The Danish government will attempt to head off a legal battle with the EU by changing its national paid holiday laws, Politiken reported on Monday.
The EU Commission sent the Danish government a letter in November stating that Denmark’s holiday rules are in potential violation of the EU Working Time Directive, which states that all workers must be given an annual leave of at least four weeks per year.
While the Danish Holiday Act gives workers five weeks of annual holiday, the right to holiday is built up over the course of a calendar year but used over a ‘holiday year’ that runs from May to April.
For example, an employee who started a job in January 2015 would not be able to take paid holiday until May 2016 unless they had carry-over holiday from a previous position.
Under the Danish rules, an employee is entitled to take holiday during their first year on the job but it must be unpaid if they are entering the labour market for the first time or switching jobs without a surplus of built-up holiday days. This results in tens of thousands of employees in Denmark taking unpaid holiday during each year.
The EU Commission argues that Denmark’s ‘holiday year’ model results in unfair delays in taking paid holiday and is in violation of the Working Directive.
The Danish employment minister, Jørn Neergaard Larsen, told Politiken that the government is establishing a commission made up of representatives from the labour market to come up with an overhaul of the Danish Holiday Act, which he characterized as “a patchwork” in need of clearer rules.
“The starting point for the international cooperation that we are a part of is that one should have the right to hold paid holiday in the same year it is earned. We should adopt a system in which one takes holiday parallel to its accrual,” Larsen said.
“Those who will immediately experience the changes when the new law is ready will particularly be new graduates and those who are changing jobs,” he added.
A spokeswoman for the workers’ union Dansk Magisterforening applauded the coming changes.
“It has been a big problem for new graduates that they don’t have the right to take paid holiday. It is perhaps in the first year on the labour market that one needs holiday the most,” Camilla Gregersen told Politiken.
The Confederation of Danish Employers (DA), which in November called the EU’s interference in Danish holiday rules “the work of some pen pusher,” maintained on Monday that the Danish system works as it is, but acknowledged the need for changes to remain in line with European rules.
DA spokesman Flemming Dreesen told Politiken that new national holiday rules should be simpler than their current form in order to cut down on administrative work for employers. He also called on the Employment Ministry to come up with a transitional scheme before fully going over to a new set of rules.