Sick Kid? Swedish VAB Days Pay Parents Who Have to Stay Home From Work

swedish vab days cat

Recently the stomach flu ripped through my son’s preschool and we all went down. My spouse and I—who both work full-time—were without childcare for 3+ days, a situation that left us juggling our meeting schedules and high-pressure workloads while simultaneously trying to push Pedialyte.

We’re lucky: Both of us are salaried with flexible employers and, in my case, unlimited vacation time. But what if you don’t have that setup? And, even if you are on salary, is it fair that parents have to tap into their reserve of vacation days—or worse, get docked pay—to tend to a sick kid?

Enter Sweden’s Vård av Barn (VAB) policy. Parents who wake up with a sick child can opt to take a VAB day, which loosely translated means “care of child.” It allows them to collect 80 percent of their pay—capped at $120 a day—instead of taking vacation or unpaid time off or, worse, trying to work and watch their kid at the same time. (This policy has been Swedish law for decades—it was enacted in 1974—and the state picks up the tab, which means there’s no financial burden to the employer.)

Parents in Sweden can each take up to 120 VAB days a year…and that’s per kid. The policy is effective until your child turns 12 and a doctor’s note is required after eight consecutive days. Work for yourself? VAB days also extend to the self-employed, and parents who really can’t take the time off have the option of nominating other family members or caregivers to watch their kid and collect the VAB benefit on their behalf.

Sweden is of course famous for their family-friendly policies—things like subsidized childcare and 480 days of gender-neutral paid leave—but this level of compensated flexibility takes the cake. In fact, the idea that a parent tending to a sick child needs time off is so normalized over there, there’s a word for it: att vabba. “Where’s Donna?” “She’s att vabba,” which means she’s at home, administering Tylenol and running the humidifier. (Some Swedish workplaces even have a Slack status for it.)

A contender for global consideration? Yes, please.

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Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...