Nordic rules for the new vacation year

Payroll and HR | 07.12.2023

by Erik Bekkåsen

When the snow begins to settle, and Christmas carols play in every shop, it’s a sign that it’s time to think about the end of the vacation year. You probably have several employees filling out their vacation day lists, and as we learn every year: it’s better to start early. Here are some reminders from each country of things to keep in mind.


In Sweden, the two most common vacation years are January-December and April-March.

It’s up to you as an employer to ensure that all your employees make full use of their 20 vacation days before the 31st of December 2022. This month, it might be a good idea to review your vacation list, and plan out the remaining vacation days with your employees.

Please note if you have employees who have been on long-term absence and have not earned all of their vacation days, but have spent them, may be liable and in debt for those days they have spent but not earned.


  • Earning year 1st of September – 31st of August
  • Vacation year 1st of September – 31st of December the following year 

Transfer or pay out 

The employees earn 25 days in an earning year, and of these 5 days can be transferred or paid out. Therefore, the employee needs to use at least 20 days in the earning year, in order to not lose any days.

In order to get the 5 days transferred it is important to have a written agreement between employee and employer, dated latest 31/12. If the days should be paid out, there is nothing to be done. This will happen automatically at the beginning of the year.


Vacation earning and vacation periods

The vacation earning period 1st of April - 31st of March is defined in the Vacation Act, and it’s not possible to choose any other earning period.

  • If the employment time is shorter than 1 year per 31st of March, the employee earns 2 days per month. 
  • If the employment time is longer than 1 year per 31st of March, the employee earns 2,5 days per month.
  • The maximum total earning by the law is 30 days; which is 5 weeks, as Saturday is counted as a vacation day. Every other day is counted as vacation days except Sundays, national vacations, and some specific days mentioned in the Vacation Act.
  • The employees can use the earned vacation days per 31st of March during the summer period from 1st of May - 30th of September (4 weeks/24 days), and following winter from 1st of October - 30th of April (1 week/6 days).
  • According to the Vacation Act, employees must have at least one continuous period of 2 weeks of vacation from 1st of May to 30th of September. The rest can be agreed upon for shorter periods. Periods under one week are a challenge as Saturdays need to be booked correctly. 
  • The vacation year ends in April the following year, depending on when the last salaries of March are paid.


The Norwegian Vacation Act regulates both vacation and vacation pay. The law's rules are basically not possible to deviate from, at least not to the employee's disadvantage. The Norwegian vacation year follows the calendar year, from 1 January to 31 December.

The Vacation Act is clear that you, as an employer, are responsible for ensuring that employees get time off, and to be the active party. Section 5 of the Vacation Act expresses it this way:

"The employer is obliged to ensure that the employee is given vacation time off of 25 working days each vacation year", but also that "Employees are obliged to take their vacation time off each year...".

  • In Norway, you do not receive a salary during the vacation, but must instead have vacation money. The pay is calculated based on the salary the employee had in the year before the vacation year. This is called the earning year.
  • The Vacations Act stipulates that all vacations must be completed during the vacation year. This means 4 weeks and 1 day for those who have not reached the age of 60, and 5 weeks and 1 day for those who have reached the age of 60, with the exception of agreed upon extra vacation days (usually of 4 days) unregulated by the Vacation Act. It can also be agreed that the four days are deleted from the vacation balance at the end of the year. If the employee has salary or vacation pay to his credit for these days, this can be paid out.
  • If you have new employees this year or the year before, who, for example, come from school and have limited vacation pay, they can object to taking vacation. But they can only object to the days the vacation pay does not cover.

Transfer of vacation days to the next year

According to the Vacations Act, there is an opportunity to agree that some of this year's vacation is saved and transferred to the next vacation year. The prerequisite is that a written agreement is entered into regarding the transfer of vacation days. The Vacation Act sets a ceiling of 10 vacation days (two weeks), which can be transferred by agreement. This means that there must be an agreement between employer and employee for a transfer to be carried out.

Transfer without agreement - automatic transfer

What happens if you do not enter into an agreement on transfer with the employee, and there are still days left on the vacation balance on 31 December, or if the employee has more days to his credit than the 10 days that can be agreed to be transferred?

In such cases, all remaining vacation days must be transferred, regardless of the number of days remaining on the vacation balance.

Being on top of this early will reduce some stress in December, when a lot of other threads need tying up at the same time. Check your vacation lists, schedule time for your employees to register their days, and prepare to finish up projects while everyone is available. Before you know it, you’re on your way home to enjoy the first of your vacation days. Merry Christmas!

post author

About Erik Bekkåsen

With more than 30 years’ experience from payroll and HR, Erik has led large departments in big international groups. During 16 years at Azets, he has worked to provide the best service and support for customer groups regarding payroll’s local laws and regulations. Since 2019, he has built a Business Area for payroll and HR services at Azets, directed at Nordic and global clients.