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The Proposed Changes to the Norwegian Working Environment Act Aims to Ensure a More Predictable and Secure Working Condition

In recent years, there have been several proposed and implemented changes to the Working Environment Act, including stricter regulations on hiring, especially with regards to temporary employment. On June 16th, the government presented proposals for new changes, covering the use of trial periods, the right to written justification statements if part-time or temporary employees request more predictable and secure working conditions, as well as the requirements for written employment contracts and the consequences of deficiencies in these contracts.

If these changes are implemented, it will require a revision of numerous employment contracts, as well as raising awareness of responsibilities towards part-time and temporary employees. In the following article, we will outline some of the proposed changes.

Requirements for Written Employment Contracts and the Consequences of Deficiencies

The proposal suggests several changes to the requirements for when a written employment contract must be provided, the content of the contract, and the consequences if the contract lacks essential information required by the law.

Firstly, it is proposed that the employment contract must be provided within seven days after the employment relationship begins.

Proposed requirements for information in an employment contract

Furthermore, the contract must contain several pieces of information that were not previously mandatory under the Working Environment Act. For instance, it must specify:

  • Whether the employee can freely determine their workplace
  • Provide information about holiday pay
  • Rules for determining holiday periods
  • Entitlement to other absences paid by the employer
  • The procedures for terminating the employment relationship
  • The right to competence development if offered by the employer

If the salary consists of various elements, these must be specified separately. In cases where the employer is a staffing agency, the identity of the hirer must be stated in the employment contract.

New regulations for temporary and part-time employees

A new presumption rule for temporary employment could also have significant implications. If the employment contract does not specify the scope of the position, the employee’s claim regarding the scope of the position shall be accepted as valid unless something to the contrary is clearly understood

Additionally, the time frame for when the employer is obligated to inform employees of changes in employment conditions is tightened. If the changes are approved, the employer must include the changes in the employment contract no later than the day the changes take effect.

When making changes to an employment contract

These proposals mean that employment contracts will need to be updated more frequently than has been customary to date. Several elements of employment that have typically been covered in, for example, the employee handbook, will have to be included in the employment contract. The proposition, however, clarifies that the changes should not impact the scope or determination of the employer’s managerial prerogative. Nevertheless, it is expected that there will be a greater need to include provisions for changes in the employment contract, as employment rights can be deemed individual rights unless the employer’s right to make changes is clearly stated.

Changes in the Maximum Duration of Trial Periods and Trial Periods in Permanent Employment

The proposed law also includes a change in the maximum duration of trial periods for temporary employment. The proposal stipulates that the trial period cannot exceed half the duration of the employment relationship. This rule will only apply to temporary employment lasting less than twelve months.

Furthermore, it is proposed that a new trial period cannot be agreed upon if the employee will continue in the same position or in a position that is essentially similar to the one they have had in the same company. This applies regardless of whether the employee has been employed in a temporary or permanent position. This rule largely reflects what is already in force, but it may become relevant in cases where there is a change in position due to poor work performance, as an alternative to dismissal.

In the case of transitioning from a temporary position to a permanent one, a new trial period may be agreed upon if the combined duration of the previous employment and the new trial period does not exceed six months.

The Requirement for a Written Justification when Requesting More Predictable and Secure Working Conditions

The proposal also includes a right for part-time and temporary employees to receive a written justification within one month if they request more predictable and secure employment conditions. However, this right is contingent on the employee having been employed for more than six months, and their trial period being over. Furthermore, it must have been less than six months since their last request.

For instance, part-time or temporary employees can request a transition from temporary to permanent employment or from part-time to full-time employment. The right to a written response and reasoning does not guarantee more secure and predictable employment conditions in itself, but the proposal specifies that the response must demonstrate that the request has been duly considered.

Further Procedures and Proposed Transitional Rules

It is important to note that the proposed changes are currently only suggestions, and the matter is still under review by The Standing Committee on Labour and Social Affairs. The deadline for written submissions is September 1, 2023.

The proposal also suggests that the written employment contract in employment relationships that exist at the time the changes take effect only needs to be supplemented if the employee requests it. In such cases, the employer will have a two-month deadline to comply with the request.

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