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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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 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.