Basics of Norwegian Labour Law

Construction workers carrying wooden planks at site.

The Norwegian Working Environment Act (Arbeidsmiljøloven) regulates the relationship between employers and employees.

Contract of employment

The Working Environment Act requires a written contract of employment to be provided in all employment relationships. This applies both to permanent and temporary work, irrespective of the duration of employment.

Working hours 

According to the Working Environment Act, the norm for working hours is 40 hours per week. However, the standard laid down in all collective agreements is 37.5 hours per week. For shift work, the normal working time is shorter. Employees may have the right to reduced working hours due to health, social or welfare reasons. The Act also establishes the right to flexible working hours if this can be arranged without major inconvenience to the employer.

The employer is obliged to keep an account of hours actually worked by each employee. Overtime work must be compensated. All employees, except leaders and staff in particularly independent posts, have the right to a wage supplement of at least 40% for overtime work.


The Holiday Act (Ferieloven), supplemented by collective agreements, provides the general framework for annual holidays in Norway. All employees are entitled to four weeks and one day of paid holiday each calendar year. If the company is bound by a collective agreement, its employees are entitled to five weeks’ holiday a year. Five weeks is the most common arrangement, even in companies that are not bound by a collective agreement. Employees aged 60 and older are entitled to one additional week of holiday. Saturdays are regarded as working days. Holiday pay is based on the individual’s income in the previous calendar year.

The employer is obliged to consult the employee(s) concerned or his/her trade union representative when fixing holiday dates. If no agreement can be obtained, the employer has the right to make the final decision, within certain limits established in the Act. An employee may demand to take his main holiday, comprising three weeks, during the main holiday period, 1 June–30 September. The last two weeks can be taken as a single period or broken up into weeks or days.

Sick leave 

Employees who are ill can stay off work for three consecutive calendar days without a medical certificate. To be entitled to daily sickness benefits from the National Insurance Scheme, a medical certificate must be presented. Employees on sick leave receive a daily sickness benefit equal to 100 per cent of their pensionable income, which is paid from the first day of sickness absence for a period of 260 working days (52 weeks). Sickness benefits are paid by the employer for the first 16 calendar days, and thereafter by the National Insurance Scheme.

An employee who is absent from work due to necessary care for a sick child, is entitled to daily cash benefits for up to ten days, or 15 days if they have more than two children, during a calendar year. Single parents are entitled to such benefits for up to 20 days, or 30 days if they have more than two children, during a calendar year. Parents may receive such benefits up to and including the year of the child's 12th birthday.

Leave due to pregnancy, childbirth and adoption 

An employee who has been gainfully employed for at least six out of the last ten months prior to the birth of a child is entitled to paid leave for 43 weeks (full daily rate) or 53 weeks (reduced daily rate). The leave is shared between the mother and the father such that they are entitled to 15 weeks each, with the first six weeks after giving birth reserved for the mother. The remaining weeks are to be shared as they themselves decide. In case of adoption, similar rules apply.


Notice of dismissal must be objectively justified and given in writing unless otherwise agreed in the employment contract or regulated by law. A period of one month’s notice is required to be given by either party. In certain circumstances (age/length of service), a longer period of notice may be required by law. In the notice of dismissal, the employer must inform the employee of their right to demand negotiations and to institute legal proceedings.

NHO members are advised to contact their sectoral federation or regional office before any dismissal process is started. Mistakes may be expensive!

Occupational health and safety 

Section 3-1 of the Working Environment Act formulates the general OHS obligations of employers:

“In order to safeguard the employees’ health, environment and safety, the employer shall ensure that systematic health, environment and safety work is performed at all levels of the undertaking. This shall be carried out in cooperation with the employees and their elected representatives.”

The employer has an obligation to provide systematic training on health and safety issues.

The Act is detailed and supplemented by a number of regulations which cannot be explained in detail here. Companies are advised to seek assistance from their sectoral federation or local NHO office.


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