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The coronavirus and your job: Questions and answers regarding your rights

NITO's lawyers answer the most common questions.

Laws and regulations are changing rapidly. We may not always be able to keep the content up to date. This article was updated on: 12.08.2020.. 

At home with children because the kindergartens and schools are closed

I have to stay home with my children because the kindergartens and schools are closed. What rights do I have?

You can use care benefit days [omsorgsdager] to stay home with children aged under 12 when kindergartens and schools are closed.

Double number of benefit days till end of June 2020

Most parents are entitled to up to 10 days, but this has now been doubled in connection with the coronavirus. This will mean:

  • up to 20 care benefit days per calendar year if you have one or two children
  • up to 30 care benefit days per calendar year if you have three or more children

If you are a single parent, the number of days is doubled.

Self-employed persons and freelancers receive care benefit after day four, which is the same rule as for wage earners and on the same level as the proposed scheme for income support for self-employed persons.

Employers pay care benefit for three days, after which the state will pay.

Back to normal number of benefit days from July 2020

From July 1st we are back to normal rules regarding benefit days to stay home with children. This means that you have up to 10 care benefit days per calendar year if you have one or two children and up to 15 care benefit days per calendar year if you have three or more children. 

The number of days you have used are "reset". This means that everyone will have the same right to benefit days the rest of 2020 no matter how many days they used before July 1st.

What if I have to stay home with my children but have the possibility to perform some work from home?

You can use care benefit days to work certain hours or half days in agreement with your employer.

What happens when my entitlement to care benefit days is used up?

When you have used all your benefit days the common rule is that you have to go back to work. If that is not possible you can try to make arrangements with your empoloyer to work from home, use holiday days or apply for compassionate leave to stay at home.

If you have to keep your kids home due to infection control considerations, for instance health issues that make them or anyone in the immediate family extra vulnerable, you need to get a medical certificate.

Parents who have to use benefit days due to infection control considerations can use benefit days as long as the child does not attend school or kindergarden till December 31st 2020. There are no limit to the number of benefit days in this situation.

 

What rights do I have if I am temporarily laid off [permittert]?

You are entitled to written notice before you are laid off

The main rule is that you are entitled to 14 days' written notice before layoff comes into effect. The notice period may be reduced to two days if unforeseen events such as accidents or natural disasters render it necessary to suspend operations at short notice.

The coronavirus situation can clearly give grounds for two days notice. However, this does not apply in all cases, as many employers now seem to think.

The notice period is 14 or two consecutive calendar days, not working days. The notice period runs from the end of the working day on which notice is given.

Even if you disagree with the two-day notice being applied, you must comply with your employer's instructions. You may claim compensation for any losses retrospectively.

What is the minimum number of working hours I must be laid off in order to be entitled to unemployment benefit?

The requirement for entitlement to unemployment benefit has been reduced from a minimum of 50 % to a minimum of 40 % of your working hours. Effective from: 20 March 2020.

This amendment means that, for example, a full-time employee who is temporarily laid off for only two working days will now be entitled to unemployment benefit. Facilitating wider use of 'rotating layoffs' [rullerende permitteringer] will ease the financial burden on individual employees.

The employer pays wages for the first two days, after which the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) pays the subsequent 18 days. This goes till August 31st 2020.

When the notice period expires, the employment relationship is temporarily suspended and the employee is no longer obliged to work.

In principle, the employer is obliged to pay wages for the initial period after a layoff has come into effect. The employer has been obliged to continue paying wages for the first 15 days after layoff comes into effect.

The Government first proposed that the period for the employer's obligation to pay wages be reduced to two days. The employee organisations argued that this reduction is too drastic.

On 16 March the Government and the opposition agreed that employers are obliged to pay wages for two days and that NAV shall pay wages for the subsequent 18 days.

From September 1st 2020 the period for the employer's obligation to pay wages goes up from two to ten days.

The waiting period before qualifying for unemployment benefit has been abolished

The three-day waiting period for qualifying for unemployment benefit has been abolished. This means that individuals who are temporarily laid off no longer have to go three days without pay.

This amendment also applies to individuals who have had their employment relationship terminated and who need to apply for unemployment benefit.

Effective from: 20 March 2020.

How much unemployment benefit will I receive?

