Dismissal with notice

An employment relationship is terminated by either the employer or employee submitting a written notice of termination.

There are standard rules for how termination of employment should take place – for the employer as well as for the employee. Except for fixed-time employment contracts, such as temporary positions, the employment will not automatically cease. 

The Working Environment Act stipulations on termination of employment will apply to most undertakings and employees.

Special provisions apply to government employees as stipulated in the Civil Service Act (in Norwegian, lovdata.no)

Advice for employers

  • Seek legal advice or advice from your employers' association if you are in doubt whether there are objective grounds for termination of employment.
  • Remember to discuss the issue with the employee before deciding to terminate the employment.
  • Follow the formal requirements for notice of termination carefully.

When can an employee be dismissed with notice?

A dismissal must be objectively justified to be legal.

Examples of objective grounds for dismissal with notice:

  • Material breach of the employment contract.
  • Necessary downsizing or reorganisation.

Special protection against dismissal with notice

Illness does not constitute grounds for dismissal with notice in the first year an employee is on sick leave.

If an employee has been ill for more than one year, standard rules for objective grounds will apply. Illness may then constitute objective grounds for dismissal with notice in certain circumstances. In such cases, the employer must document that adaptation measures, redeployment etc. have been considered.

If it is uncertain whether an employee will be able to return to work, the employer must base any dismissal with notice on it being necessary to ensure prudent operation of the undertaking.

Pregnancy or parental leave during the child's first year do not constitute objective grounds for dismissal with notice.

Dismissal with notice may, however, be justifiable during an employee's first year on sick leave, or while the employee is pregnant or on parental leave, if the employer has objective grounds. One example is necessary downsizing.

Advice for employees

  • If you are in doubt whether there are objective grounds for dismissal with notice, you may request a written statement of the reason for the dismissal. 
  • Check that you receive what you are entitled to in terms of notice period.
  • Remember that an employer cannot pressure you into resigning.

How should termination of employment take place?

Termination from the employer

Seek legal advice or advice from your employers' association if you are in doubt whether there are objective grounds for termination of employment. Remember that you must discuss the matter with the employee before making a decision regarding dismissal with notice. Notice given by an employer must be delivered to the employee in person or be forwarded by registered post. The notice takes effect when it is received by the employee.

The notice shall inform of:

  • the employee's right to demand negotiations and to institute legal proceedings.
  • the time limits applicable for requesting negotiations and instituting legal proceedings.
  • who any legal proceedings should be directed at.
  • the employee's right to remain in his position while negotiations or legal proceedings are ongoing.

If the employee has been dismissed due to downsizing or other circumstances relating to the undertaking, the notice must also contain information concerning preferential rights to new employment.

The employee may demand that the reason for dismissal is given in writing.

Dismissal with notice must always take place in writing.

Resignation by the employee

There are no formal requirements for employee resignations, except that the resignation must be in writing.

However, we recommend that the resignation is delivered to the employer in person or that it is forwarded by registered post, to prevent doubt or disagreement about whether the employee has resigned and when such resignation took place. 

Negotiations

The employee may request negotiations with the employer. Such a request must be made in writing within two weeks. The time limit will run from when the employee received the written notice of dismissal.

The employer must ensure that a negotiation meeting is held as soon as possible, and no later than two weeks after the demand was received.

The employee and the employer are both entitled to be accompanied by an adviser during the negotiations, for example a lawyer or a union representative.

The negotiations must be completed within two weeks. Minutes shall be kept of the negotiations, which must be signed by the parties and their advisers.

Legal proceedings

If an agreement is not reached through negotiations, the employee may initiate legal proceedings.

Legal proceedings must be initiated within eight weeks after the negotiations have been completed. If no negotiations have been conducted, the time limit will run from the date the notice of dismissal was received.

If the notice of dismissal was not given in writing, there is no time limit for initiating legal proceedings. The same applies if the notice does not meet the formal requirements. If in such cases legal proceedings are initiated within 4 months, the notice will normally be ruled invalid.

If an employee claims compensation only, and not to be reinstated in his post, the time limit for legal proceedings shall be six months from when the dismissal was given.

The employee's right to remain in his post

An employee may usually remain in the post as long as negotiations or legal proceedings are in progress, provided the courts have not decided otherwise.

See Chapter 17 of the Working Environment Act for more details about disputes concerning working conditions.

Notice period

The period of notice is determined on the basis of how long the employee has been engaged and his age. The notice period stipulations also apply to temporary employees if the employment is terminated before the end of the contract. These time limits will apply provided the parties have not agreed in writing to extend the period of notice.

Notice period based on age and employment duration
  BELOW 50 YEARS OF AGE AGE 50–54 AGE 55–59 ABOVE 60 YEARS OF AGE
Employed for less than 5 years 1 month 1 month 1 month 1 month
Employed for more than 5 years 2 months 2 months 2 months 2 months
Employed for more than 10 years 3 months 4 months* 5 months* 6 months*

* For resignation by the employee, the notice period will never exceed 3 months.

The period of notice normally runs from the first day of the month following that in which notice is given. E.g. if the employer or employee receives the notice on 15 March, the notice period will run from 1 April.

Note that a shorter period of notice than one month is only permitted if agreed in writing or laid down in a collective pay agreement.

If the employee is engaged for a given trial period, 14 days' notice must be given by either party unless otherwise agreed in writing or in a collective pay agreement. During the trial period, the notice period is calculated from the date on which the notice is received by the other party.

Suspension

If there is reason to assume that an employee is guilty of an offence that may lead to summary dismissal, the employer may suspend the employee while the matter is investigated.
An employee shall retain his/her normal salary during the suspension.

Summary dismissal – immediate dismissal

The employer may summarily dismiss an employee if he or she is guilty of a gross breach of duty or other serious breach of the contract of employment. The employee has no right to remain in his post while the matter is being considered, unless the court has decided otherwise.

Otherwise, the same rules apply as for regular dismissal with notice.

References

An employee who completes the agreed/regulatory notice period is entitled to a written reference. As a minimum, the reference shall state the employee's name, date of birth, the nature of the work and the duration of employment.

What can the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority do? 

The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority can only provide general guidance on regulatory provisions but does not have authority to intervene in matters relating to dismissal.

In the event of conflict or disagreement, you should seek legal assistance, if relevant through your labour union. The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority can provide general guidance on regulatory provisions but does not have the authority to decide whether a dismissal is objectively justified.

If there is disagreement as to whether a dismissal is objectively justified, a final decision can only be made by the courts.

The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority can demand that an employer provide a reference pursuant to the minimum requirements stipulated in the law. The minimum requirements are the employee's name, date of birth, the nature of the work and the duration of employment. The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority cannot provide assistance in cases where there is a dispute regarding whether the working relationship has taken place or about the details in the reference. In such a case, you must seek legal assistance.

Regulations

About dismissal with notice and summary dismissal:
Chapter 15 of the Working Environment Act relating to termination of employment relationships

About references:
Section 15–15 of the Working Environment Act relating to references