Stream of new laws takes effect

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Smokers now face even more restrictions in Norway, criminals face some tougher punishments and a variety of new workplace laws took effect this week. It’s not only Segways on the streets and new tax-free allowances that have legally altered Norwegians’ lives.

Norway's national hospital, Rikshospitalet in Oslo, wasn't among the four hospitals studied but has also been under reorganization pressure and a target of patient complaints. PHOTO: Views and News

No smoking is allowed anymore near the entrances to health care institutions like here at Rikshospitalet in Oslo. The ban is just one of many new law changes that took effect July 1. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

A string of new laws approved by Parliament took effect from July 1, some of them grabbing more headlines than others. The producers of Segway stand-up electric vehicles have enjoyed a lot of free publicity, both before and after the new law allowing them in Norway went into effect on Tuesday. And already early on Tuesday morning, airline passengers landing at Norwegian airports were taking advantage of the new law that allows them to bring in more tax-free wine or beer if they don’t fill their quota of one carton of tax-free cigarettes.

Smokers, though, can’t bring in more tobacco if they don’t fill their tax-free quota for alcoholic beverages, and now they face more restrictions at home. Smoking is no longer allowed, for example, outside the front entrances of hospitals or other health-care institutions in Norway. Nor is smoking allowed anywhere on schoolgrounds, so teachers can’t sneak out for a cigarette any longer. The same rules apply to day care centers.

Hundreds of law changes
All told, several hundred law changes went on the books from Tuesday. Most of them are minor or involve relatively obscure laws, but some of them signal that Norway has a new conservative government eager, for example, to simply and lower taxes and get tougher on crime.

New forms of punishment will now start being exercised against juvenile offenders between the ages of 15 and 18. Until now, police have mostly had to let teenage criminals go free, but now they can be ordered held in protective custody beyond that overseen by child welfare agency Barnevernet. Offenders under the age of 15, however, will still be exempt from criminal charges, for now.

Serious crimes will no longer be subject to a statute of limitations, either. If police obtain new evidence in a murder or sexual assault, for example, they can reopen investigations and press charges no matter how much time has elapsed since the crime was committed.

Labour and welfare changes
Some new labour laws, meanwhile, also affect employees and employers, with the latter facing higher higher employer taxes in some sectors of Norway, while employees won’t lose holiday time if they get sick during their holidays. A new law gives them the right to postpone their holiday time and take it when they’re feeling better.

There also have been changes in how parents can divide up the parental leave they’re granted upon the birth of a child. Fathers can give mothers more of their allotted time off and vice versa, in a move that opponents fear will result in men taking less paternity leave. Others contend the parents’ total time allowed with the children, at full or reduced salary, hasn’t shrunk and that parents should be allowed to decide for themselves which of them takes advantage of it.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund