Denmark reinstates Covid-19 sick leave compensation for parents and companies

Increased sick days taken by staff at Danish companies, related to the country’s current high rate of Covid-19 infections, are to be eligible for compensation after the government reached a deal with labour market representatives.

Denmark is to again help cover sick pay costs for parents and companies unable to work from home during Covid-19 sickness and isolation.
Denmark is to again help cover sick pay costs for parents and companies unable to work from home during Covid-19 sickness and isolation. Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Because an increased number of people are testing positive for and getting sick with Covid-19, sick days taken at Danish companies are increasing.

This means companies are losing money when obliged to pay staff while they are in isolation.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about sick leave in Denmark

That problem could soon be addressed by temporary special provisions agreed between the government and labour market representatives on Tuesday.

The agreement would allow companies to apply for compensation for expenses incurred paying sick pay from the first day off taken by staff.

Parents who miss work to look after children sent home from school due to Covid-19 will be able to apply for care pay for up to ten days. Children must be aged 13 or under.

“If you can work from home, you should work from home. This is for all the people who have to attend work and cannot work from home,” Lizette Risgaard, head of the trade union umbrella organisation Fagbevægelsens Hovedorganisation (FH), told news wire Ritzau.

The sick pay scheme strongly resembles an earlier Covid-19 provision which expired on July 1st this year. It return is effective as of Tuesday and can be applied retroactively.

Companies have called for the scheme to return since July because of guidelines requiring isolation for people who have symptoms of Covid-19 or test positive for the coronavirus.

Under normal rules, companies must pay up to the first 30 days of sick pay for staff. The scheme announced on Tuesday allows companies to apply for reimbursement for this.

A criterion for the compensation is that the staff member in question is unable to work from home.

The organisation representing Danish employers, DA, said it backed the arrangement.

“Infections are increasing in society and we are seeing in many places that staff are forced to stay at home because of coronavirus. It’s very sensible that we are reimplementing the provisions where you can statutory sick pay from the first day,” DA chairperson Jacob Holraad said.

The agreement is set to expire on February 28th 2022. It will be reviewed close to this time to assess whether an extension is needed.

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Why Danish government is considering more scope for epidemic restrictions

The Danish government must currently receive the backing of parliament before implementing major interventions in response to a public health threat such as the Covid-19 pandemic. But an evaluation by two ministries suggests they favour more flexibility on the area.

Why Danish government is considering more scope for epidemic restrictions

Under current laws, parliament must vote to approve the categorisation of a disease as a ‘critical threat’ to society (samfundskritisk).

Only when a disease or an epidemic has been categorised in this way by parliament can all  of the interventions available to the government under the epidemic law be brought into play.

In other words, the government must face parliamentary checks and controls before implementing restrictions.

Those interventions range from the most invasive, such as lockdowns and assembly limits, to less invasive, but still significant, measures such as face mask mandates and health pass requirements like those seen with the coronapas (Covid-19 health pass) during the Covid-19 pandemic.

READ ALSO: Denmark decommissions country’s Covid-19 health pass

The Ministry of Health now wants to change the existing structure within the Epidemic Law, newspaper Jyllands-Posten reported on Monday.

In an evaluation, the ministry proposes a change to the rules such that requirements for things like face masks and the coronapas can be introduced for diseases that are not only in the ‘critical threat’ category, but also for those rated an almen farlig sygdom, ‘dangerous to public health’.

This would put some of the restrictions in the lower category which is not subject to parliamentary control.

The evaluation was sent by the health and justice ministries to parliament in October but has escaped wider attention until now, Jyllands-Posten writes.

In its evaluation of the epidemic law, the Justice Ministry states that there is a “large jump” between the small pool of restrictions that can be introduced against ‘dangerous to public health diseases’ and the major societal interventions the government – with parliamentary backing – can use once a disease is classed as a ‘critical threat’.

“This jump does not quite seem to correspond with the actual demand for potential restrictions against diseases dangerous to public health, which can spread while not being critical to society,” the ministry writes.

The health ministry said in the evaluation the “consideration” should be made as to whether less invasive measures should continue to pass through parliament, as is the case under the current rules.

The national organisation for municipalities, KL, has told parliament that it backs the thinking of the ministries over the issue but that parliamentary control must be retained.

The Danish Council on Ethics (Det Etiske Råd) told Jyllands-Posten that it was “very sceptical” regarding the recommendation.

“The council therefore points out that a slippery slope could result if the restrictions, interventions and options that can be brought into use with diseases that present a critical threat to society, can also be used with dangerous diseases like normal influenza,” the council said.

The minority government’s allied political parties all stated scepticism towards the proposal, in comments reported by Jyllands-Posten.

In a written comment, the health ministry told the newspaper that Health Minister Magnus Heunicke would discuss committee stage responses with the other partied before deciding on “the need for initiatives”.