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Painting up a false picture of studying

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Legal news
calendar 27 August 2023
globus Sweden

For two years, a painter spent one day off a week to study. He was trying to learn about accounting, finance, and bookkeeping. However, he received a summary dismissal after the company received unclear documentation on what he had been spending his time on. The Labour Court found that the summary dismissal was justified because he intentionally mislead the company.

An industrial painter worked for more than ten years at a painting firm in the southern part of Sweden. After nine years, he requested one day a week off to study. He hoped to find an office job after retirement to supplement his pension. The company approved his leave request without further questions. For two years, he spent every Friday at an accounting firm under the guidance of the wife of a former colleague.

After two years, the company requested the employee to submit study certificates. However, after receiving a certificate, the company meant that it was not sufficiently specified. The certificate contained vague and sweeping statements about the content of the studies. Also, there was no information about an end date. The employee was given another chance to submit a study certificate. When this certificate was also inadequate, the company summarily dismissed him.

Fake studies, real consequences

The Labour Court found that the studies did not meet the requirements for study leave. Therefore, the employee had seriously breached his obligations and the summary dismissal was justified.

Initially, the court emphasized that employees are entitled to request study leave. However, if the employee used the leave for purposes other than studies, he might have breached his obligations. The court added that there are no limitations on the type of training that can lead to leave. Nonetheless, it noted that there are some minimum requirements. The studies must have a certain degree of planning, a clear learning purpose, and a predetermined structure.

In the end, the court found that the knowledge-transferring purpose of the studies was fulfilled, but that it lacked planning and a predetermined structure. The employee had not been precise enough about his studies and the certificates were not supportive enough. Consequently, the time spent with his former colleague’s wife every Friday did not qualify for study leave. It only strengthened the conclusion that the employee recognized that he had barely learned anything the past two years.

IUNO’s opinion

For a long time, it has been possible for employees to apply for study leave. However, the right to study leave is not a free pass to get time off, and certain minimum requirements exist. This case confirms that a minimum of three conditions must be satisfied.

IUNO recommends companies to request certificates and documentation of the studies an employee wishes to undertake before granting leave. Certain rules allow companies to push the right to study leave forward, but only to a certain degree. Also, companies should request documentation to ensure the appropriate information on what skills the employee will acquire and when the employee will return.

[The Swedish Labor Court’s decision of 21 June 2023 in case 39/23]

An industrial painter worked for more than ten years at a painting firm in the southern part of Sweden. After nine years, he requested one day a week off to study. He hoped to find an office job after retirement to supplement his pension. The company approved his leave request without further questions. For two years, he spent every Friday at an accounting firm under the guidance of the wife of a former colleague.

After two years, the company requested the employee to submit study certificates. However, after receiving a certificate, the company meant that it was not sufficiently specified. The certificate contained vague and sweeping statements about the content of the studies. Also, there was no information about an end date. The employee was given another chance to submit a study certificate. When this certificate was also inadequate, the company summarily dismissed him.

Fake studies, real consequences

The Labour Court found that the studies did not meet the requirements for study leave. Therefore, the employee had seriously breached his obligations and the summary dismissal was justified.

Initially, the court emphasized that employees are entitled to request study leave. However, if the employee used the leave for purposes other than studies, he might have breached his obligations. The court added that there are no limitations on the type of training that can lead to leave. Nonetheless, it noted that there are some minimum requirements. The studies must have a certain degree of planning, a clear learning purpose, and a predetermined structure.

In the end, the court found that the knowledge-transferring purpose of the studies was fulfilled, but that it lacked planning and a predetermined structure. The employee had not been precise enough about his studies and the certificates were not supportive enough. Consequently, the time spent with his former colleague’s wife every Friday did not qualify for study leave. It only strengthened the conclusion that the employee recognized that he had barely learned anything the past two years.

IUNO’s opinion

For a long time, it has been possible for employees to apply for study leave. However, the right to study leave is not a free pass to get time off, and certain minimum requirements exist. This case confirms that a minimum of three conditions must be satisfied.

IUNO recommends companies to request certificates and documentation of the studies an employee wishes to undertake before granting leave. Certain rules allow companies to push the right to study leave forward, but only to a certain degree. Also, companies should request documentation to ensure the appropriate information on what skills the employee will acquire and when the employee will return.

[The Swedish Labor Court’s decision of 21 June 2023 in case 39/23]

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Etgen Reitz

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