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Working in Denmark: Pension and insurance

Even in Denmark, where health insurance and pension are provided by the state, many companies offer private plans. Human resources expert Nancy Rasmussen tells you what you need to know about private pension and insurance options.

Working in Denmark: Pension and insurance
As a new employee, your company's HR department will likely discuss your options with you. Photo: Colourbox
Editor's note: an updated version of this article can be found here.
One of the advantages of working for a company – as opposed to being self-employed – are the employee benefits. Many of the benefits, such as pension and insurance, are for the long-term and therefore easy to relegate to the back of your mind. But it’s worth it to take some time upfront to ensure that they are set up in a way that benefits you the most.  
Many companies in Denmark offer pension and insurance coverage to their employees via a third-party provider, often the same provider for both. In the first month or so of your employment, you may be invited to a meeting with an advisor to help you make some decisions. I would strongly encourage you to prioritize this meeting. If for some reason you don’t automatically get an appointment, then I would suggest that you speak to your HR department or manager for guidance as there are some decisions you’ll need to make. 

Remember that NemID that I mentioned a few weeks back? Well you’re going to need it. There is a site called which you can log into with NemID that has a full overview of all of  your Danish pension accounts. 
There are several kinds of pension included in this overview including:
State sponsored pension (Folkepension) – not related to your employment. 
ATP (Arbejdsmarkedets Tillægspension) – a supplementary labour market pension scheme which nearly everyone in Denmark pays into.  Deductions are automatically taken out of your paycheck, when which you can see on your pay slips. 
Private pension – If your company offers a private pension programme, then you will also see line items on your pay slips for employer and employee contributions. 
You and your advisor will discuss a bit about your personal and family situation and how comfortable you are with investment risk. Then you will sign-off on the investment allocation strategy. In general terms, you will pick what percentage of your pension contributions will be invested in equities (known for higher risk and higher return) versus bonds (lower risk, lower return).
If you think that you will leave Denmark before you retire, you should mention this to your pension advisor to discuss your options. You will generally be able to take the pension with you, but you will have to pay high taxes if you take the money before retirement age. I believe that there are some pension schemes for expats that can mitigate this, but this is something to discuss with the pension advisor.  
You may also be presented with a variety of insurance options. Some are included in your benefits package as-is and for others you will have some decisions to make. 
Health Insurance – Many companies provide private health insurance, which you can use in addition to the state health insurance. This may also include seeing a chiropractor, psychologist, physical therapist, etc. It is a good idea to review what is covered before you actually ever need to use the insurance. 
Disability insurance – This insurance is called loss of earning/occupational capacity. It protects you if lose the ability to work by continuing to pay you a percentage of your salary. Your benefit generally includes a default level of coverage and then you can pay extra if you want to a higher level of coverage. It is especially important to review your coverage level if you have for example a mortgage, kids, or other serious financial obligations.  
Life Insurance – This benefit provides an amount to your beneficiary should you pass away while employed. You should review the amount of this coverage to make sure that your survivors will be amply covered. It’s not fun to think about, but it’s very important to get this right before anything unexpected happens. 
Critical Illness – This is often included in your benefits package and it’s basically a payment to you in the event that you become critically ill. Your provider will have a list of what illnesses count as critical. You can generally use the money however you wish, as it’s meant to ease the burden of dealing with a serious illness.
At the end of your meeting, you’ll get an overview of everything you’ve decided on and you should keep a copy for your records. The information is usually also available if you log into your provider’s website. 
Do you find this information to be helpful? What do you want to learn more about? Let us know!
Nancy RasmussenNancy Rasmussen is currently employed as a Change Management Consultant, supporting IT projects. She has more than 12 years of experience within large, international companies. She writes this column in her free-time in connection with NemCV. This column is not affiliated with her current full-time employment. 