Unemployment benefit normally constitutes 62.4 % of your annual income up to NOK 599,146 (six times the national insurance basic amount (6G)). A special measure will be implemented to ensure everyone a minimum of 80 % of their income up to three times the national insurance basic amount (3G) during the layoff period, and 62.4 % of income exceeding that amount.

Income exceeding six times the national insurance basic amount (6G) is not included in the calculation. This means that temporary layoff will entail a considerable reduction in salary for many of NITO's members.

For how long can I be laid off?

When you are laid off, you may be entitled to unemployment benefit for up to 26 weeks during an 18-month period.

Due to the high unemployment rates after Covid-19 a legislative amendment have been passed to extend the maximum period of unemployment benefit. Everyone who has 19 or fewer weeks left of their period of unemployment benefit at the end of June 2020 will get their period of benefit prolonged to October 31st 2020.

Are students who work while studying entitled to unemployment benefit?

NITO organises more than 13,200 student members, and many of them work during their studies to cover their housing and living expenses. Students with part-time jobs are unfortunately not covered by the Government's emergency package as it stands on 16 March.

If you are a full-time student with a part-time job, the general rule is that you do not qualify for unemployment benefit if you are laid off. This is because under the law you are not regarded as a genuine jobseeker as long as you are receiving education.

Unemployment benefit may be granted in exceptional cases if NAV has approved that you may combine your studies with unemployment benefit. If no such approval has been granted, you are not entitled to unemployment benefit while studying if you are laid off.

Can I be laid off if I am on sick leave? What if I become sick after I am laid off?

You can be laid off even if you are on sick leave.

If you are on sick leave before the notice of layoff is given, you are entitled to the full amount of sickness benefit.

If you become sick during the notice period before layoff comes into effect, you are entitled to sickness benefit from your employer during the employer's period. Your entitlement to sickness benefit from your employer will cease when the layoff comes into effect. After that date, your sickness benefit will be paid by NAV.

If an employee has been laid off and becomes sick, sickness benefit will be paid under the national insurance scheme. In that case, sickness benefit will be calculated based on a rate of unemployment benefit, and the payment will be lower than if you had been working when you became sick.

Lay-off and termination: Can your employment relationship be terminated, and what if you want to resign?

If your employer has terminated the employment relationship, you may not be laid off during the notice period.

If you resign your position before the notice of layoff if given, you must continue to work the full duration of the notice period and be paid your normal wage.

If you resign after the notice of layoff is given, you will be paid until the layoff comes into effect and during the employer’s period. After that, you must apply to NAV for unemployment benefit.

If you are laid off and no longer receive wages from your employer, you can terminate your employment relationship with 14 days' notice. Many collective agreements entitle employees who are laid off the right to terminate their employment relationship with immediate effect.

Do I still have to pay my NITO membership fee if I am laid off?

If you become unemployed or if layoff reduces your working hours by more than 50 %, you do not have to pay the membership fee.

How to proceed to get a reduction in your membership fee (in Norwegian)

 

What happens to my pension if I am laid off or if I return to work on account of the coronavirus?

Do I retain my occupational pension if I am laid off?

Private sector

The rules that apply for your pension plan will determine whether employees retain their membership while they are laid off. You should ask your employer what rules apply in your case.

Public sector

If your employer uses KLP's occupational pension scheme (which applies to most employers in the municipal sector), employees must be removed from the scheme once they have been laid off for one month. However, the employee will still be covered for disability or death.

In the City of Oslo (which uses Oslo pensjonsforsikring's municipal pension plan), employees who are laid off will continue to be members of the pension plan.

Employees in the government (statlig) sector cannot as a rule be laid off.

Can I retire on my contractual early retirement pension (AFP) while I am laid off?

Private sector

You are regarded as a genuine jobseeker while you are laid off. This applies both to length of service and to eligibility to start drawing AFP. You may start drawing AFP even though you are laid off.

Joint Scheme for Collective Agreement Pensions [Fellesordningen for AFP]: what happens to AFP in the event of layoff or liquidation? (in Norwegian)

Public sector

If you are laid off from a position that entitled you to membership in a public service pension scheme, you retain your right to draw AFP even if you are laid off.

What happens to my retirement pension if I return to work in the health service because of the corona pandemic?

