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EXPLAINED: Denmark’s new parental leave rules

New rules for parental leave in Denmark, agreed in parliament in 2021, took effect on August 1st.

New rules on statutory parental leave take effect in Denmark from August 2022.
New rules on statutory parental leave take effect in Denmark from August 2022. Photo by Gigin Krishnan on Unsplash

New parental leave rules are now in effect in Denmark after parliament last year agreed changes that bring the country into line with EU directives. A bill formalising the changes was voted through parliament in March.

After the EU in 2019 passed a directive which required member states to ensure a minimum of nine weeks’ “earmarked” parental leave for each parent by 2022, Denmark was required to reform its own parental leave provisions to align with this requirement.

The term “earmarked” (øremærket in Danish) parental leave is used because, under the new rules, the two parents cannot transfer the leave from one to another, which would one parent to take all or nearly all of the statutory parental leave. This is was possible to a greater degree under the old rules.

Under the old system, 32 weeks of parental leave (forældreorlov) could be distributed between parents as much or either sees fit and can be taken concurrently or consecutively.

Because the reformed rules tag more of the statutory parental leave to each parent, fathers and other partners are effectively entitled to nine weeks’ more leave than under the previous rules.

How do the new rules work?

Each parent is granted 24 weeks each of leave following the birth of a child, with a total of 11 weeks “earmarked” for each parent.

The mother has a right to four weeks’ pregnancy leave (which is separate from parental leave) prior to giving birth and both parents can take two weeks’ parental leave immediately after the birth.

That leaves a remaining earmarked 9 weeks, which can be taken at any time within the first year after birth 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 final 13 weeks of each parent’s leave can be transferred between parents. As such, these weeks can be split 13-13, 26-0 or anything in between. They can be taken at any time until the child’s ninth birthday.

Self-employed people, students and jobseekers are not affected by the rule requiring parental leave to be earmarked, and can transfer up to 22 weeks (the normal 13 weeks plus the 9 weeks which are “earmarked” for employed people) to the other parent.

The new rules also introduce equality between single fathers and single mothers with regard to the number of weeks of parental leave after the birth. In each case, the single parent receives 46 weeks of leave.

From January 1st 2024, single parents will also be allowed to transfer parental leave to a close family member.

LGBT+ families are permitted to divide their leave between up to four parents, also from January 1st 2024. In this case, the non-earmarked leave can be shared between legal guardians and social parents.

Social parents can include the spouse or cohabitant of a legal guardian; a known donor with a parental relationship to the child; and the spouse or cohabitant of a known donor with a parental relationship to the child.

Source: Beskæftigelsesministeriet

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Explained: The rules for naming a baby in Denmark

Denmark is a country with a love of rules and naming a baby is no different. In order to protect children, there is a naming law, which requires names to be approved by a family court. Here are the details for naming a baby in Denmark.

Explained: The rules for naming a baby in Denmark

First of all, you must name your baby before they reach six months old, otherwise you face a fine.

Your baby must be given at least one first name and one surname. If the child has not been given a surname within the deadline, then the mother’s surname will automatically be given.

How to register your child’s name

Once you have settled upon a name, before your baby is six months old, you need to go to borger.dk and use your MitID to register the name. The application is processed at your local church parish, except in southern Jutland where it is through the municipality. 

You can also choose to register your baby’s name when they are baptised, if they are younger than six months old. There is an exception if you live in southern Jutland, where the baby’s name has to be registered at the municipality.

Many Danes baptise their babies before six months – they then get both a baptism certificate and birth certificate issued by the parish.

If you have registered your baby’s name digitally, you receive confirmation and a CPR number for your child in your Digital Post. You won’t get a certificate but you can request one using your MitID or by contacting your parish church, or for children born in southern Jutland, the municipality where the birth was registered.

What’s in a name?

A list of rules. In Denmark you can’t just pick any name you fancy.

There is a naming law (navneloven) which states that the name cannot be inappropriate or offensive or detrimental to the child, among other rules, so your choice of name has to be approved by the Family Court.

In 2006, the naming law was changed to allow for a much broader range of names so it is not as strict as you might think but it’s certainly not a free-for-all.

First name (fornavn)

The first name must indicate the gender of the child, although there are neutral names on the approved list.

The first name must also not be a surname, or be spelled in an unusual way or as mentioned above, inappropriate or offensive.

In principal, there is no limit on how many first names a child is given. You will often find people in Denmark have two first names rather than a first and middle name. For example Jens Peter, Sofia Marie. Some use both of their first names while others drop one of them.

Middle name (mellemnavn)

In Denmark, middle names are usually similar to surnames. People may choose a grandparent’s surname or one of their parent’s surnames to use as a middle name.

First names from the approved list can be used as middle names and you can have multiple middle names.

Surname (efternavn)

You can only have one last name. For example, if you have been given both your mother’s and your father’s surnames, the latter acts as a surname and the other as a middle name. But if there is a hyphen between the names, the two names can function as one name.

Surnames that are used by more than 2,000 Danes are called “free surnames” (frie efternavne“) and can be used freely by anyone who wishes, either as a surname or a middle name. You can find an overview of free surnames here, which include the familiar Juhl, Kristensen, Petersen.

If the surname is used by less than 2,000 Danes, these are called protected names, and they cannot be used if they are not from your direct family.

Picking the name

There are a total of 20,618 approved boy names, 25,316 approved girl names and 1,284 approved neutral names in Denmark, which you can find here.

According to Statistics Denmark, the most popular girls’ names in Denmark in 2021 were Alma, Ida, Freja, Clara and Ella.

The most popular boys’ name in 2021 were Oscar, Karl, William, Alfred and Oliver.

If you want a name that’s not on the list, you can apply for approval. You do this by going to your local church first, who then forward on the request to the Family Court.

If the name is approved, it is added to the official list and can then be used freely by anyone.

In 2021, there were 90 new names registered in Denmark. These included the names Africa, Berlin, Blue, Circel, Soya, Sne, Awesome, Human, Camel, Viking.

So let your imagination run free….and then double check the rule book.

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