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‘We wanted to make chocolate to reflect Denmark’s seasons’

Stuart Eve moved to Denmark with his family after his wife, an archaeologist, was offered a job at Aarhus University. Nearly four years later, he is the co-founder of a fair trade chocolate business in the Scandinavian city.

'We wanted to make chocolate to reflect Denmark's seasons'
A chance meeting at their children's daycare resulted in the Ørbæk and Eve families starting their Danish business. Photo: Stuart Eve

Eve still works full time at his day job, also in archaeology. But the sweet-toothed entrepreneur told The Local that Denmark provided him with inspiration to try something out of his comfort zone – starting his own business in a foreign country.

After meeting business partner Anders Ørbæk at the daycare centre attended by their children, the two began the project, initially producing the chocolate out of their own kitchens.

“That has now moved to the renting of a professional space, so that we can scale up production and also get all the relevant food hygiene certificates and so on,” Eve said.

The archaeologist said having Danish partners had been beneficial in the course of setting up a business in the Scandinavian country, even though the process itself was straightforward.

“Actually starting the business was a matter of filling in a few forms online and showing we had 100 kroner [13 euros] in the bank. However, I think without our Danish partners, it would have been quite hard – mainly because of the technical Danish required. My Danish is pretty awful – and there are a lot of financial terms that are difficult to translate,” Eve said.

READ ALSO: Danish: Is it really so hard to learn?

“So I think for us it was essential to have Danish partners. Also, the food hygiene rules and health and safety, while similar to the UK, are quite onerous – and again very technical.

“I run my own archaeology business in the UK, so that has set me in great stead for the financial and business side,” he added.

The startup currently sources some of its supplies from Eve’s native UK – one aspect that may be complicated by Brexit, he said.

“My secret dream is that the chocolate business will enable us to beat Brexit and stay in Denmark for a lot longer — but we'll have to see how it pans out,” he said.


Packaged up and ready to go #somerferie #chokolade #beantobar #chocolate

A post shared by Ørbæk & Eve (@oerbaekandeve) on Jul 3, 2017 at 2:40pm PDT

It was not just the administrative side that Eve had to learn on the hoof for his Danish-based business, though – the process of producing the chocolate itself is also new.

“I was eating some Ritter Sport one evening and wondered to myself how chocolate was made, thinking it must be some incredibly complicated industrial process. So I checked out a few YouTube videos and it turns out you can make chocolate in a coffee grinder – it tastes awful because it is so crunchy, but it shows the process. From there it was a matter of buying a bigger grinder and starting to experiment. We have so much to learn still, but people seem to like what we are producing so far,” he said.

The chocolate produced by the startup – which is both fairtrade and organic – is heavily influenced by Denmark’s nature and seasonal variations, including a quarterly subscription service which can be signed up for via a crowdfunding campaign.

“We have been trying to find a way to really represent the beauty and abundance of the Danish countryside and combine it with something that Danes really love – chocolate,” he said.

“Strawberries from Samsø for summer, hazelnuts foraged from the woods for autumn, etc. Between us we have six kids so the family always come in and help during the production days,” he added.

A longer term aim is to consolidate the new company – named Ørbæk & Eve after its co-founders – as a well-known ‘bean to bar’ company in Aarhus.

“Our main reasons for doing this are two-fold. First, we eat a lot of chocolate and have become increasingly concerned by the human and environmental costs of industrialised chocolate production – there are new reports about destruction of rainforest for cocoa plantations and slave labour in West Africa, for example. In order to not be complicit with this, I wanted to figure out how it was made – and to do it myself.

“Second, we have really noticed the differences in the seasons since we moved to Denmark, so we wanted to make chocolate that reflected and celebrated the different qualities of the changing seasons,” he said.

Eve, Ørbæk and their partners are currently spending evenings and weekends on the chocolate production runs.

“As things pick up, I suspect I will move to one dedicated day a week, but we have four of us working on it, so we can usually juggle the time,” he said.

READ MORE: The Local's 'My Danish Career' series