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WORKING IN DENMARK

Denmark wants migrants to work for welfare benefits

Migrants in Denmark will be told to complete 37 hours' work a week in order to receive welfare benefits, the government said on Tuesday.

Denmark wants migrants to work for welfare benefits
A file photo showing oversized cigarette butts installed at Amager Strandpark near Copenhagen as part of an art installation. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Migration and integration have become key issues for voters in Denmark, which boasts some of Europe’s toughest immigration policies.

The government, which has set a target of zero asylum applications, said the plan was designed to help migrants assimilate into society.

“We want to introduce a new work logic where people have a duty to contribute and be useful, and if they can’t find a regular job, they have to work for their allowance,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told reporters.

“For too many years we have done a disservice to a lot of people by not demanding anything of them,” she added of the plan, which needs to be approved by lawmakers.

Mai Villadsen, spokeswoman of the left-wing Red Green Alliance, condemned Tuesday’s announcement as misguided.

“I’m afraid this will end up as state-supported social dumping, sending people into crazy jobs,” she told broadcaster TV2.

Initially, it will be a requirement for those who have been on benefits for three to four years, and who have not attained a certain level of schooling and proficiency in Danish.

Working hours will be a minimum of 37 hours a week, Frederiksen said.

According to the government, six out of 10 women from the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey do not participate in the Danish labour market.

The plan says it aims to integrate 20,000 people by pushing them to find some form of work, through local government offices.

“It could be a job on the beach picking up cigarette butts or plastic… (or) helping to solve various tasks within a company,” employment minister Peter Hummelgaard said.

“The most important thing for us is that people get out of their homes,” he added.

Frederiksen’s government, in power since 2019, has set a target of zero asylum applications, which have already fallen. Just 851 were received between January 1st and July 31st this year.

According to official statistics, 11 percent of Denmark’s 5.8 million people are immigrants, and 58 percent of those are citizens of a country that Copenhagen classifies as “non-Western”.

READ ALSO: What do Denmark’s proposed welfare reforms mean for foreign residents?

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WORKING IN DENMARK

Feriepenge: Denmark’s vacation pay rules explained

If you work for a company in Denmark, your yearly time off is likely to be provided for by the 'feriepenge' accrual system for paid annual leave.

If you work in Denmark, a good understanding of 'feriepenge' (holiday allowance) rules will help you plan time off in the summer and around the calendar.
If you work in Denmark, a good understanding of 'feriepenge' (holiday allowance) rules will help you plan time off in the summer and around the calendar. Photo by Felipe Correia on Unsplash

One of the perks of being a full-time employee in the country, Danish holiday usually adds up to five weeks of vacation annually. There are also nine days of public holidays, which everyone benefits from.

The Danish Holiday Act (Ferieloven) provides the basis for paid holiday through accrued feriepenge (‘vacation money’ or ‘vacation allowance’). This covers most salaried employees, although some people, such as independent consultants or freelancers, are not encompassed.

What is feriepenge?

‘Holiday money’ or feriepenge is a monthly contribution paid out of your salary into a special fund, depending on how much you earn.

You can claim back the money once per year, provided you actually take holiday from work. It is earned at the rate of 2.08 vacation days per month.

If you are employed in Denmark, you will be notified when the money can be paid out (this is in May under normal circumstances) and directed to the borger.dk website, from where you claim it back from national administrator Udbetaling Danmark.

Anyone who is an employee of a company registered in Denmark and who pays Danish taxes is likely to receive holiday pay, as this means you will be covered by the Danish Holiday Act (ferieloven). You are not an employee if, for example, you are self-employed, are a board member on the company for which you work or are unemployed.

How do I save up time off using feriepenge?

The law, which covers the five standard weeks or (normally 25 days) of paid vacation, states that you are entitled to take vacation during the vacation year period. You earn paid vacation throughout a calendar year at the rate of 2.08 days per month.

You earn vacation time in the period September 1st-August 31st. You can then use your vacation in the same year that you earn it and up to December 31st the subsequent year – in other words, over a 16-month period.

These rules also mean that holiday earned during a given month can be used from the very next month, in what is referred to as concurrent holiday (samtidighedsferie).

So when can I take time off using this accrued vacation?

The Danish vacation year is further broken down so that there is a “main holiday period” which starts on May 1st and ends on September 30th. During this time, you are entitled to take three weeks’ consecutive vacation out of your five weeks.

A lot of people take three weeks in a row while others break it up – which is why you often hear Danish people who work full time wishing each other a “good summer holiday” as if it’s the end of the school term.

Outside of the main holiday period, the remaining 10 days of vacation can be taken whenever you like. You can take up to five days together but may also use the days individually.

If your employer wants to decide when you should take any of your vacation days, they have to let you know at least three months in advance for main holiday, or one month in advance for remaining holiday (barring exceptional circumstances, such as an unforeseen change to the company’s operations or if the company closes for the summer shortly after you begin employment).

If you have not earned paid vacation, you still have the right to take unpaid holiday.

Public Holidays

In addition to the vacation days, there are also public holidays. These are bunched up mostly in the early part of the year and around Christmas. However, the period between June and Christmas includes the above-mentioned main annual leave, so there’s not usually long to wait until you can take time off.

Denmark has public holidays on:’

  • New Year’s Day  
  • Maundy Thursday
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday  
  • Great Prayer Day (Store Bededag)
  • Ascension Day
  • Whit Monday
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day

In addition to the usual public holidays, companies can choose to give extra time off, for example on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve. There are also differences regarding Labour Day and Constitution Day, depending on where you work, what kind of work you do, or the collective bargaining agreement under which you are employed.

Sometimes you can get a whole day off for these extra holidays, sometimes just a half day. Check with your employer for details.

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