Editor's note: an updated version of this article can be found here.
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.
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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.