The Norwegian Holidays Act states that employees are entitled to a minimum of four weeks and one day of vacation per year. However, most Norwegian employees have agreements allowing them five weeks of vacation per year.
All employees who start their employment before September 30 are entitled to a full holiday quota, also in their first year of employment.
In Norway, the right to holiday is not linked to the right to holiday pay. As new employees will not have earned the right to holiday pay, the holiday will be unpaid the first year, or with holiday pay from the previous employer. If an employee does not have any holiday pay accrued at a previous employer, the employee can refuse to take holiday to the extent that the holiday pay does not cover up for the loss of salary.
Another important rule in the Norwegian Holidays Act is that it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the employees take vacation, not the employees themselves.
It can be a bit confusing that the Norwegian Holidays Act counts Saturdays as working days. So, 12 days in the Holidays Act is actually two weeks, or 10 working days for employees working Monday to Friday.
What about unused vacation days at the end of the year?
There may be various reasons to why an employee has not taken all the lawful vacation days during the year. The employee may have been sick or on leave and therefore not able to take vacation, or it could be other explanations. Sometimes the work load has been so heavy that the employee did not feel that it was possible to take 4-5 weeks of vacation.
As mentioned above, the main rule is that the employer must ensure that the employees take vacation in accordance with the Holidays Act. Therefore, it is important for the employer to keep track of the employees` holiday banks.
Agreement to postpone holiday to the next year
It is permitted to postpone up to two holiday weeks (12 days including Saturdays) to the next year. This requires a written agreement between the employer and the employee.
The four extra days mentioned above are not protected by the Holidays Act and can be postponed in addition to the two weeks. So, if the employee is entitled to five weeks of holiday, two weeks and four days can be transferred to next year.
The written agreement regarding the transfer of vacation days can be by e-mail, as this is sufficient documentation for the employer to prove the agreement with the employee.
Mandatory transfer of vacation days to the coming year
If there is no written agreement regarding transfer of vacation days to the coming year, it is mandatory to transfer the unused vacation days in the following situations:
- When the employer did not ensure that the employee took vacation in accordance with the Holidays Act. Please note that this is not a legal solution, and it is not possible to “buy out” the unused holiday with salary. The unused days will be added to the holiday for next year.
- Holiday not taken due to sickness
- Holiday not taken due to maternity or paternity leave
In these situations, it is not necessary to make an agreement as the vacation days automatically will be transferred to next year. In other words, if an employee does not take any of the four weeks and one day vacation during the work year e.g. due to sickness, the employee will have eight weeks and two days holiday at his or her disposal the next year.
Also read: Salary on public holidays in Norway
Check the employees’ holiday time bank
It is important to check the employees’ holiday time bank before year-end, so there is time for the employee either to take holiday before the end of the year, or to make an agreement to transfer some of the holiday to the coming year.
Please also note that in many cases the holiday pay has already been paid to the employees in June. In these cases, if the employee is paid by the hour, he or she will have holiday without pay transferred to the next year. If the employee on the other hand is on a fixed monthly salary the employee will be entitled to transfer paid holiday to the coming year.
Find out more about labour law in Norway.
Article first published in December 2019, updated in December 2020.