The national legal system
The power to enact laws is vested in the Swedish Parliament (Riksdag). Au thorities at the
regional and local levels have no comp etence to enact legislation and do not issue local
ordinances with direct relevance to the two directives. However, they can undertake
actions that promote equality and counteract discrimination within the framework of their
One key feature of Swedish law is that it is based t o a great extent on written law, while
case law plays a lesser but increasingly important role.
In practice, the right to initiate legislation lies predominantly with the Government. Its
right to make legislative proposals to Parliam ent is guaranteed by the Constitution. 33 The
process starts with a lega l inquiry, after which th e results are sent out to relevant parties
for comments on th e proposed legislation. The Government then formulates a bill
specifying and explaining the proposed legislation, includ ing reflections on the comments.
The Council on L egislation (Lagrådet), compo sed of justices fr om the Supreme Court and
the Admi nistrative Supreme Court, is then consulted on the constitutiona lity an d
consistency of laws. The Council’s opinions are not binding. The bill is then submitted to
the Parliament. The report from the Parliament’s standing committee is debated in the
Parliament. If the re are political differences, the t wo sides normally suggest different
wordings concerning the proposed legislation. Formally, there is the main proposal in the
standing committee and a reservation or reservations by the minority in the committee.
The various formulations are put to a vote. The majority side’s arguments in the standing
committee and the Government bill (if the Government wins the vote) are th us regarded
as ‘approved’ by the Parliament.34 Therefore, these tw o documents have considerable
importance when interpreting the law.
The application of the Discrimination Act is divided between the Labour Court and the
general court system (district courts, courts of appeal and the Supreme Court). The Labour
Court deals with all aspects of the employer-employee relationship. It i s a single-instance
system in cases where the worker is represented by his or her trade union and the
employer has a collective agreement with that union or, in certain cases, where the Equality
Ombudsman (DO) represents a claimant in accordance with Chapter 6, Sections 1-2 of the
Discrimination Act. Otherwise, it is a two -instance system, with the district courts
constituting the first instance court with a right of appeal to the Labour Court.
Collective agreements cover 90 % o f workers on the Swedish labour market and are very
important in setting the rules.35 There is no national minimum wage. Generally, work as a
civil servant is governed by contracts and collective ag reements in lar gely the same way
as in private employm ent. Certain special rules apply to public employment, especially in
the state sector. These mainly concern the recruitment process, where some constitutional
rules on objectivity apply.
The general court system deals wi th everything that is not dealt with by a special court.
Discrimination in all areas except the labour market is thus dealt with in the general court
system. It is a three-instance system, starting with the district court. In civil cases, the
33 Swedish Instrument of Government (Regeringsformen 1974:152), Chapter 4, Article 4, adopted
28.02.1975. Sometimes the opposition parties agree on a piece of legislation that the Government does not
34 Formally, it is only the report of the standing committee that is being debated but, as the Government
almost always repeats what is said in the Government bill and most often wins, in practice it is the
Government bill that is used as the main interpretation source, as it is much more detailed.
35 See Eurofound (2017), Living and working in Sweden, 18.10.2017, at: