New requirements for the content of employment contracts

The Norwegian Parliament has adopted amendments to the Working Environment Act, which implements the 2019 EU directive on transparent and predictable working conditions.

On 15 December 2023, it was decided that the legal amendments will enter into force on 1 July 2024. The amendments extend the list of information to be included in employment contracts, aligning with EU Directive 2019/1152 on transparent and predictable working conditions in the European Union.

The information that must now be provided in the employment contract has previously often been included in the employee handbook or internal guidelines. The Ministry has stated that the new rules do not aim to change the framework for the employer’s management rights (in Norwegian, “styringsretten”). However, it is important to be aware that a more detailed regulation in the employment contract may affect the employer’s management rights. Thus, employers should start updating their employment contracts well in advance of 1 July 2024 and consider how to adapt to the legislative changes in a way that both ensures compliance with the new requirements and the necessary flexibility going forward.

In addition to expanded requirements for information to be included in the employment contract, new rules on probationary periods, shorter deadlines for when a written employment contract must be in place and new rules relating to part-time and temporary employment are also introduced.

Below, we will discuss the most important changes that have now been adopted.

Information in employment contracts

There are currently requirements regarding what information must be included in the employment contract. Following the legislative changes, the employment contract must contain the following new information:

  • That the employee does not have a fixed place or work or can freely determine its workplace if the employee does not have a fixed/main place of work
  • The identity of the hiring entity if the employee is leased from a staffing agency
  • Right to competence development provided by the employer
  • Any entitlement to other absence paid by the employer
  • Procedures for termination of the employment relationship
  • The various salary elements must be specified separately
  • If the daily and weekly working hours will vary, this must be stated in the employment contract
  • Arrangements for shift changes, as well as arrangements for work beyond agreed working hours, including payment for such work
  • Benefits provided by the employer for social security and names of the institutions that receive payments from the employer in this regard

The above mentioned requirements for additional information apply only to employment contracts entered into after the legislative changes enter into force on July 1, 2024. There is no requirement for employers to proactively update employment contracts entered into before this date. However, an employee can request that the employment contract shall be supplemented with the information mentioned above. In such cases, the employer is required to provide the additional information within a deadline of two months.

Temporary and part-time employees

The legislative changes introduce two new presumption rules. Firstly, if the employer has not stated in the employment contract that the employment relationship is temporary, it shall be assumed that the employee is appointed permanently. In order to classify the employment relationship as temporary, the employer must make this classification highly probable.

Secondly, the employee’s claim regarding the scope of the position is to be presumed if the employer has not disclosed the extent of the position in the employment contract, unless the employer makes it highly probable that a different scope applies.

Shorter deadlines

According to the legislative changes, an employment contract must be made available as soon as possible, and no later than seven days after the commencement of the employment relationship. This imposes a tightening of the deadline that applies today, which is one month.

Furthermore, a shorter deadline is mandated for cases where the employer must inform the employees of changes in their employment relationship. If changes are made to items that the employment contract must provide information about, the changes must be included in the employment contract no later than the same day the change(s) enters into force. Currently, the requirement is no later than one month after the change(s) enters into force.

Right to written justification

The legislative changes also imply that part-time and temporary employees can request a form of employment with more predictable and secure working conditions. In response to such a request, the employer is obliged to provide a written and justified response within one month. However, the legislative changes do not grant the employee a right to permanent employment or a larger percentage of work. They only establish an obligation for the employer to provide a justified response to the request.

The employer’s obligation to provide such a response only applies to employees who have been employed in the organisation for more than six months and who have completed any probationary period. Furthermore, it only applies in cases where more than six months have passed since the employee’s previous request.

New rules on probationary period

The legislative changes introduce a maximum length of the probationary period for temporary appointments. The probationary period for temporary appointments may not exceed half of the duration of the employment relationship. For temporary appointments lasting twelve months or more, the proposal will have no effect, as the current rules already set an upper limit for the probationary period of six months.

Moreover, the legislative changes introduce new rules that apply when an employment contract is renewed. A new probationary period cannot be agreed upon if the employee is to continue in the same position. Similarly, if the employee transfers to a position that is substantially similar to the position the employee has held within the same organisation, a new probationary period cannot be agreed upon. However, if the contract renewal involves a transition from a temporary to a permanent position, a probationary period may be agreed upon, provided that the combined period of employment in the temporary position and the probationary period in the permanent position do not exceed six months.

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