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SICK LEAVE

What you need to know about sick leave in Denmark

Illnesses can happen to anyone at any time, but it’s important to know the rules of the country in which you are working.

What you need to know about sick leave in Denmark
Photo: billiondigital/Depositphotos

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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For members

LIVING IN DENMARK

What are the hardest things about moving to provincial Denmark as a foreigner?

Foreign residents who have moved to lesser-known regions of the country share their experiences of life in provincial Denmark. 

Provincial regions of Denmark want to attract skilled foreign workers, but what are the biggest challenges faced by relocators?
Provincial regions of Denmark want to attract skilled foreign workers, but what are the biggest challenges faced by relocators? Photo: Signe Goldmann/Ritzau Scanpix

Editor’s note: there are of course also many positives about living in provincial Denmark, and people based in those areas were happy to share those too. Read what they said in this article.

When Lea Cesar moved from Slovenia to the town of Ringkøbing in 2011, she didn’t know much about the region of western Jutland. 

“In the beginning, I didn’t like how difficult it was to find a job as a foreigner in a smaller city,” Cesar told The Local. Back then she didn’t speak Danish, and that made it hard to find a job that matched her skills and qualifications. 

“I later took it as a challenge and started my own company,” Cesar said, opening a cafe and bakery called Baking Sins in central Ringkøbing. Once she’d taken things into her own hands, she thrived and came to love her town. 

“I love the small shops with handcrafted products,” she said, drawing a comparison to the big shops and chain stores of larger cities. “The culture here is totally different. Ringkøbing is a smaller town, but feels big enough for me.”

Considering the pros and cons of a life in lesser-known parts of Denmark has never been more relevant, as the Danish government amps up efforts to decentralise Denmark and municipalities look to internationals to balance out declining populations. 

READ ALSO: Is it easier for foreigners to find a job outside Denmark’s major cities?

There may be fewer job opportunities, depending on your industry and Danish language skills

Fewer job opportunities, Cesar said, is one of the primary differences between living in a town like Ringkøbing versus a larger city. 

“There aren’t as many companies here searching for employees that only speak English,” she said. “I think it’s important to speak at least basic Danish; otherwise it would be hard to come here.”

Antoniya Petkov, originally from Bulgaria, faced similar challenges finding work when she moved to Ringkøbing several years ago after her husband accepted a job at a wind energy company in the area. 

“Most of the job opportunities in my field in the area require a high level of Danish language, which I am still working toward,” Petkov told The Local. 

In the meantime, she continues to commute to Aarhus, where she works as a technical recruiter in systematics at a large Danish software firm. “However, there are a lot more opportunities for developers, engineers and people with a technical job profile where Danish isn’t required,” Petkov said.

Even in technical roles, Danish proficiency helps. 

Victor Balaban, originally from Moldova, moved to Vejle while working at Siemens Gamesa. Although he said there are plenty of job opportunities in the region, Balaban said his options would be significantly more limited if he didn’t speak Danish.

Candice Progler-Thomsen, an American living in Lolland, said Danish proficiency is “almost essential” to find a job in the municipality. “There will be greater job opportunities here for individuals who learn Danish,” she told The Local. 

And, because it’s a smaller area with fewer employers, Progler-Thomsen said people may need to be willing to commute or otherwise expand their job search.

READ ALSO: Why (and how) Danish provincial areas want to hire skilled foreign workers

On the other hand, there may also be less competition for jobs in lesser-known parts of Denmark, said Mariola Kajkowska. 

Originally from Poland, Kajkowska moved to Vejle in 2019, where she works as an employee retention consultant. “There are often fewer applicants for each job, which increases your chance to be selected for the position,” she said.

Speaking Danish is important, professionally and socially

When Petkov first moved to Ringkøbing, it was challenging that she didn’t speak Danish. It was hard to do daily tasks, like communicate with workers at her children’s daycare or chat with her neighbours.

“People were distant at first when we bought our house in a typical Danish neighbourhood,” she said. 

It was very different from Aarhus, where they had lived before moving to Ringkøbing. “Aarhus has a huge international community,” she said. “We were always able to find friends and it was easy to get by speaking English.”

Petkov also missed the variety of English events and activities available in Aarhus. “But, we compensate by going to international events in the municipality,” she said.

Balaban, who established baseball clubs in both Herning and Vejle, said being a part of the community and getting involved is integral to building a social network and making friends in Vejle. “You have to be an active part of society,” he said.

Although learning Danish was a challenge, Petkov also saw it as an opportunity. “I’m not sure I would have learned Danish if we were living in Copenhagen or Aarhus,” she said. “You just don’t need it much there.”

Now, she’s learned enough Danish to engage in small talk with her neighbours. “Once people got used to us, we felt very welcome,” Petkov said, “though I don’t think we will ever blend completely.”

Chris Wantia, also a resident of Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality, has found Danish to be integral to life in rural Denmark. 

He lives in the village of Bork Havn, population 300. “When I walk out of my house, I don’t expect my 65-year-old Danish neighbour to speak to me in English,” Wantia told The Local.

“English may be fine in the big cities, but speaking Danish here is important,” he said, adding that it would have been very challenging to purchase and renovate the two homes he and his wife, Janine, own in the municipality if he didn’t speak Danish. 

A second silver lining Petkov has identified is that living in Ringkøbing has also enabled her family to engage more deeply with Danes and Danish culture, adding that most of her friends are Danish. 

“If you really want to dive into Danish culture, a place like Ringkøbing is amazing,” she said.

There’s less to do, depending on your interests (and you might need to drive)

“You can count on one hand the number of good restaurants within 50 kilometres of Bork Havn,” Wantia told The Local. Although that wasn’t a dealbreaker for him and his wife, Janine, it might be worth some consideration before moving to a village like Bork Havn. 

“If you want many restaurants, parties, or meeting new people all the time, this isn’t the place for you,” he said. “It’s quiet here. Some people might not like that, but it’s perfect for us.”

Vejle, though much larger than Bork Havn with a population of 113,000, also isn’t a very lively city in terms of nightlife, according to Balaban.

“I’d say it’s a mature city,” he said. “It’s a quiet city that attracts a lot of families and people who are more settled down.”

Ultimately, having ‘things to do’ nearby depends on which activities you prefer. 

In Lolland, Progler-Thomsen said it’s “a bit of a sacrifice” to not have easy access to the cultural activities the family had in Copenhagen. 

READ ALSO: Are provincial parts of Denmark a good option for international families?

In exchange, her family has access to activities it enjoys that weren’t available in Copenhagen, including many outdoor activities and sports. “We love the Safari Park that’s only a 7-minute drive from our house,” Progler-Thomsen said. 

That’s something else to consider, though: driving. 

Kajkowska, in Vejle, said driving will play more of a role in one’s life, living in these parts of Denmark. “I was at a party the other night and two cars had driven one and a half hours from Sønderborg to come to the party,” she said.

READ ALSO: What benefits does life in provincial Denmark offer foreign residents?

For the most part, Petkov said she doesn’t feel like she’s missing out by living in Ringkøbing.

She enjoys several favorite cafes in town, an Italian restaurant where they are regulars and enjoy chatting with the owners, exploring the beaches and woods, and escaping to the wellness hotel near their house for mini-breaks. “In the summer, it feels like living at a resort,” Petkov said. 

“Ringkøbing is a great place for our family,” she said. “The benefits outweigh the drawbacks for us.”

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