Working in Denmark: Taking parental leave

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Working in Denmark: Taking parental leave
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Denmark has a generous parental leave policy but it can be difficult to understand. Human resources expert Nancy Rasmussen walks you through it.


Becoming a parent is one of the biggest life changes that one can undertake. On a personal level, there are many things that you will want to take care of before and after the child arrives, and on a professional level, you may wonder how this will affect your job situation. 
Fortunately, the policies for maternity and parental leave in Denmark give you time to make the transition to parenthood and then spend precious time with your new arrival, while also ensuring that you have a job to return to after your leave of absence. 
The Danish Maternity Leave Act describes what you are entitled to as an employee by law in terms of leave. There are also some benefits related to maternity and parental leave that are determined by the employer/employee agreement. In practical terms, there are three types of leave related to having a child: leave during pregnancy, maternity leave and then parental leave. 
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If you are pregnant, you can take four weeks off before the child is born as pregnancy leave. If you are adopting a child, you can also take off time before the child comes to live with you and you may even be entitled to additional time if you are adopting from overseas. 
With regard to taking time off after the child arrives, mothers are entitled to take 14 weeks of maternity leave. During these first 14 weeks, the father (or co-mother) can take two consecutive weeks off as well. Afterwards, both parents are entitled to split 32 weeks of parental leave, which can be further extended by another 14 weeks.  
According to the law, parents can receive a total of 52 weeks of paid leave per child from the government. The amount that the parents are entitled to is less than the amount of a full salary. However, many companies are likely to have an employee agreement in place in which they pay your full salary for a period of time. Many private companies in Denmark have this kind of arrangement. In this situation, the amount paid by the government is reimbursed to the company, which in turn pays the parent’s full salary. At the point in which the employee’s right to full salary during maternity/parental leave at the company stops, the government benefits are then paid directly to the employee. 
This right to full salary is determined completely by employer/employee agreements, much like some of the other Danish employee benefits (for example, the right to additional vacation), so it may be different from workplace to workplace.  You will need to check with your individual HR departments to understand how it works at your place of employment. 
At the end of your leave, you will return to a job that is at least equivalent to the one that you had when you left. However, it is important to also note that your employer can legally terminate you while you are pregnant or on maternity or parental leave, as long as they can prove that the basis of your termination has absolutely nothing to do with your pregnancy or leave, for example in the case of a major restructuring. The burden of proof in this situation is on the employer.
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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