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Parental leave in Denmark: how much time can you take off?

Parental leave policy is one of the factors often cited as being part of a healthy work-life balance in Denmark, but how do the rules work for internationals?

Parental leave in Denmark: how much time can you take off?
File photo: Anne Bæk / Ritzau Scanpix

For many families, the generous conditions may even be a factor in choosing to live in the Nordic nation. But the specific terms, and the process for applying for benefits, can be tricky to get to grips with.

As a parent who works for an employer in Denmark, you're entitled to time off work to care for your child (parental leave or barselsorlov) during pregnancy and after birth.

Who is eligible for parental benefits?

EU provisions protect the social security rights of EU citizens and nationals of non-EU countries legally residing in the EU. This means that you can have the same rights and obligations as Danish nationals with regard to social security.

Wage earners in Denmark qualify for parental leave provided that they are under employment on the first day of the leave, have worked for at least 160 hours during the four months prior to the start of the parental leave, and worked for at least forty hours during at least three of those four months.

People in full-time education and paid internships that are part of education programmes (praktik) also qualify for parental leave.

Information about your employment status and working hours is automatically registered by your employer with Udbetaling Danmark, the public authority responsible for payment of welfare.

What if I am not in employment at the time I go on parental leave?

If you have lived outside of Denmark or another EU or EEA country in the recent or medium-term past, it is important to know the new residency-based rules which can affect whether you qualify for unemployment insurance payouts through your 'A-kasse' provider.

This is because if you don't qualify for parental leave through employment, you can qualify for it through your unemployment insurance — but you must be eligible for the unemployment insurance payouts (known in Danish as dagpenge).

You can read about the A-kasse system of private unemployment insurance, as well the residency requirement which applies if you have lived abroad, in more detail in this article.

READ ALSO: What you need to know before signing up with Danish unions and 'A-kasse' unemployment insurance

How much time can I take?

Parental leave in Denmark is organised as follows:

  • Pregnancy leave for the mother from four weeks prior to expected birth date.
  • Maternity leave for mother for 14 weeks following birth.
  • Leave for father or second parent for two weeks following birth or at any time during first 14 weeks subject to employer agreement.
  • 32 weeks of paid parental leave which can be shared between the two parents, with an optional further 32 weeks unpaid.

How do we share the leave?

The leave can be taken simultaneously or separately, or a combination of the two.

Before you go on parental leave, you must let your employer know so they can make the appropriate registrations with Udbetaling Danmark. You will then receive a message through the 'e-boks' secure mail system — which is linked to your personal registration number — advising you how to apply for parental leave payments. This must be done no later than eight weeks after the birth of your child.

To share the 32 weeks’ paid parental leave, you will need to inform Udbetaling Danmark via the website. You can also extend or postpone parental leave by logging into ‘Min barsel’ (’My parental leave’) here.

What if my child was born outside Denmark?

If you move to Denmark after your child is born, you will be entitled to parental leave provided you are not receiving social security from the country you moved from. You must of course also fulfil the normal criteria.

What if one parent is entitled to Danish parental leave?

If you, but not the child’s other parent, are entitled to Danish parental leave, you will be eligible for 16 of the 32 shared weeks. You are entitled to all 32 weeks if you live alone with the child, however, or if you can provide proof that the other parent is not receiving parental welfare from another country within that period.

And if I'm self-employed?

Self-employed people qualify for parental leave under the following conditions:

  • You have been in work for 6 of the last 12 months.
  • You were working throughout the final month before you took parental leave.
  • Your business is not running at a loss.
  • You have been working no less than 18.5 hours a week.
  • You must be together with your child during the parental leave period.

You also need to fulfil the general requirements to be viewed as self-employed by Udbetaling Danmark. These include (but are not limited to) tax registrations, business insurance and registered company ownership or part-ownership.

How much money will I get?

Your parental leave benefits are based on a calculation of your normal average hourly wage and how many hours per week you are on leave. In 2018, the highest amount was 116 kroner per hour, or 4,300 kroner per week (prior to tax deduction).

How do I raise the subject with my employer?

People who have moved to Denmark from a country where lengthy parental leave is not the norm may feel nervous about broaching the topic, but you shouldn't. Parental leave is your legal right, so your employer cannot deny the request as long as it's made within the appropriate time frame.

This article aims to set out the basics of parental leave rules in Denmark. It is not exhaustive and you should contact Udbetaling Denmark, your employer or your Akasse if you have questions regarding your specific situation.

