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WORKING IN DENMARK

A-kasse: Everything foreigners in Denmark need to know about unemployment insurance

In uncertain times, a membership to one of Denmark’s unemployment insurance funds (A-kasse) may offer some security. Here are 20 common questions foreigners are likely to have about Denmark’s A-kasser.

a-kasse in copenhagen
There are plenty of things worth knowing about Denmark's A-kasse unemployment insurance system. The Local provides a comprehensive guide. File photo: Niels Ahlmann Olesen/Ritzau Scanpix

The prospect of Denmark experiencing an economic recession is now among business leaders’ top three concerns, according to a recent survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). 

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Denmark’s Ministry of Finance laid out three scenarios for how the Danish economy is likely to be affected, two of which anticipate a recession while all three scenarios project reduced GDP, increased inflation, and rising unemployment. 

Even outside of a potential recession, Mads Storgaard Pedersen, consultant and assistant attorney at the Federation of Danish Industry (DI), said it’s important to understand how Denmark approaches unemployment benefits. 

“The unemployment insurance scheme is an integral aspect of the Danish model of ‘flexicurity’,” Pedersen told The Local. Denmark’s flexicurity system, which aims to balance flexibility and security, relies on the ability to hire (and fire) employees with relative ease, he added, with unemployment benefits serving as an interim safety net. 

However, it’s important to understand that unemployment insurance in Denmark is voluntary, said Michel Klos, chief consultant at Danske A-kasser, an industry organisation representing Denmark’s unemployment insurance funds. This means employees in Denmark are not automatically insured against unemployment. 

Instead, unemployment benefits are administered by private unemployment insurance funds known as A-kasser (or arbejdsløshedskasse). According to Maja Krøjgaard, job consultant and team leader at the unemployment insurance fund Min A-kasse, 2.1 million Danes are members of an A-kasse. 

Whether or not an A-kasse membership is right for you, it’s important for foreigners working in Denmark to better understand the Danish unemployment system. Here, The Local answers 20 common questions foreigners are likely to have about Denmark’s unemployment insurance fund scheme.

  1. How do A-kasser work?

A-kasser are private associations who have been authorised by the Danish state to administer unemployment benefits. According to Danske A-Kasser, the state regulates the requirements for receiving benefits while the A-kasse administers the benefits.

Those interested in A-kasse membership need to apply to the A-kasse of their choice, either as a full-time or part-time insured member. A-kasse members pay a tax-deductible monthly fee, which gives them the right to receive unemployment benefits (dagpenge) should they become unemployed. 

However, members must meet certain eligibility requirements to receive unemployment benefits, which include being a member of an A-kasse for at least 12 months. According to Denmark’s digital self-service website Borger.dk, one must also have earned at least 246,924 kroner (2022) in the past three years for full-time insured and 164,616 kroner (2022) for part-time insured. 

Those who have previously received unemployment benefits must renew their eligibility by hours worked rather than income. “This means that you become eligible for benefits again once you have worked 1,924 hours within a three-year period,” Krøjgaard told The Local.

  1. Who is eligible to join an A-kasse?

To join an A-kasse, you have to be at least 18 years of age (or have completed a vocational education of at least 18 months), have more than two years left before reaching retirement age, and reside in Denmark. 

Some A-kasser specialise in particular industries while others accept members of all professions. Some accept self-employed individuals and others offer student memberships (some for free).

In addition to Danish nationals, both EU/EEA nationals and third country nationals are eligible to join an A-kasse. “The right to unemployment benefits is the same for everyone – regardless of nationality – if you have a legal residence and have a work permit,” Klos said. 

  1. Can foreign unemployment fund contributions count toward my eligibility to receive unemployment funds in Denmark?

Although members have to contribute to an unemployment insurance fund for one year, it is possible to apply to use periods from another EU/EEA country to fulfil the one-year requirement. Third country citizens living in Denmark can only aggregate insurance periods within the Nordic countries, according to Borger.dk.

To do so, one must be a resident in Denmark and become a member of a Danish unemployment insurance fund. There are additional criteria, depending on whether or not a person has been a member of a Danish unemployment insurance fund within the last 5 years, outlined on Borger.dk.

  1. What impact does Brexit have on unemployment benefits for UK citizens working in Denmark?

“The UK is now considered a third country after Brexit,” Krøjgaard said, adding that UK nationals residing in Denmark before January 1st 2021 were covered by a withdrawal agreement so long as they received a new residence document from the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) to preserve their rights.

“This meant that they could still reside and work in Denmark.”

SIRI confirmed this to be the case in a statement to The Local, adding that “UK nationals who do not hold a residence permit on the basis of the withdrawal agreement are regarded as third country nationals and conditions for third country nationals apply here.”

  1. Are third country nationals able to use the A-kasse system? 

Third country nationals are permitted to join an A-kasse and receive cover in the event of unemployment, but must have legal residence (and currently reside) in Denmark. This is because A-kasse rules require members to be available to accept job offers at short effect.

There must not be any legal or factual matters that prevent an A-kasse member receiving unemployment benefits from taking over reasonable work within a day’s notice.

“For foreign citizens that means that the person must have a right to reside and work in Denmark,” Klos said, noting that such rules fall under the expertise of SIRI.

It should be noted that a residence permit issued for the purpose of work, is likely to be withdrawn if the person holding the residence permit no longer is employed. In that case, third country nationals can apply for a job search permit (jobsøgningstilladelse), SIRI, told The Local in a written statement.

A condition for a job search permit, which gives six months to stay and search for a job in Denmark, is that you have been out of work through no fault of your own (uforskyldt ledig).

It’s also worth noting that some older guides to Denmark’s unemployment insurance scheme still list a rule that one must be a resident in Denmark or another EU/EEA country for at least seven out of the last eight years. However, that requirement has since been terminated.

READ ALSO: Denmark to scrap residency requirement for unemployment insurance

  1. How do A-kasser work for students?

Students may be entitled to free A-kasse membership if they meet a number of conditions. They must be pursuing a vocational qualification or academic degree that will take at least 18 months, earn a maximum of 232,212 kroner (2022) per year before tax (including state education grants, or SU), not receive any public support other than SU, and be under 30 years of age. 

Those over 30 must meet stricter requirements, including having paid into the early retirement scheme since their 30th birthday and having been a member of an unemployment insurance fund.

Another requirement, regardless of age, is that one’s course of study in general entitles them to SU. According to Denmark’s Ministry of Higher Education, one must normally be a Danish citizen to receive SU, however, foreign citizens who fulfil certain conditions may be granted equal status to Danish citizens to receive SU. 

READ ALSO: SU: Can foreigners receive Denmark’s state student grant?

  1. How much would I receive in unemployment benefits?

“The benefit from the insurance is the same in every A-kasse,” Klos said, adding that the benefits can amount to a maximum of 90 percent of your previous salary. That percentage is calculated based on the 12 months in which you had the highest income within the past 24 months.

There is also a maximum compensation of 19,351 kroner(2022) per month as full-time insured and 12,901 kroner (2022) per month as part-time insured.

For people with high salaries who might struggle to maintain one’s standard of living on the above maximum, Krøjgaard said it’s also possible to purchase salary insurance (lønforsikring). This allows members to insure up to 80 percent of their current salary. 

  1. For how long can I receive unemployment benefits?

According to Borger.dk, A-kasse members are entitled to two years of unemployment benefits within a three-year period. However, this is calculated in hours (3,848 hours within three years).

There are several ways to extend the period of three years, for example in the case of maternity leave. It’s also possible to extend the unemployment benefit period of two years, based on wage hours paid since the unemployment benefits began. Visit Borger.dk for a more detailed explanation.

According to Krøjgaard, 50 percent of Min A-Kasse members find a new job within three months, and 75 percent find a job within six months.

  1. What benefits am I entitled to if I quit my job?

“If you quit your job, you can still receive unemployment benefits,” Krøjgaard said. However, there is a three-week waiting period before a person who has quit their job becomes eligible to receive unemployment benefits. 

  1. How do taxes work in regards to unemployment benefits?

Recipients of unemployment benefits are required to pay taxes on their benefits.

“Although everyone’s tax situation is unique, it’s probable that you will pay less in taxes because you will be making less,” Krøjgaard said. She recommends correcting one’s tax information with the Danish Tax Agency just as one would if they changed jobs. 

  1. What else do A-kasser offer?

“Of course, the biggest reason to join an a-kasse is the economic support if you lose your job,” Krøjgaard said. However, she added, unemployment insurance funds also offer assistance during members’ job search, from career counselling to CV workshops.

Krøjgaard also said some unemployment insurance funds, including Min A-Kasse, offer career counselling for people who are looking to pivot in their careers.

These services may be of particular interest to foreigners working in Denmark, she said. 

“I’ve worked with a lot of people coming from abroad who may not fully understand the Danish job market,” she said.

For example, that unsolicited calls are not only acceptable but common among job seekers in Denmark or that Danish employers want a CV that is less than three pages long and includes a photo. “We can also direct our members where to look for available jobs,” she said.

