Working in Denmark: Taking sick leave

Illnesses can happen to anyone at any time. Human resources expert Nancy Rasmussen walks you through your rights and obligations when you are too sick to work.

Working in Denmark: Taking sick leave
Not only are employees entitled to sick leave, many companies allow for taking time off if your child becomes ill. Photo: Colourbox
Even when not feeling well, it may be hard to even think about taking time off work when you have impending deadlines. However, employees are entitled to take sick leave and it’s important to take care of yourself when you become ill. Here is some information on what to expect when you need to take time off due to illness. 
The rules around sick leave for salaried employees can be found in the Salaried Employees Act (Funktionærloven) and the Danish Sickness Benefits Act (Sygedagpengeloven). If you are a blue-collar worker, then sick leave would instead be granted according to the terms stated in your collective bargaining agreement and not these acts. 
You may think of illness traditionally as something physical, ranging from the flu to more serious conditions where you have to be hospitalized for treatment. In Denmark, mental or emotional illnesses are also recognized, such as depression or stress. The latter can be difficult to grasp, especially if you are a foreigner in Denmark and used to having more ‘stress’ at work in your home country. But if you are legitimately ill, then you can also go out on sick leave in these situations. You could be asked to provide proof of your illness from your doctor at any time. 
On your first day of illness, you should let your manager know that you are taking the day off and log it according to company procedures. This informs your employer (especially the payroll department) that you have taken a sick day, which is important for a couple of reasons. Your company has to pay you during sick leave, but if you are going to be out for more than 30 days, your company will be eligible for partial reimbursement by your municipality. It’s also important that there is a clear first day of illness logged, if it turns out to be a long illness. 
You don’t have to divulge the nature of your illness, but the company has the right to ask you for a ‘Fit for Work’ certificate. This applies to both short-term and long-term illnesses. This certificate is something that you would be asked to submit usually within two weeks of the request. You and your employer would fill out one part, and your doctor also has a part in the completion of the certificate.  The overall point is to evaluate how the illness has impacted your ability to perform your job duties.
If you end up taking a long period of sick leave, then your employer will contact you about conducting a sickness absence interview. This is a mandatory interview that has to be completed within four weeks from the first day of the illness. The employee is also obligated to attend, which can be in person or by phone, unless there are extenuating circumstances due to the nature of the illness.
The purpose of this interview is to talk to you about making a plan to come back to work. If you think that you will be on sick leave for more than right weeks, then the employer is entitled to ask you for a return-to-work plan. The terms of your return can be discussed and agreed upon, according to what makes sense in your situation. You could, for example, ask to return on a part-time basis at first and gradually work back up to full-time. 
Click for larger version:
Child’s first sick day
In addition to your own illnesses, many companies allow for taking time off if your child becomes ill.  This is referred to in Danish as barnets første sygedage. You’ll need to check if your company gives this benefit as it’s something that’s given through agreements with the company rather than legislation. The way the benefit generally works is that on the first day that the child is ill, parents can take the day off to care for their sick child, provided that the child is below a certain age (such as 18) and lives with the parent (or at least to a certain extent). Some companies also give a second child’s sick day, which works the same way, but it could be that the other parent stays home with the child on the second day. 
Nancy 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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Ten ways to improve your chances of finding a job in Denmark

Job searching in Denmark can be a daunting and lengthy process with many hurdles to overcome. The Local spoke to Kay Xander Mellish, author of 'How to Work in Denmark', for her tips on submitting a successful CV and application.

Ten ways to improve your chances of finding a job in Denmark

CVs in Denmark often have certain aspects of layout, presentation and content in common. By writing a CV that sticks to some of these recognisable customs, you may improve your chances of catching the eye of a potential employer.

1. Length

“Keep it to one excellent page, or two if you’re more senior. I’d say if you’re aged 30 and under, one page will be enough. Only add the jobs that are relevant. Employers don’t want to hear about that restaurant server or babysitting job if it’s not relevant to the role,” Mellish said.

