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CHRISTMAS

Could Danish companies cancel Christmas parties?

Large Danish companies are considering cancellation or applying restrictions to their Christmas parties, or julefrokoster, due to the current soaring infection numbers across the country.

High Covid-19 infection numbers in Denmark are causing companies to reconsider Christmas party plans.
High Covid-19 infection numbers in Denmark are causing companies to reconsider Christmas party plans.Photo by Scott Warman on Unsplash

The annual work Christmas dinner, or julefrokost in Danish, is a staple of the country’s festive traditions and famous for often being a rowdy occasion at which normally-reserved colleagues allow themselves to let off steam.

Last year saw the festive occasions cancelled en masse as the country was hit hard by a second wave of coronavirus infections prior to the arrival of a vaccination programme against Covid-19.

No restrictions are currently in place preventing companies from having Christmas parties of any attendance, although a valid Covid-19 health pass or coronapas is required for organised events over a certain size.

Some companies in Denmark are reported to be considering asking staff to produce a valid coronapas, after the law was recently updated to reimplement a provision allowing this.

Shipping giant Maersk meanwhile says it plans to demand staff document vaccination in order to work on site.

READ ALSO: Maersk to require office staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19

A surge of infections in Denmark in recent weeks is now prompting some companies to consider applying restrictions to their Christmas parties or even cancelling them completely, media Finans reports.

Thursday saw Denmark register over 4,000 new cases of Covid-19 for the first time in 2021. 362 are currently admitted to hospital nationally. That is some way short of the peak in late 2020 and January this year, when the number of hospitalised patients exceeded 900.

However, that was at a time before a significant proportion of the population was vaccinated against Covid-19.

75.5 percent of the Danish population is currently vaccinated against the virus while 77.2 percent have had at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the latest official data.

Danfoss has cancelled large Christmas parties for its staff. Grundfos is to demand a valid coronapas while fashion firm DK Company wants all party attendees to take a Covid-19 test before its seasonal events, Finans writes.

“Our focus is to ensure the safety and health of our staff, we therefore closely follow the recommendations and guidance of authorities. Since large gatherings like Christmas parties can present a risk for spreading infections, we’ve decided to cancel the large Christmas parties,” Danfoss head of press Mikkel Thrane told Finans.

Other companies told the media they still plan to go ahead with Christmas parties.

Grundfos told Finans in a written comment that it was closely following developments and that its annual festivities would only take place if this was “considered medically advisable”. The company has yet to cancel planned events but staff will be asked to produce a valid coronapas.

Horesta, an interest organisation for the hospitality industry, said that it had so far received “fortunately only a few” cancellations from companies wishing to scrap Christmas parties.

“There are however many questions about how a big Christmas party can be held safely and advisably. We are fortunately experts on this but corona is creating a certain hesitancy just now,” the organisation’s political director Kristian Nørgaard told Finans.

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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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