Workers' accommodation

When an employer provides living quarters for its workers, certain requirements apply to the accommodation.

Requirements regarding satisfactory living quarters

The Norwegian Working Environment Act requires the living quarters to be satisfactorily constructed, fitted out and maintained. Important factors include size, furniture and fittings and fire safety. The standard of the accommodation must also be consistent with technological and social developments.

The living quarters must have satisfactory ventilation and must not be affected by wet or dry rot, damp or the like. The living quarters must also be approved as a dwelling and designed for the number of people who will live there.

Accommodation and infection control

Employees in quarantine or isolation must have a single bedroom with TV and internet, their own bathroom and kitchen or food delivery. If the same services can be accessed through PCs or tablets as on TV, these can be made available instead of a TV.

In addition, the employer must implement:  

Procedures or measures

  • to make sure that quarantined workers do not come into close contact with others
  • to ensure basic infection control (keeping one's distance, washing hands, practising coughing hygiene, using disposable tissues, etc.)
  • for thorough cleaning of the accommodation
  • for use of a washing machine at minimum 60°C

Procedures or measures for employees in quarantine after arrival. If employees who are in quarantine after arrival develop symptoms of acute respiratory illness including fever, cough or breathing difficulties, they must be tested.

Procedures for employees in infection quarantine in the living quarters: If employees who are in infection quarantine develop symptoms of acute respiratory illness including fever, cough or breathing difficulties, they must be tested. They must isolate until they have a negative test result.

Procedures or measures for

  • employees who show symptoms of acute respiratory illness with a fever, cough or breathing difficulties. Employees with symptoms should be tested, and refrain from close contact with others until they have a negative test result
  • people in close contact with sick people in workers' accommodation

 

All employees must be trained in infection control measures in a language they understand. Routines for infection control can be included as part of the house rules.

If it is impossible to implement these or other equally effective measures, the accommodation is not satisfactory during an ongoing epidemic like the corona pandemic.  If this is the situation, the employees must complete the quarantine period at a hotel or other suitable accommodation. Contact your local municipality for more information about the implementation of the quarantine.

What should the accommodation include?

The accommodation where the worker will live must have
  • a bedroom with a window that can be opened
  • a living room with chairs, sofa and, as a general rule, a TV or internet. If the bedroom is large, the leisure area requirement may be met by the bedroom alone. If the bedroom is small, a separate living room is required.
  • a wardrobe or cupboard for storing clothes
  • access to a bathroom and toilet For each 4–5 workers, there must be one lockable toilet and one lockable shower.
  • a utility room with a washing machine and clothes-drying facilities
  • a dining room with cooking facilities, dining area, dining table and chairs
  • access to required cleaning equipment

When deciding whether the living quarters are satisfactory, the employer must consider the need to keep the accommodation clean and tidy, and the opportunity for privacy and dignity given the number of workers.

Single room for long-term stays

As a general rule, workers must be accommodated in single rooms. This particularly applies to long-term stays.

Bedrooms must be located so the workers are disturbed as little as possible. The room should not function as access to other rooms. Sufficient rest is important for recovering after work. This has a direct bearing on workers’ health and safety at the workplace.

The regard for privacy is also important. Rest and privacy are difficult to achieve if one has no place to withdraw to. There is not normally sufficient privacy if a worker only has the room to himself for parts of the day/night.

Double room for short stays

Double rooms can be used for short stays. Such rooms must be sufficiently large and have an adjacent living room.

Dormitories for seasonal workers in the agricultural sector

The requirement for a single or double bedroom does not apply to seasonal workers in the agricultural sector. In such a case, up to four workers can be accommodated in the same bedroom. The duration of such accommodation is maximum 10 weeks.

Electrical installations, fire alarms and fire-fighting equipment must comply with current legislation. The electrical installation must be dimensioned for the number of workers and the use of electronic equipment.

There must be escape routes and emergency exits. When windows cannot be used as escape routes, leisure rooms and bedrooms must have two alternative escape routes.

When several workers share accommodation, the employer and accommodated workers must draw up the house rules together.

The house rules should include information about:

  • distribution of tasks
  • cleanliness, infection control and tidiness
  • laundry times
  • cooking
  • alcohol
  • smoking
  • quiet hours
  • right to have guests 

The above list is not exhaustive and must be adapted to the needs in the individual living quarters. Following a specific assessment, the Labour Inspection Authority may order that house rules be drawn up.

When an employer rents accommodation and makes this available, or provides or arranges living quarters, such living quarters must meet the requirements. The requirements apply regardless of whether it is the employer or the worker who pays for the living quarters.

The rules do not apply if an employer only mediates contact with one or more landlords. If an employer assists the worker in obtaining accommodation and the tenancy agreement is between the landlord and the worker, a specific assessment must be made as to whether the living quarters may be said to be made available by the employer. The employer must have a certain connection to the living quarters or to the landlord.

If an employer provides suitable single-room accommodation for the quarantine period pursuant to the COVID-19 regulations, the requirement for a certain connection will normally be met. In such a case, the employer is responsible for ensuring that the accommodation is appropriate.

Rent

The Labour Inspection Authority does not oversee rent amounts except when so prescribed by general application regulations.

Rent may not be deducted from pay unless this is stipulated in advance by written agreement.

The right of the Labour Inspection Authority to inspect living quarters

The Labour Inspection Authority shall have free access at all times to any premises subject to the Act. This includes living quarters when provided by the employer.

If the employer is bound by a collective agreement, there may be further requirements regarding the living quarters beyond the requirements of the Act. The Labour Inspection Authority does not carry out supervision pursuant to collective agreements.

The Labour Inspection Authority supervises compliance with the requirements regarding living quarters and ensures that the living quarters are satisfactorily constructed, fitted out and maintained. In such supervision, the Labour Inspection Authority often cooperates with agencies such as the Fire Service and other municipal authorities.

Inspection of living quarters

Inspection may be notified in advance or may be unannounced. If the inspection is not notified in advance, the Labour Inspection Authority will attempt to contact the employer by telephone from the living quarters.

During inspection of the living quarters, the Labour Inspection Authority will interview the workers and, if possible, the employer. The inspection is carried out regardless of whether the employer is able to be present.

Follow-up of the inspection

Following the inspection, the Labour Inspection Authority will always send an inspection report to the employer. If unlawful living conditions are revealed, the Labour Inspection Authority will normally order the employer to correct unlawful living conditions by a given date.

If the undertaking does not comply with the order by the specified date, the Labour Inspection Authority may

  1. impose a coercive fine
  2. stop the use of the living quarters

Following the inspection, it may also be appropriate to inform the landlord of any deficiencies regarding the living quarters.

If serious breaches of the provision concerning living quarters are revealed, the Labour Inspection Authority may impose an administrative fine or report the employer to the police.

If the Labour Inspection Authority reveals that the living quarters constitute an imminent danger to the workers, the Labour Inspection Authority may stop the use of the living quarters.

Legislation concerning living quarters

Section 4-4 (4) of the Working Environment Act

Chapter 3 of the Workplace Regulations

Section 14-15 (2) (c) of the Working Environment Act