The most important rules to know about work hours in the Nordics

Payroll and HR | 27.09.2021

by Erik Bekkåsen

Due to the pandemic, overtime has become more prevalent in a lot of businesses. Now that more people are getting vaccinated, things are getting a bit back to normal, but there are still many rules and regulations around work hours and overtime that are best kept in mind. As an employer, you can face fees and other complications should you allow overtime past a certain limit in hours, and below a certain limit in pay. 

Here, you will find an update on the latest rules regarding overtime and work hours in the Nordics.


Work hours and overtime in Norway

In Norway, overtime can only be allowed in circumstances where it is a time-limited necessity, and when these circumstances arise, it requires an employer to think on their feet in order to fill the gaps. Within these parameters, overtime should benefit both employer and employee, and be used with the employee’s health in mind.


Valid reasons for overtime work:

  • Employee absence, leading to understaffing and disruption of daily business operations.
  • Circumstances where facilities, machines, raw materials, equipment or produce can suffer damage.
  • Pressure from seasonal fluctuations, or the lack of workforce with special competence.


Your employee will be entitled to an hourly addition of no less than 40% of the agreed upon hourly salary. If you run into any of the circumstances above, you can give your employees overtime for:

  • 10 hours during 7 days.
  • 25 hours during 4 consecutive weeks.
  • 200 hours during 52 weeks.

Surpassing these hours or paying below 40% can lead to strict fees and compensation, so we greatly advise you to keep these in mind.


Work hours and overtime in Sweden

In Sweden, the regular working hours amounting to 40 hours per week, can be recalculated so that the average working time is a maximum of 40 hours per week for a period of four weeks. The working hours can thus be arranged so that an employee works 36 hours one week and 44 hours the following week. 

The total working hours (i.e. regular working hours plus overtime), may not amount to more than an average of 48 hours / week calculated over a period of four months. The company is obliged to keep up to date documentation of all work outside normal working hours.

Any working hours exceeding the regular working hours are divided into three categories: general overtime, extra overtime, and emergency overtime. 


  • General overtime can be taken out with a maximum of 48 hours during a four-week period (or 50 hours during a calendar month), and may amount to a maximum of 200 hours in a calendar year.
  • If a situation cannot be resolved any other way, extra overtime may be charged with a maximum of 150 hours per calendar year. The limitation to 48 and 50 hours respectively applies in the same way as for the general overtime.
  • In the event of a serious accident beyond the company’s control, the emergency overtime is charged. While the law doesn’t specify the exact ceiling for the amount of hours, the purpose must be to solve acute problems as efficiently as possible. 


For part-time employees, the same rules apply as for full-time employees. On-call time may be taken with a maximum of 48 hours per employee and a four-week period or with a maximum of 50 hours during a calendar month.

For night shift workers (the time between 22 and 6 is considered night.), the working time during each period of 24 hours may not exceed eight hours on average during a calculation period of a maximum of four months.


Work hours and overtime in Denmark

In Denmark, the working hours must be described in the employment contract, and in a workplace with a collective agreement, these would normally be 37 hours per week. Workplaces without a collective agreement will have to agree upon a set amount of hours with each employee, though they must comply with the Working Environment Act.

If the employee is employed with a functional salary or a job salary, as is often the case with managers and other trusted employees, they are not entitled to overtime pay because it is included in the fixed salary.

Many collective agreements give the right to:

  • 50% overtime allowance for the first three overtime hours
  • 100% overtime allowance for the additional overtime hours.

An employee has to work overtime when required, but can decline if they cannot find care for smaller children or if the overtime breaks the rules for working hours.

  • An employee may work a maximum of 48 hours over a period of four months. Your weekly working hours may be longer in some weeks if it is compensated by shorter working hours in other weeks.
  • An employee must have at least 11 hours of continuous rest within a day. This means that a minimum of 11 hours must pass from the time the employee gets off work until the next working day.
  • If employed on a fixed number of hours, the employee can demand 1 hour of time off for each hour of overtime. Alternatively, the employee can claim the usual hourly wage for the extra hours. Whether the overtime hours have to be taken off from work or paid out depends on what has been agreed.
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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.