Guidelines on wellness benefits

Physical inactivity is recognised by the World Health Organization as a high-risk factor for non-communicable diseases. Reducing physical inactivity is a specific target in the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Physical activity is seen as a particularly important element in achieving sustainable development. Research shows that physical activity promotes both physical and mental health.

  • Diary number: 1-1090/2023
  • Dnr preg. version: 1-338/2021
  • Decision date:
  • Validity period: Valid from 1 January 2024 and until further notice.
  • Decision: President
  • Document type: Guidelines
  • Handled by department/unit: GVS Gemensamt verksamhetsstöd, HR-avdelningen
  • Preparation with: Deans, Heads of Department, Heads of Administration, Heads of Departments of the Professional Services and the Head of Legal Office
  • Revision with respect to: Increase the wellness allowance to SEK 3000 and remove the limitations on eligible activities.

Summary of the guidelines

As one of the world's leading medical universities and a public employer, Karolinska Institutet (KI) has an important role in promoting daily physical activity among its employees and students. On-campus facilities, physical activity on prescription (FaR) and wellness hours are part of the programme, where wellness services strengthen the capacity for regular physical activity among KI's employees and students. Together with the wellness allowance, these are important elements towards a more active society.

The purpose of these guidelines is to regulate and clarify the following wellness benefits:

  • Wellness allowance
  • Access to on-campus gym facilities
  • Wellness hour
  • Physical activity on prescription

Guidelines in full (in Swedish)

These guidelines apply to all employees and, to some extent, to affiliated persons and students. 

The provisions on the wellness hour and FaR hour also apply to scholarship holders at doctoral and post-doctoral level. Furthermore, employees as well as affiliated persons (including scholarship holders) and students have access to the gym facilities close to the campus.

Wellness allowance

The purpose of the wellness allowance is to stimulate and inspire regular and recurring physical activity. It can also be used for treatment that is relaxing or counteracts soreness and stiffness. Dietary advice and counselling in connection with smoking cessation are also approved.

 The wellness allowance is to be regarded as a personnel care benefit of minor value that is not a direct compensation for work performed but is of a simpler nature to create well-being at work or similar. Exercise and wellness activities are tax-free if they are aimed at all staff and are of minor value and simple nature.

In order for it to be a tax-free employee benefit, the following conditions apply: 

  • The allowance must be offered to all employees. 
  • The allowance must be proportionate to the employees' working hours.
  • The grant may not cover expenses for memberships, entrance fees to sports events, training clothes or rental of equipment and premises.
  • The grant may not exceed SEK 1 000 (including VAT) per activity.
  • The grant may not be used for fitness activities in the individual's home, except in cases of special need.

For reimbursement the following applies:

  • Only employees can receive a wellness allowance. 
  • The maximum amount of the grant is SEK 3000 per employee and calendar year. 
  • It is not possible to receive compensation for the same activity again before any validity period has expired. 
  • The grant is proportional to the employees' working hours.

Eligible activities

KI authorises all activities that are in accordance with the Swedish Tax Agency's rules for wellness allowance.

Access to on-campus training facilities

The purpose of offering on-campus gyms and facilities is to provide conditions for short breaks for physical training of a recurring nature in an open, learning and supportive environment. 

KI provides its own training facilities at the university's two main campuses, Campus Solna and Campus Flemingsberg, where both employees and students can use the gyms or participate in various instructor-led sessions, workshops and training programmes.

For access to on-campus facilities, the following applies:

Only employees, affiliates (including scholarship holders) and students at KI have access to the premises. 

Employees, affiliates (including scholarship holders) and students must be able to present a valid pass with a photo in order to enter these premises and otherwise follow the rules and instructions issued by the staff at KI health promotion services. 

Employees, affiliates (including scholarship holders) and students have access to instructor-led sessions organised by KI health promotion services. 

Associates have access to workshops and training programmes, subject to availability. Other activities of a "group nature" on these premises must be authorised in advance. Such authorisation may be granted by the Health Promotion Team Leader or the Heads of unit of the HR office. 

No commercial activities may take place without authorisation. Such authorisation may be granted by the Health Promotion Team Leader or the Heads of unit of the HR office.

Wellness hour

The purpose of wellness hours at work is to create conditions for a sustainable working life where active recovery and physical activity are natural parts of a balanced working week and lifestyle. 

 As an employee, you have, if the organisation allows it, the opportunity for wellness during working hours. The time for activities may amount to one hour per week in total and is planned and adapted according to needs and opportunities in dialogue with the immediate manager. If necessary, the immediate supervisor can temporarily grant additional time. Examples of activities are exercise or walks in close proximity to the workplace or activities organised by health promotion services and health ambassadors or equivalent. 

The wellness hour is voluntary where the employee performs an activity without supervision. Occupational injury insurance therefore does not apply except in exceptional cases.

For wellness hours, the following applies:

  • The wellness hour is aimed at employees and does not include students. 
  • The wellness hour must be anchored in dialogue with the immediate manager. The wellness hour can be divided into smaller parts, but not shorter than 10 minutes. 
  • The employee must be employed to an extent of at least 50 per cent of full time.

Physical Activity on Prescription

Physical activity on prescription is an evidence-based method for promoting health and preventing disease. The purpose of Physical activity on prescription at work is to provide support during treatment or part of treatment, to prevent or shorten sick leave and facilitate return to work. 

In the case of sick leave exceeding 50 per cent of full time, the intention should be that training as part of the treatment should take place during the period of sick leave.

For FaR at work, the following applies:

  • FaR at work is aimed at employees and does not include affiliates and students. 
  • FaR must be prescribed by a qualified health professional. FaR entitles you to one FaR hour per week per employee for a maximum of three months. This is provided that the FaR hour is designed in consultation with KI health promotion services.
  • Depending on the prescription, the time is planned and adapted according to needs and possibilities in consultation with the immediate supervisor. 
  • The employee must be employed to an extent of at least 50 per cent of full time.