2. Format

At the top of your CV, a paragraph describing your experience, skills, education and character is a common way to lead into a CV. This text can be adapted depending on the job you’re applying for and how you want to present your skills.

“Add three adjectives about yourself that you can support with an example, rather than ten adjectives with no story. For example, say you are innovative for this reason. People don’t like hot air in Denmark,” Mellish said.

Aside from the profile text, chronological lists of qualifications, relevant employment history and other relevant experience should be kept brief enough to fit the one to two pages.

3. Show your personal side and a photo

It is expected that applicants include a section about their hobbies, even family situation on their CV in Denmark, as well as a photo, to give a sense of who they are as a person.

“Danish employers are interested in you as a human, more so than employers in other countries so include information about yourself, including your age and your hobbies.

“Choose a good quality photo that is not too serious but shows you looking friendly and approachable,” Mellish said.

4. Story telling

“Think in terms of story telling”, Mellish advised. “Pure letters and numbers don’t mean a lot to employers in Denmark, they need to know what projects you’ve done, what role you played and what kind of person you are through your CV.

“So rather than writing ‘I have these grades’, it’s better to say ‘I worked on this project, it took this long, I achieved this'”, Mellish said.

5. Hit the ground running

Mellish called this “plug and play”, where you show you will slot right into the company and get going with the role.

“When employers are reading your CV, they want to know what you can do on day one of the job. Sell your ability to solve someone’s problem. You need to give the impression you can add value straight away.

“In Denmark the average length of time in a job is two and a half years, because you can take your pension when you move, so employers don’t want someone they need to spend time training,” Mellish told The Local.

READ ALSO: Five tips for writing an effective Danish CV

6. Teamwork

“Group work is very important in Denmark, more than individual achievements. So talk about your teamwork and how you worked with a group to produce a good business result. It shouldn’t be ‘me, me, me’ – that’s a turn off,” Mellish said.

7. LinkedIn

“People in Denmark love LinkedIn so you need a fabulous LinkedIn profile with a good picture. Before anyone calls you for an interview they’ll have looked at your LinkedIn profile.

“In your profile, include the storytelling, explaining the projects you’ve worked on. If your job involves a uniform, I recommend wearing it in your LinkedIn photo so people get that impression of you right away. Your background photo should also be work-related, not rainbows or puppies. Use it to tell the story of who you are,” Mellish advised.

8. Unsolicited application

This is when you approach a company or department you would like to work for, without a job being advertised. The Danish term for it is uopfordret ansøgning. 

“Many people make contact on LinkedIn and ask to meet for a coffee, where they chat and rather than pitch for a job, they ask if the person knows anyone looking for someone like them. Danish employers welcome this and many people are hired this way,” Mellish said.

Another way to network is to join a union, Mellish advised. They often have career events but can also help read your contract when you get a job offer, or help with any problems in the workplace. 

9. Ring the recruiter

The phone number of the hiring manager will often be in the job advert. Mellish advised finding a quiet place to ring them from and spending ten to fifteen minutes asking some good business questions.

“This also helps you work out if you might want to work for this person,” Mellish said.

“Send your CV within 24 hours of the phone call and mention you spoke to them in your application,” she added.

10. Patience

“On average it can take six months to find a job in Denmark. If it’s under this, you’re lucky. If it takes a year, it’s not you, it just takes a long time because employers are looking for someone to fit into their team.

“I wrote 100 letters, I got ten responses, three interviews and one job which I had for eight years,” Mellish told The Local.

“Danish employers are not always good at getting back to you. If you don’t hear anything, just keep applying for other jobs. If you sent an application on June 1st, you could send a follow-up email on June 15th, then you’ll have to leave it and move on,” she advised. 

Kay Xander Mellish’s book ‘How to Work in Denmark’ offers both job-searching advice and tips on how to succeed in the Danish workplace.