  1. What’s the difference between an A-kasse and a trade union?

Many unemployment insurance funds in Denmark are closely connected to a trade union and may even be located in the same office and share the same brand. 

Although you may be asked to sign up for a union when you join an A-kasse (or vice versa), it’s not a requirement to join an A-kasse associated with your union (or vice versa). Joining both trade unions and unemployment insurance funds are voluntary; you can join one or the other, both, or neither. 

READ ALSO: Everything foreigners in Denmark need to know about Danish trade unions

  1. How do I choose which A-kasse to join?

“If you want to be insured in an A-kasse – and I think you should be if you stay here for an extended period – you will have to choose which A-kasse you would like to be a member of,” Klos said. 

There are more than 20 A-kasser in Denmark. When selecting an A-kasse, most people consider membership fees, specialisations, internal rules, membership benefits, and reviews/member satisfaction.

  1. What is meant by A-kasse ‘specialisations’?

Some A-kasser admit members from all industries and professions, while others limit membership to specific industries and professions.

“I recommend people consider the A-kasser that specialise in their profession, so the A-kasse will be familiar with their industry and have the relevant knowledge to help them find a job again,” Krøjgaard said. Finding an A-kasse in your field, she added, is as simple as typing ‘A-kasse’ and your industry into your favourite search engine.

However, Krøjgaard added, an A-kasse that works across many industries might be the best fit for people who are open to a variety of job opportunities, looking to pivot careers, or whose expertise may be relevant across several industries.

  1. How much does an A-kasse membership cost?

“The membership fee differs from A-kasse to A-kasse,” Klos said, adding that fees range from 451 DKK to 527 DKK per month and are tax-deductible. Full-time insurance costs more than part-time insurance, but the benefits are higher.

Most of the membership price covers a fixed contribution to the state that is the same across all A-kasser. Where the prices differ is in the administration fee, which each unemployment insurance fund sets for itself. 

“We know cost is a factor in choosing an A-kasse, but it’s important to weigh other factors,” Krøjgaard said. “For example, do they only offer insurance or can they help me in my job search?”

  1. Where can I read reviews about the different a-kasser?

Krøjgaard recommends researching any A-kasse that catches your eye to learn about their members’ experiences. She added that most A-kasser have been reviewed on TrustPilot and Google, among others, so those are both good places to start. 

Krøjgaard also recommends asking one’s colleagues, friends, and family for recommendations, or asking for feedback on social media platforms, including the various expat and international groups and pages.

  1. How do I change A-kasse?

There are many reasons why you might want to change unemployment insurance, for example, for a lower membership fee; because you’ve changed industries or professions, been promoted or become self-employed; to take advantage of offers like free wage insurance for switching providers; or simply because you aren’t satisfied with your current A-kasse. 

If you switch A-kasse, months paid to meet the 12-month membership requirement from your previous A-kasse will still count toward your eligibility to receive unemployment benefits. It’s also possible to switch A-kasser regardless of employment status at the time of the switch. 

To change A-kasse, simply apply to the new A-kasse. The new a-kasse will handle the transfer of your membership. 

  1. I’m an A-kasse member and I’ve lost my job. Now what?

On the first day you are unemployed, you’ll need to register as a jobseeker at your local jobcentre (Jobnet.dk) in order to start receiving unemployment benefits. Jobseekers will need to complete an approved CV within two weeks of registering as a jobseeker.

“In order to receive Danish unemployment benefits you must also be available for the Danish labour market,” Krøjgaard said. That means you need to be available to meet with the A-kasse, jobcentre, participate in interviews, and start a job within a day’s notice. 

  1. Does that mean I can’t travel while receiving unemployment benefits?

It is only possible to go abroad on a planned trip if you report the trip to the jobcentre no more than 14 days before the start of the trip; this is true for vacations, but also events such as deaths in the family which require travel. 

According to Min A-Kasse, you won’t be obligated to attend interviews or jobcentre activities during your holiday period, as long as you’ve reported the holiday in time and haven’t received the interview or meeting requests prior to reporting your holiday. If you forget to give the jobcentre proper notice of your holiday and the holiday causes you to refuse a job offer, you will not receive unemployment benefits for three weeks.

It’s also possible to continue to receive unemployment benefits while on one’s holiday. As of September 1st 2020, A-kasse members receiving unemployment benefits can earn up to 2.08 days of holiday pay for 160.33 hours receiving unemployment benefits for full-time insured and 130 hours for part-time insured. If you are paid fewer hours, the earned days will be reduced accordingly. 

