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WORKING IN DENMARK

Parental leave in Denmark: What are the new rules and when do they take effect?

Lawmakers in Denmark have agreed on reforms to the parental leave system to take effect from next year.

New rules on statutory parental leave take effect in Denmark from August 2022.
New rules on statutory parental leave take effect in Denmark from August 2022. Photo by Gigin Krishnan on Unsplash

Parental leave rules in Denmark are to change in 2022 with parliament set to vote through changes that bring the country into line with EU directives.

After the EU in 2019 passed a directive which required member states to ensure a minimum of nine weeks’ “earmarked” parental leave for each parent by 2022, discussions between the government and labour market representatives have resulted in agreement over new rules.

The deal will come into effect in August 2022. It is supported by the majority of parties on the left and right of parliament, meaning it is all but assured of being passed into law.

“Earmarked” (øremærket in Danish) parental leave because the two parents cannot transfer the leave from one to another, allowing one parent to take all or nearly all of the statutory parental leave.

This is possible under the outgoing Danish system, where 32 weeks of parental leave (forældreorlov) can be distributed between parents as much or either sees fit and can be taken concurrently or consecutively.

Because the reform tags more of the statutory parental leave to each parent, fathers and other partners are effectively entitled to nine weeks’ more leave than under current rules.

Under the new rules, each parent is granted 24 weeks each of leave following the birth of a child, with a total of 11 weeks “earmarked” for each parent.

The mother has a right to four weeks’ pregnancy leave prior to giving birth and both parents can take two weeks’ parental leave immediately after the birth.

That leaves a remaining earmarked 9 weeks, which can be taken at any time withing the first year after birth but are tagged to each parent, as are the initial 2 post-birth weeks. If one parent does not use all of their 11 weeks, those weeks lapse.

The final 13 weeks of each parent’s leave can be transferred between parents. As such, these weeks can be split 13-13, 26-0 or anything in between. They can be taken at any time until the child’s ninth birthday.

Self-employed people, students and jobseekers are not encompassed by the rule requiring parental leave to be earmarked, and can transfer up to 22 weeks (the normal 13 weeks plus the 9 weeks which are “earmarked” for employed people) to the other parent.

The new rules also introduce equality between single fathers and single mothers with regard to the number of weeks of parental leave after the birth. In each case, the single parent receives 46 weeks of leave.

From January 1st 2024, single parents will also be allowed to transfer parental leave to a close family member.

LGBT+ families are permitted to divide their leave between up to four parents, also from January 1st 2024. In this case, the non-earmarked leave can be shared between legal guardians and social parents.

Social parents can include the spouse or cohabitant of a legal guardian; a known donor with a parental relationship to the child; and the spouse or cohabitant of a known donor with a parental relationship to the child.

Source: Beskæftigelsesministeriet

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WORKING IN DENMARK

Can foreigners lose their Danish work permits if they take part in strikes?

Membership of a trade union in Denmark can occasionally result in your union requiring you to take part in industrial action by going on strike. But can that put foreign workers at risk of losing their work permits?

Can foreigners lose their Danish work permits if they take part in strikes?

Around two-thirds of people in employment in Denmark are members of a trade union.

Union membership forms a core part of Denmark’s “Danish model” by which the labour market regulates itself through collective bargaining agreements between the trade unions and employer organisations.

These agreements form the basis of salaries – rather than laws – and also ensure standards for working hours and vacation time under the agreements made in various labour market sectors.

As such, it’s common to be a union member in Denmark and foreign nationals working in the country are also likely to find it in their interests to join a union.

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One aspect of union membership is that members may be required to participate in industrial action, such as strikes, blockades, or solidarity actions.

For example, the 2021 Danish nurses strike organised by the Danish Nurses’ Organisation (DSR), which represents 95 percent of nurses in Denmark.

“The nurses’ strike is an example of the results of unsuccessful negotiations on the renewal of their collective agreement,” Peter Waldorff, international consultant at FH, Denmark’s largest trade union confederation, told The Local.

In this case, he continued, DSR called the strike and decided which members would be required to withdraw from work to join the strike. As the strike continued from June to August 2021 (one of the longest strikes in recent Danish history), an increasing number of union members were called to strike until the dispute was resolved. 

In such a situation, it is conceivable that some of the workers asked to take part in the strike would be foreign nationals from countries outside of the EU or EEA, who need a work permit to take employment in Denmark.

READ ALSO: How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you are not an EU national?

Foreign employees who are union members would participate in the strike just as Danish members would.

Although the employees involved in the strike would stop receiving their salaries they would instead receive conflict aid from the union, “meaning the person would not need to receive dagpenge or other social aid,” Stine Lund, senior legal consultant at the Danish Society of Engineers (IDA), a trade union for engineering, science, and IT professionals, told The Local

That is an important distinction for internationals working in Denmark because receiving social benefits can impact the ability to fulfil work permit criteria.

The employer would also be required to re-employ all employees once the conflict is resolved, Lund added. 

According to FH’s legal department, Waldorff said, participation in legally-called industrial action should not affect work permits. 

The Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) confirmed this to be the case.

“Third-country citizens will not have their residence permit revoked on the basis of employment, if they don’t work at their employer due to the reason that they participate in a legal labour dispute during their employment. EU/EEA citizens residing in Denmark will not lose their right to reside in Denmark on the basis of participating in a legal labour dispute,” SIRI said in a statement to The Local.

Although foreign workers can be asked to strike, the likelihood they will have to remains relatively low.

“In Denmark, strikes are relatively rare,” Waldorff said.

In the academic labour market, collective agreement conflicts almost never happen, according to Lund.

“We haven’t been in a situation where that measure has been taken for many, many years,” she said.

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