Exploring Holiday Legislation in the Nordics: Which Country Stands Out

Payroll and HR | 03.06.2024

by Azets

Planning and managing vacations can be particularly challenging for companies with offices in multiple countries. At Azets, our Nordic Payroll department frequently encounters the complexities of transnational vacation planning. Therefore, we want to share an overiew of the key differences in the Nordics for easier planning across borders. 

This article provides a detailed comparison of the vacation and holiday regulations in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. While the Nordic countries share many similarities in language and business culture, there are significant differences in their vacation and holiday laws that employers must understand. Vacation legislation in these countries ensures that employees receive annual leave with financial security, though the specific approaches vary. 

Here’s an in-depth look at the differences in vacation regulations across the Nordic countries: 

Key Areas of Comparison

comparison of vacation data in the nordics

Main takeaways from the different countries

Vacation Rules in Norway

  • Employees are entitled to 21 days of vacation, which equates to four weeks plus one day. 
  • The vacation pay rate is 10.2%. Companies offering a 12% rate typically provide a five-week vacation. 
  • Up to 10 vacation days can be carried over to the next year. 
  • Vacation weeks are counted as weekdays from Monday to Friday. 
  • Employees who haven’t worked full-time can opt not to take vacation if vacation pay doesn’t cover wage loss. 
  • Employees are entitled to three consecutive vacation weeks between June 1 and September 30. The timing is set by the employer if there’s no mutual agreement. 
  • Remaining six vacation days can also be taken consecutively, with the employer determining the timing. 
  • Vacation pay is usually disbursed in June. 
  • Employers must ensure employees take their vacation, even those on long-term sick leave.

Vacation Rules in Sweden

  • The law entitles all employees to 25 days off per vacation year. 
  • Employees are entitled to four consecutive vacation weeks during the main period (June to August). 
  • Collective agreements can increase the number of vacation days but cannot reduce them below 25. 
  • Vacation days are counted as weekdays from Monday to Friday. 
  • The vacation system is split into the accrual year and the vacation year. The accrual year runs from April 1 to March 31, and the vacation year follows the same period in the subsequent year. 
  • Employees can carry over up to five vacation days for up to five years. 
  • Vacation pay is provided in connection with the vacation period. 
  • Upon leaving employment, employees receive holiday compensation for unused vacation days, which must be paid promptly.

Vacation Rules in Denmark

  • The 2020 Holiday Act introduced “simultaneous vacation,” allowing employees to take vacation in the same year it is earned. 
  • Employees are entitled to 25 days off per vacation year. 
  • Four consecutive vacation weeks must be available during the main period (June to August). 
  • Vacation is earned from September 1 to August 31 and must be used by the following December 31 of the earning period. 
  • Up to five vacation days can be carried over or paid out if unused. 
  • Vacation days are counted as weekdays from Monday to Friday. 
  • Companies may offer additional vacation days or care days beyond what the Holiday Act mandates. 
  • Full-time employees receive their regular salary during paid vacation, while hourly employees must apply for vacation pay through the Holiday Account.

Vacation Rules in Finland

  • The vacation year runs from April 1 to March 31. 
  • Vacation accrual is based on either the 14-day rule or the 35-hour rule, depending on the employee's contract. 
  • Employees earn 24-30 vacation days annually, depending on tenure. 
  • If an employee’s contract specifies fewer than 14 working days per month, vacation is earned if there are at least 35 working hours per month. 
  • Employees can request vacation timing, but the final decision rests with the employer, with at least one month’s notice required. 
  • Generally, 24 vacation days should be taken during the summer period, with the remainder in the winter. 
  • Vacation days are counted from Monday to Saturday, with a vacation week including six vacation days even if the workweek is Monday to Friday.

Official Holidays in the Nordic Countries

holidays in the nordics a comparison

Nordic Payroll Expertise

Azets provides comprehensive payroll services across Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland from a single point of contact. Payroll is our core expertise, and we offer specialized assistance in HR and payroll matters throughout the Nordic region.

post author

About Azets

Azets is an international group that offers assistance in finance, payroll, consultancy, and business services. With over 6,500 employees across our offices, we assist businesses and organisations of all sectors and sizes in developing their enterprise and realising their business potential.