Did you find this article helpful? Is there anything else you’d like us to cover? Anything you think we missed out? Let us know.

Sources:, Ministry of EmploymentEuropean Commission, Folketinget

READ ALSO: What you need to know about vacation in Denmark – and how the rules are about to change


Meet the group building bridges between Danes and foreign residents

Moving to Denmark as an expat often turns out to be more difficult than you would expect. Snigdha Bansal, a student at Aarhus University's Mundus Journalism program, writes about the Facebook group trying to build bridges with Danes.

Meet the group building bridges between Danes and foreign residents
The group has six active admins, from both Denmark and elsewhere. Photo: Tine H. Jorgensen
Moving to Denmark as an expat, one looks forward to embracing Danish culture and getting integrated into one of the world’s happiest societies. However, it often turns out to be more difficult than you would expect. 
Established in 2019, ‘Beyond Stereotypes: Danes & Internationals’ seeks to facilitate interactions between expats and locals in Denmark
‘Difficult to integrate with the Danes’
Poulomi Deb Bose, 33, moved to Denmark from India with her husband in June 2019. She says Danes have been very helpful in everyday interactions – at supermarkets, or at bus stops, helping her find her way in English. However, it has been integrating with them that has proved difficult.
“My interaction with Danes is limited to my landlord or people at the local kommune. It’s even difficult to spot them around, unless at the gym, where it never goes beyond a smile. It is a lot easier to talk to other internationals”, she says.
A couple months ago, a friend told her about a Facebook group with not just internationals but also Danes. Up until then, she had only been part of the groups with Internationals and this was the first of its kind where both communities were encouraged to interact with each other.
‘Building bridges’
Beyond Stereotypes: Danes & Internationals is a Facebook group with over 2,400 members.
The group was formed by Tine H. Jorgensen, a 56-year old academic and practitioner. While it acts as a meeting point for expats in Denmark and Danes, members are also invited to share their own unique experiences of interactions within the community to inspire and help others.
The idea of the group was sparked in early 2019 by a conversation Jorgensen had after a radio show in Aarhus where she was performing clairvoyance on air. The host of the show, Houda Naji from Morocco, and Enas Elgarhy, another invitee from Egypt, told her of their experiences of getting married to Danes and settling in Denmark.
“They talked about how difficult it was to make Danish friends, how long it took to get a CPR number which was needed for basic things like going to the gym, and other issues that made me realise how ridiculous it was for internationals. I asked myself what I could do about this.”
She decided the least she could do was to start a Facebook group, and invited both Naji and Elgarhy to join her as admins.
As the group has grown, its “bridge-building” role has become clearer, says Jorgensen, as more International and Danish admins come on board. 
The group organises monthly meet-ups for members to interact. Photo: Tine H. Jorgensen
‘Challenging our own biases’
Marta Gabriela Rodriguez-Karpowicz is a 38-year old life coach from Poland who recently started her own practice after working at the Danish corporation Vestas for almost 10 years.
She recently became a Danish citizen after 12 years of living in the country and is also an admin of the group. She took on the role because she believed that it would be “a worthwhile effort to build bridges between Danes and Internationals, which doesn’t appear to be happening naturally.” She wanted to be a part of this initiative owing to her own struggles to integrate and her experience of having grown past that phase, using which she could help others. 
“I also wanted to identify which biases I still had myself, so I could challenge them and grow beyond stereotypes”, she says.
‘Overcoming challenges’
The group connects people across Denmark by organising hobby-based meet-ups, providing a platform to discuss travel stories around Denmark as well as social issues such as racism. Job postings and job-seeking posts are also welcome, which some would say is the biggest challenge. 
Both Bose and Rodriguez-Karpowicz accompanied their husbands who found jobs in Denmark, and did not expect the difficulties they would face while finding jobs for themselves.
Bose associates it with the trust factor that is deeply ingrained in Danes. “I have realised they can be quite rigid in trusting outsiders for jobs or with references”, she says. 
This is also an area Rodriguez-Karpowicz believes she can help members with, since she found it difficult to get a job despite being “highly educated and experienced”, but eventually managed.
Integration in a new country can be difficult, but expats shouldn’t give up, according to Jorgensen. 
She acknowledges that racism does exist in Denmark, but at the same time, there are a lot of Danes who are very welcoming, and that’s the Danish attitude she wanted to highlight.
“I wanted to do my little bit to bring that forward, and connect people in a practical way.”