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What you need to know about sick leave in Denmark

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What you need to know about sick leave in Denmark
Photo: billiondigital/Depositphotos
15:57 CEST+02:00
Illnesses can happen to anyone at any time, but it’s important to know the rules of the country in which you are working.

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.

In Denmark, mental health conditions such as depression or stress are treated on equal footing with physical illnesses. The latter can range from the flu to more serious conditions where you have to be hospitalized for treatment.

Taking sick leave in cases of the former might feel 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 are entitled to take sick leave in these situations. You might be asked to provide proof of your illness from your doctor at any time. 

How do I take sick leave?

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.

You must inform your employer that you are sick within two hours of the time you would normally have started working, unless there are extenuating circumstances which prevented you from getting in touch.

This is important for a couple of reasons, but if you are going to be out for a significant period, 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 in case it turns out to be a long illness. 

To get sick pay in Denmark, you must live and pay tax in the country (a few exceptions apply under special circumstances).

It is your employer and/or the relevant local municipality which is responsible for paying out sick pay, depending on a number of conditions, primarily related to the length of time for which you have been sick, and also for how long you worked for your employer before illness.

If or when the municipality is responsible for paying you during sick leave, you will receive a form via the secure digital mail system e-boks, which you must fill in and return by the given deadline.

You should receive the form as a result of your employer informing the municipality of your absence due to illness. You should contact the municipality within three weeks of taking sick leave if you do not receive the form.

If your employer is paying your sick leave, they can apply to the municipality to refund them using the municipal sick pay you would otherwise have received. In this case, you will receive a statement containing the information your employer has passed on to the municipality. You should check to make sure the details are correct.

Additionally, one of the following requirements must be fulfilled if you are to qualify for municipal sick pay (sygedagpenge):

  • You must have worked for 240 hours within the last six months prior to your first day of sick leave
  • Had you not been sick, you would have qualified for unemployment cover (dagpenge or arbejdsløshedsdagpenge) in relevant circumstances. This requires membership of an insurance provider known as an A-kasse (which provides for sick pay if you are unemployed at the time you become sick)
  • You have completed a vocational education programme (erhvervsmæssig uddannelse) lasting 18 months or longer within the last month
  • You are enrolled in certain types of internship or education programmes or worker at a reduced number of weekly hours for health-related reasons (flexjob).

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

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 this is impossible 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 eight 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.  

You don’t have to divulge the nature of your illness, but your company has the right to ask you for a ‘Fit for Work’ certificate. This applies to both short-term and long-term illnesses.

You and your employer 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.

How long can I take off sick?

You are allowed an initial 22 weeks off sick within a 9-month period. Before these 22 weeks are up, your municipality will assess whether your sick leave period can be extended.

An extension can be granted for a number of reasons, including the presence of a plan to return to work once you are fit again; a plan to ease back in through a period of part-time work or training known as virksomhedspraktik; diagnosis of serious illness, or pending outcomes of other types of assessments.

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 (child’s first sick day).

You’ll need to check if your company gives this benefit as it’s something that’s provided for 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. 

Sources: Borger.dk, FOA, sundhed.dk

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

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