Denmark to overhaul paid holiday rules

The days of earning up holiday hours over one period but using them over another may soon be over, the employment minister announced on Monday.

Denmark to overhaul paid holiday rules
Danish workers can be sipping drinks on the beach on paid holiday sooner under the new rules. Photo: Julian Montes/Flickr
The Danish government will attempt to head off a legal battle with the EU by changing its national paid holiday laws, Politiken reported on Monday
The EU Commission sent the Danish government a letter in November stating that Denmark’s holiday rules are in potential violation of the EU Working Time Directive, which states that all workers must be given an annual leave of at least four weeks per year. 
While the Danish Holiday Act gives workers five weeks of annual holiday, the right to holiday is built up over the course of a calendar year but used over a ‘holiday year’ that runs from May to April. 
For example, an employee who started a job in January 2015 would not be able to take paid holiday until May 2016 unless they had carry-over holiday from a previous position.
Under the Danish rules, an employee is entitled to take holiday during their first year on the job but it must be unpaid if they are entering the labour market for the first time or switching jobs without a surplus of built-up holiday days. This results in tens of thousands of employees in Denmark taking unpaid holiday during each year.  
The EU Commission argues that Denmark’s ‘holiday year’ model results in unfair delays in taking paid holiday and is in violation of the Working Directive. 
The Danish employment minister, Jørn Neergaard Larsen, told Politiken that the government is establishing a commission made up of representatives from the labour market to come up with an overhaul of the Danish Holiday Act, which he characterized as “a patchwork” in need of clearer rules. 
“The starting point for the international cooperation that we are a part of is that one should have the right to hold paid holiday in the same year it is earned. We should adopt a system in which one takes holiday parallel to its accrual,” Larsen said. 
“Those who will immediately experience the changes when the new law is ready will particularly be new graduates and those who are changing jobs,” he added. 
A spokeswoman for the workers’ union Dansk Magisterforening applauded the coming changes. 
“It has been a big problem for new graduates that they don’t have the right to take paid holiday. It is perhaps in the first year on the labour market that one needs holiday the most,” Camilla Gregersen told Politiken. 
The Confederation of Danish Employers (DA), which in November called the EU’s interference in Danish holiday rules “the work of some pen pusher,” maintained on Monday that the Danish system works as it is, but acknowledged the need for changes to remain in line with European rules. 
DA spokesman Flemming Dreesen told Politiken that new national holiday rules should be simpler than their current form in order to cut down on administrative work for employers. He also called on the Employment Ministry to come up with a transitional scheme before fully going over to a new set of rules. 

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Danes flout travel advice to visit Swedish summer houses

Kirsten, a Dane from Copenhagen, has been spending her weekends at her wooden holiday house in the Skåne countryside throughout Denmark's lockdown -- and to the irritation of Swedes barred from travelling in the other direction, she is far from unusual.

Danes flout travel advice to visit Swedish summer houses
Kirsten enjoying coffee on her terrace in Skåne. Photo: Richard Orange
“We chose not to follow the government's recommendation because we thought we have important things to do here and we don't socialize with our neighbours at this moment,” she explains when The Local visits her at her house near the village or Rörum in the Swedish holiday district of Österlen. 
“So we get out of Copenhagen and we stay at our own house and in our garden and don't talk to anyone. So we're even safer here than in Copenhagen.”
She points out that the head of the Danish Health Authority, Søren Brostrøm, had said from the start that closing borders had been a “political” decision, which had not been recommended by health experts.  
Since Denmark closed its borders on March 14th, Danish residents  have officially been advised not to cross the border into Sweden unless it is “strictly necessary”, even if the latest advice from the foreign ministry is that they do not need to quarantine. 
When Denmark opened the border to tourists from the Nordic countries on June 18th, it left every county in Sweden apart from Västerbotten off its list of “open regions”, meaning the travel advisory for Danes still applies to Skåne. 
The updated guidelines on July 4th expanded the list of Swedish “open regions” to Blekinge and Kronoberg. 
But crossing the Øresund Bridge and driving out to southeastern Skåne been part of Kirsten and her husband's weekly ritual since they bought the house 15 years ago, and it's easy to see why they would be reluctant to leave the house and its beautiful garden untended. 
“I have to take care of my kitchen garden and my greenhouse,” she says pointing to an area — fenced in to keep out deer and wild boar — which is brimming with strawberries, rocket and unusual varieties of cabbage. 
“It would be two or three times as expensive to buy a home in Denmark,” she adds. “We come here all year round, so it's not just a summer house for us.”
For most of the lockdown period, no one really seemed to mind that Danes were visiting their holiday houses in Skåne and Småland. It was only when the lockdown was being slowly lifted that the sentiment suddenly changed. 
“They changed the rhetoric when one Sunday it took two hours to pass the bridge. And we were in that queue. And suddenly all hell broke loose in Denmark and everything was on the news and in the newspapers and companies had to send out new regulation warnings to their employees,” she says. 
“But before that, there was no problem. And we still see a lot of Danish cars on the streets and we know other Danes who also have chosen not to follow the regulations.” 
The couple nonetheless mostly kept their weekly trips secret. 
“I didn't tell anyone in the beginning,” she explains. “We have a doctor in the family that that could lose their job if they do not follow the recommendations.” 
She doesn't think that the flurry of newspaper article about Danes flouting the government's advice has had any impact on the number of Danes she sees crossing the bridge and back over the weekend. 
But some people have clearly stopped. At the nearby port of Ystad, Mia and Rune are taking the ferry to holiday in Bornholm rather than visiting their summer house near the Swedish city of Kalmar, as they have decided to follow the Danish government's recommendations.
“I have to follow the orders from Denmark, of course, but I think it's kind of funny that I can go to Bornholm, but I cannot go to my summer house in Sweden which is out in the countryside,” she said. 
“It's a little silly,” her husband adds. “If we can go the other way, they should be able to go our way as well.”
But Kerstin suspects that many of the cars she sees leaving Copenhagen on Fridays are not simply using Sweden as a bridge to cross over into Bornholm. 
“And if they are all going to Bornholm, some of them are taking a big detour because they head straight off on the road to Stockholm!” she laughs.