Your retirement pension from the public service pension scheme is not affected if you are ordered to work in the health service or if you do so voluntarily on account of the coronavirus. This follows from regulations passed by the Norwegian parliament as part of the emergency package.

You can retain your retirement pension from the national insurance scheme or from a private service pension plan as normal, without any reductions.

I draw AFP. What happens to it if I now work in connection with the coronavirus outbreak?

If you have AFP from a public scheme, you can now work without any reduction to your AFP – if the reason is that you were ordered to work or if you volunteered to work in the health sector on account of staff shortages caused by the outbreak.

If your AFP is in a private scheme, no restrictions on working while drawing AFP apply.

 

Am I entitled to sickness benefit when I have to stay home?

When am I entitled to sickness benefit in connection with the coronavirus situation?

You are entitled to sickness benefit if you:

  • are confirmed as having the disease
  • are in self-isolation due to possible infection, in consultation with a physician. The physician should issue a medical certificate if working from home is not possible.
  • are in home quarantine in accordance with government advice and working from home is not possible

You are not entitled to sickness benefit if you:

  • decide yourself to go into quarantine
  • must be at home because someone in your household is in quarantine without being sick
Who pays my sickness benefit?

Your employers normally pays for sickness benefit for the first 16 days following self-certification or a medical certificate. Thereafter your sickness benefit will be paid by NAV. The Norwegian parliament has asked the Government to reduce the employer’s period to three days in connection with the coronavirus situation. This is a temporary arrangement until further notice. This amendment takes immediate effect, and payments will be made as soon as NAV has a technical solution in place.

The basis for calculating sickness benefit is limited to income equivalent to an annual wage of six times the national insurance basic amount (6G). As of March 2020, this amount corresponds to an annual wage of NOK 599,148.

Many of NITO's members are covered by collective agreements that entitle them to full pay during sickness.

Do I need a medical certificate or can I use the self-certification form?

NAV recommends that everyone use the self-certification form as much as possible in order to ease the pressure on the health service.

NAV accepts medical certificates issued without a medical consultation in cases of suspected coronavirus infection. Talking to your doctor by phone is sufficient.

 

What happens to holiday and travel?

Am I entitled to change the holiday leave that was already agreed?

Unless you are on sick leave, you are not entitled to change pre-agreed holiday leave. However, NITO believes that employers will show flexibility in the current situation.

If you are put on sick leave before or during your holiday, you are entitled to postpone your holiday.

Can my employer change my agreed holiday leave?

Your employer may change agreed holiday leave if there is a need to do so on account of unforeseen events.

The coronavirus situation can clearly give grounds for such changes, but your employer must state the reasons why it is necessary.

If your employer changes agreed holiday leave, you can claim compensation for any extra expenses incurred.

Can my employer order me to travel to areas contrary to the travel advice of the health authorities and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

No. The absolute rule is that they cannot order you to do that. Employers have a responsibility to safeguard the health and safety of their employees.

If necessary, we ask that you contact NITO's lawyers.

What rights do I have if it is impossible for me to return home because of the coronavirus situation?

If you are in quarantine and have grounds for self-certification, you may be entitled to sickness benefit even though you are stranded abroad. Contact your Norwegian doctor by phone to request a medical certificate.

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If you have no grounds for a medical certificate, in principle you will not be entitled to pay if you cannot perform your work unless this has been agreed or is agreed with your employer. Talk to your employer.

 

Other questions

What do I do if my wage is not paid at the agreed time?

If you don't receive pay because your employer has problems paying, NAV's wage guarantee may be able to cover your wage under certain conditions. The condition is that your employer files for bankruptcy proceedings.

In total, the guarantee covers up to twice the national insurance basic amount (2G). This amount is currently NOK 199,716.

The wage guarantee does not cover any expenses you have incurred of behalf of your employer, such as travel expenses.

Your employer may not order you to lay out for travel expenses. In a difficult economic situation, it is particularly important that your employer cover these expenses directly or that you are paid in advance to cover your travel expenses.

If you don't receive your wage, we recommend that you contact NITO's legal department for assistance.

What can I do if I feel that my employer is not taking the risk of infection seriously enough?

Employers must undertake a risk assessment of the potential risk of infection in the workplace. If you feel that your employer is not doing enough, raise the matter with your employee representative or health and safety representative if you have one in your workplace.

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