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Government raises ambitions in new work environment strategy

The work environment at every workplace has a major bearing on people’s living conditions and is key to a well-functioning and vigorous labour market. The Government has adopted a new work environment strategy with a continued high level of ambition for work environment policy.

Working is positive and provides a sense of community, meaning and the power to shape your own life. But there are also challenges in working life that can lead to ill health, accidents and even death.

– The ambitions for work environment policy need to be higher. Everyone working in Sweden should have a work environment that allows them to be able to and to want to work for a full working life. In the Government’s new work environment strategy, we are raising the ambitions for work environment policy. We are presenting policies for security, development and good health at work, says Minister for Employment Eva Nordmark.

The Government’s work environment strategy for 2021–2025 is intended to clarify and strengthen efforts to achieve the objective of good working conditions and opportunities for development in the workplace for both women and men in Sweden. The work environment should prevent illness and accidents. The work environment should stop people being excluded from working life and take people’s differing conditions into account. The work environment should contribute to developing individuals and operations.

There are four priority areas in the new work environment strategy:

Sustainable working life – everyone should be able to, capable of and want to work for a full working life.

Healthy working life – working life should contribute to development and well-being.

Safe working life – no one should risk their lives or health because of their job.

A labour market without crime and cheating – a poor work environment should never provide a competitive advantage.

The following targets are found within the work environment strategy’s priority areas.

A new ‘vision zero’ that no one should die because of work

The Government is broadening the vision zero for fatal accidents from an objective that no one should die at work to no one should die as a result of work. This not only entails a vision of zero workplace accidents that lead to death, but also of zero work-related mortality due to chronic ill health, unhealthy stress, cancer and suicide, for example.

Work environment in the gig economy and working from home

Regardless of whether services are provided via apps or work is conducted at home from the kitchen table, there should be no uncertainties with regard to responsibility for the work environment. Everyone who works in Sweden should have a good and safe working environment. The work environment regulations will be reviewed with the aim of clarifying who is responsible for the work environment in situations where this is currently unclear.

Work environment regulations to be reviewed from a gender perspective

When the Work Environment Act entered into force in the 1970s, working life was different from today. Even though the legislation and regulations have been updated over the years, there is reason to review how work environment regulations can be improved to strengthen the work environment in sectors that are dominated by women. One question that must be considered is whether financial penalties are required in more areas than today.

Further steps to stop criminal activity in working life

The Swedish Work Environment Authority makes the assessment that the number of companies that systematically breach work environment regulations to gain competitive advantages is increasing. Multi-agency cooperation has increased the ability to stop actors that breach the work environment and other regulations. This work will continue and be intensified, including through more multi-agency controls.

Increased knowledge about the work environment – from school to research

Research and knowledge concerning what creates a good work environment and a sustainable working life will continue to be prioritised. To contribute to reducing the number of work-related accidents and other forms of ill health in working life, learning about working life at school is important. Work on work environment expertise will be enhanced.

The Swedish Work Environment Authority and the Swedish Agency for Work Environment Expertise have a particular role as government agencies in the work environment area. For this reason, the Government has decided to instruct these agencies to develop action plans to implement the strategy in their respective areas.

The action plans will proceed from the strategy’s four priority areas and clarify which measures are to be implemented in order to achieve the strategy’s objectives. An initial written report is due to be presented no later than 31 August 2021. The Swedish Work Environment Authority and the Swedish Agency for Work Environment Expertise will subsequently provide an annual written status report.

To maintain and deepen tripartite cooperation, the Government has also decided to retain an ongoing forum for dialogue with representatives of the social partners and relevant government agencies. The forum will be called the Government’s work environment forum. The purpose of the forum is to discuss – together with the social partners and government agencies – ongoing and planned measures in the strategy’s area, as well as the action plans developed by the Swedish Work Environment Authority and the Swedish Agency for Work Environment Expertise.