Working in Denmark: Vacation and holidays

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Working in Denmark: Vacation and holidays
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Denmark has one of the highest numbers of paid vacation days worldwide, but there are some rules about these days you may not know. Human resources expert Nancy Rasmussen explains.


Note to readers: Denmark's vacation rules are changing in 2019 and 2020. Read our updated guide here.

Denmark is known for having a lot of paid vacation time, which is one of the major perks of being an employee.  It usually adds up to five weeks of vacation plus around nine public holidays (plus other possible company paid holidays or additional vacation time). But there are some rules that you should know about regarding the different types of vacation days, how they are earned and when you can use them.

The Danish Holiday Act covers most salaried employees, but not independent consultants, freelancers, nor blue-collar employees.  This is the Act that governs the five weeks of vacation and you should be aware of some factors, which can seem a little confusing at first:

  • The five weeks of vacation are taken during the Danish Vacation Year, which runs from May 1st until April  30th the following year.
  • If you have a job covered by the Danish Holiday Act, you are entitled to take vacation during the vacation year period. However, it will only be paid vacation if you have earned paid vacation time.
  • You earn paid vacation from January 1st to December 31st each calendar year at the rate of 2.08 days per month.
  • The vacation time that you earn in one calendar year is used in the next applicable vacation year.

For example, assuming you have never worked in Denmark before, if you start work on March 1st 2015, you earn 2.08 days per month until December 31st 2015. This gives you 20 or so days of paid vacation earned in 2015. You can first use this paid vacation during the 2016 vacation year, starting on the 1st of May 2016.

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The Danish vacation is further broken down so that there is a “main holiday period” which starts on May 1st and ends on September 30th. During this time, you would generally take three weeks of vacation of your five weeks. A lot of people take three weeks in a row while others break it up. If your employer wants to decide when you should take any of your vacation days, they have to let you know in advance according to the notice period rules. We can look at notice periods in a later article.

If you don’t take your vacation during the vacation year, you may be able to transfer some of it to the next vacation year, but you’ll need to talk to your employer about this. If you decide to leave your employer, your unused earned vacation time will be transferred to something called Feriekonto. You’ll need your Nem ID to log in and see how much time/funds were transferred over for each vacation year. When you start with a new employer, you won’t have any earned vacation at that employer just yet, but you would just withdraw anything you earned previously for that vacation year from Feriekonto. You can read more about it here.

Additional vacation days (Feriefridage) 

This is often referred to as the sixth week of vacation. These days are not covered by the Danish Holiday Act and are usually part of some kind of negotiated agreement with the workplace. Therefore the rules can differ from place to place with regard to eligibility, use and possible payout. For specific information on these additional days, consult your employer.

Public Holidays: In addition to the vacation days, there are also public holidays. These are bunched up mostly in the early part of the year and so after June, there is only Christmas. However, the period in between June and Christmas includes the above mentioned main holiday, so it’s not bad at all.

Here is a list of the public holidays:

  • New Year’s Day  
  • Maundy Thursday
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday  
  • Great Prayer Day
  • Ascension Day
  • Whit Monday
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day

In addition to the usual public holidays, companies can choose to give extra time off, for example on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve. There are also differences regarding Labour Day and Constitution Day, depending on where you work/what kind of work you do. Sometimes you can get a whole day off for these extra holidays, sometimes just a half day. Check with your employer for details.

Jobhunting in Denmark? Browse English-language roles on The Local Jobs.

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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