We have extensive experience of the most common problems you are likely to encounter. Here you will find answers to a number of questions, such as what you are entitled to when you work in a staffing company, if you are registered as a sole proprietorship, on tax and other conditions.
We have met many foreign workers who believe that Norway is a very neat and orderly country, where the authorities intervene when employers do not treat their employees properly. Unfortunately this is not the case. You have a big responsibility to ensure you have written proof of paying tax, and must keep a copy of your employment contract, working hours and wage slips. And last but not least: You must join a trade union. It could cost you dearly if you don’t!
As a contractor you are entitled to the same wage and working conditions that you would be if you were employed in the contracting company. This applies to wages, expenses, length and time of working hours, breaks and rest periods, overtime, night work and holiday pay, holiday and days in lieu, as well as access to shared services from the contracting company.
If there is no agreement on wages in the contracting company, your wages should be based on what those employed in similar or corresponding positions are paid by the contracting company. If there are no employees who carry out similar or corresponding jobs, your wages should be based on the collective agreement that corresponds to similar jobs in the area.
If you work in a staffing company without offices, you should contact the representative in the contracting company to ensure you receive what you are entitled to. If in doubt as to how to proceed, contact your trade union!
From 1 July 2013, companies that hire staff from staffing companies have joint and several liability for contracted employees receiving the pay they are entitled to in accordance with equal treatment requirements. Joint and several liability includes payment of wages, holiday pay and any other compensation according to requirements for equal treatment, i.e. all fees for work and all expense claims, whether wages, supplements or payment of board and lodging, travel expenses or other. This also applies to holiday pay you have accrued while contracted. If contracted employees do not receive the pay they are entitled to, they can claim from the staffing company, without needing to claim from the employer first.
Unfortunately, foreign workers are more likely to suffer serious accidents. From experience, we know that you often need a solicitor to claim compensation. By joining a trade union, you are entitled to free support if you have an accident.
Do not believe promises that you will be paid next week! Contact your trade union if you are not being paid as agreed. Deadlines exist that mean your claim can quickly become obsolete. If you are not paid what you are entitled to, you should submit a written claim to your employer and send it by recorded delivery.
If the employer can or will not pay, you may need to take the employer to court and demand the company goes bankrupt. This takes time. But often the threat of bankruptcy will be enough to reach a settlement. Most often you will need assistance from a trade union or solicitor to bring in such wage claims.
Without the above, it will be difficult to obtain the wages you claim.
It can vary how strict conciliation boards and courts are with regards documentation. You can be certain to win your claim if you have an employment contract and certified timesheets.
If for whatever reason you do not have any timesheets from your employer, you must as a minimum ensure you add them to your own calendar. But be aware that such documentation may be refused.
In Norway, we have a scheme called joint and several liability for the main contractor. This means that you can claim from the employer’s contractor and main contractor without having to claim from the employer first.
If you have not been paid what you are entitled to by the employer, you can claim it from the contractor, or the main contractor. You can claim wages up to three months in arrears. If you wait, you can lose your claim – so do not believe any promises of “you will get paid next week"!
Some employers want you to work illegally. This is a bad idea for at least three reasons:
Remember also that the money we pay in tax goes towards building nurseries and schools, care homes and hospitals, roads and railways, and helps us to insure against illness and unemployment.
Some employers will want you to register as sole proprietor/self-employed. This is a very bad idea. The risk of having problems with the tax authorities is high, and you lose important rights that you have as an employee:
You are not insured if you have an accident at work, and you can be held responsible for materials and equipment.
If you and the employer want time off arrangements, they must be agreed in writing. You can work up to 48 weeks and up to 9 hours a day. All additional work is considered as overtime. In companies with collective agreements you can agree up to 55 weekly working hours.
If you do not have a legal employment contract, all work in addition to 40 hours a week and 9 hours a day must be paid with an overtime supplement of at least 40 percent.
The employer cannot demand that you work every hour of the day and night. Sundays, public holidays and night work is only permitted in special circumstances.
The employer cannot deduct your wages or holiday pay unless you have both entered a written agreement about this. If you leave a company without having given due notice, your employer can deduct your wages for the costs he has incurred as a result.
It is your employer who has to deduct tax from your wages. He has to give you a wage slip that shows he has done this. If you do not receive wage slips, you have no proof that you have paid tax.
Even if your employer is obliged to pay tax to the authorities, you are obliged to report it through your tax return. Avoiding this can prove costly.
We have numerous examples of employers, who have not deducted tax as they should and pocketed the money instead. It is you who will be fined for this. Norwegian tax authorities work with other countries to collect such claims, so it will not make any difference if you return to your home country. You are responsible for obtaining the documentation from the employer. Do not take this responsibility lightly – make sure your papers are in order!
Remember also that you are entitled to a number of different deductions when you submit a tax return, particularly if you are a member of a trade union. For more information contact the tax office or trade union.
You cannot be fired without good reason, and the reason must be in writing. You also have to be given plenty of notice. During the trial period (first six months) you need 14 days notice before the employment can terminate. Afterwards, you have to receive one month’s notice. The employer must discuss the dismissal with you, and you are entitled to have a trade union representative with you.
It is possible for the employer to dismiss the employee on the day, but this is only permitted if the employee has committed serious breaches of confidence.