of the proposal.
"I don't think this proposal will fix the problem," said Forssell. "the overall picture of sick leave points in the wrong direction. At the same time, the government is making reforms that they're aware will increase sick leave."