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Parental leave in Denmark: Government wants ‘most choice possible’ for families

Denmark’s government says it is opposed in principle to controlling parental leave through legislation, but praised a recent proposal to tag set amounts of leave to each parent.

Parental leave in Denmark: Government wants 'most choice possible' for families
Labour and employment organisations in Denmark have proposed an updated model for parental leave, which complies with an EU directive on the area. Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

Employment minister Peter Hummelgaard said on Friday that, despite the government’s reluctance to legislate on the area, an EU directive requirement means it will seek to agree a deal giving as much choice as possible for families.

Hummelgaard’s comments came following initial talks between parliamentary parties over reforms to Denmark’s parental leave system.

READ ALSO: Parental leave: How new agreement could change rules in Denmark

“In the government we are of the opinion that we must try to make the best of things and do this in a way that provides as much flexibility as possible for individual families,” Hummelgaard said in comments reported by news wire Ritzau.

The minister also took a swipe at the European Union, saying the government did not want “something pulled down over its head on the part of the EU”.

A preferable arrangement would be for labour organisations – trade unions and employer representatives – to negotiate parental leave terms, Hummelgaard said.

“But we are now faced with implementing this, so our goal is to make the best of it and ensure it brings as much equality with it as possible,” he said.

The EU directive in question requires mothers and fathers to each have at least nine weeks of so-called “earmarked” parental leave, meaning the two parents cannot transfer the leave from one to another.

An agreement announced last week between the Danish Trade Union Confederation (Fagbevægelsens Hovedorganisation, FH) and Confederation of Danish Employers (Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening, DA) would set parental leave in Denmark at 11 weeks for both the mother and father or second parent.

Under the proposal formed by that agreement, the mother has a right to four weeks’ pregnancy leave prior to giving birth and both parents can take two weeks’ leave immediately after the birth.

That leaves a remaining earmarked 9 weeks, which can be taken at any time but are tagged to each parent, as are the initial 2 post-birth weeks. If one parent does not use all of their 11 weeks, those weeks lapse.

The proposal complies with the EU’s parental leave directive.

Hummelgaard expressed his backing for the agreement.

“We think the labour market organisations have put forward a very balanced and thorough proposal, which both falls in with what the directive demands and makes it as easy as possible for parents to arrange parental leave the way they want,” he said.

The proposal has elicited a divided response since its announcement last week, with backers saying they promote equality and critics saying they interfere with childcare decisions in the private sphere.

Conservative parties are largely opposed to earmarking leave for each parent, meaning that parties on the left will likely be required to vote through any bill to implement it.

Member comments

  1. Families are supported by an au pair
    as they can continue with their work without any problem. It is an opportunity to have a right hand with our children

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WORKING IN DENMARK

Can foreigners lose their Danish work permits if they take part in strikes?

Membership of a trade union in Denmark can occasionally result in your union requiring you to take part in industrial action by going on strike. But can that put foreign workers at risk of losing their work permits?

Can foreigners lose their Danish work permits if they take part in strikes?

Around two-thirds of people in employment in Denmark are members of a trade union.

Union membership forms a core part of Denmark’s “Danish model” by which the labour market regulates itself through collective bargaining agreements between the trade unions and employer organisations.

These agreements form the basis of salaries – rather than laws – and also ensure standards for working hours and vacation time under the agreements made in various labour market sectors.

As such, it’s common to be a union member in Denmark and foreign nationals working in the country are also likely to find it in their interests to join a union.

READ ALSO:

One aspect of union membership is that members may be required to participate in industrial action, such as strikes, blockades, or solidarity actions.

For example, the 2021 Danish nurses strike organised by the Danish Nurses’ Organisation (DSR), which represents 95 percent of nurses in Denmark.

“The nurses’ strike is an example of the results of unsuccessful negotiations on the renewal of their collective agreement,” Peter Waldorff, international consultant at FH, Denmark’s largest trade union confederation, told The Local.

In this case, he continued, DSR called the strike and decided which members would be required to withdraw from work to join the strike. As the strike continued from June to August 2021 (one of the longest strikes in recent Danish history), an increasing number of union members were called to strike until the dispute was resolved. 

In such a situation, it is conceivable that some of the workers asked to take part in the strike would be foreign nationals from countries outside of the EU or EEA, who need a work permit to take employment in Denmark.

READ ALSO: How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you are not an EU national?

Foreign employees who are union members would participate in the strike just as Danish members would.

Although the employees involved in the strike would stop receiving their salaries they would instead receive conflict aid from the union, “meaning the person would not need to receive dagpenge or other social aid,” Stine Lund, senior legal consultant at the Danish Society of Engineers (IDA), a trade union for engineering, science, and IT professionals, told The Local

That is an important distinction for internationals working in Denmark because receiving social benefits can impact the ability to fulfil work permit criteria.

The employer would also be required to re-employ all employees once the conflict is resolved, Lund added. 

According to FH’s legal department, Waldorff said, participation in legally-called industrial action should not affect work permits. 

The Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) confirmed this to be the case.

“Third-country citizens will not have their residence permit revoked on the basis of employment, if they don’t work at their employer due to the reason that they participate in a legal labour dispute during their employment. EU/EEA citizens residing in Denmark will not lose their right to reside in Denmark on the basis of participating in a legal labour dispute,” SIRI said in a statement to The Local.

Although foreign workers can be asked to strike, the likelihood they will have to remains relatively low.

“In Denmark, strikes are relatively rare,” Waldorff said.

In the academic labour market, collective agreement conflicts almost never happen, according to Lund.

“We haven’t been in a situation where that measure has been taken for many, many years,” she said.

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