  1. What if I want to look for jobs outside of Denmark?

In certain cases, one can receive unemployment benefits while looking for jobs in other EU/EEA countries for up to three months (with document PD U2). This opportunity is available if you are an EU/EEA-citizen with residence in Denmark.

It’s also possible to travel for up to five days to participate in job interviews, Klos said.

Borger.dk outlines several conditions for job-seeking abroad, including being registered with the jobcentre as full-time unemployed for at least four weeks before your planned departure, among others. The four-week requirement may be waived, in some cases. Contact your A-kasse to learn whether or not you qualify for an exemption.

You must register with the employment service of the country in which you’re seeking a job within one week of the date stated in your PD U2 document, or you will not receive unemployment benefits until you do so.

While job-seeking abroad, you must also be available to the labour market in the country of your job search in the same way you would be required to be available to the Danish labour market while job-searching here. 

If you cannot find a job within the three-month window, you must be back in Denmark and registered with your local jobcentre before the three months are over in order to continue to receive unemployment benefits.

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For members

WORKING IN DENMARK

EXPLAINED: What are the rules for taking sick leave in Denmark?

If you are unwell and unable to work, Danish employment law allows you to take sick leave if you are in employment, self-employed or receiving social welfare credit.

EXPLAINED: What are the rules for taking sick leave in Denmark?
Photo: billiondigital/Depositphotos

People who work in Denmark are entitled to take sick leave and it’s important to take care of yourself when you become ill. 

In Denmark, mental health conditions such as depression or stress are treated on equal footing with injuries and physical illnesses. The latter can range from the ‘flu to more serious conditions where you have to be hospitalised for treatment.

Taking sick leave under the Danish employment provisions might difficult to grasp, especially if you are a foreigner in Denmark and used to having different rules or practices in your home country. But if you are legitimately ill, then you are entitled to take sick leave in these situations. You might be asked to provide proof of your illness from your doctor at any time. 

To get sick pay in Denmark, you must live and pay tax in the country (a few exceptions apply under special circumstances).

It is your employer and/or the relevant local municipality which is responsible for paying out sick pay, depending on a number of conditions, primarily related to the length of time for which you have been sick, and also for how long you worked for your employer before illness.

In 2022, municipal sick pay of up to 4,465 kroner per week can be paid out.

The steps you must take vary depending on whether you are employed, self-employed or receiving unemployment insurance (dagpenge). This is addressed below.

Employed

Who is entitled to sick leave?

One of the following requirements must be fulfilled if you are to qualify for municipal sick pay (sygedagpenge):

  • You must have worked for 240 hours within the last six months prior to your first day of sick leave. For at least five of these months, you must have worked at least 40 hours in total that month.
  • Had you not been sick, you would have qualified for unemployment cover (dagpenge) in relevant circumstances. This requires membership of an insurance provider known as an A-kasse (which provides for sick pay if you are unemployed at the time you become sick).
  • You have completed a vocational education programme (erhvervsmæssig uddannelse) lasting 18 months or longer within the last month.
  • You are enrolled in certain types of internship or education programmes or work at a reduced number of weekly hours for health-related reasons (flexjob).

What steps do I need to take?

On your first day of illness, you should let your manager know that you are taking the day off and log it according to company procedures. This informs your employer (especially the payroll department) that you have taken a sick day.

You must inform your employer that you are sick within two hours of the time you would normally have started working, unless there are extenuating circumstances (such as being unable to call due to a hospitalisation) which prevented you from getting in touch.

This is important for a couple of reasons, but if you are going to be out for a significant period, your company will be eligible for partial reimbursement by your municipality. It’s also important that there is a clear first day of illness logged in case it turns out to be a long illness. 

If you do not call in sick on time, you only have the right to sick pay from the time at which you informed you employer.

You employer is required to inform the municipality of your sickness within the first five weeks of your first sick day. Once the municipality has registered your sickness, it initiates processes including payment of sick pay and measures aimed at helping you gat back to work.

If or when the municipality is responsible for paying you during sick leave, you will receive a form via the secure digital mail system e-boks (also accessible via borger.dk and Digital Post), which you must fill in and return by the given deadline, usually 8 days after it is sent by the municipality. You should contact the municipality if you do not receive the form.

If your employer is paying your sick leave, they can apply to the municipality to refund them using the municipal sick pay you would otherwise have received. In this case, you will receive a statement containing the information your employer has passed on to the municipality. You should check to make sure the details are correct.

What about extended absences?

If you end up taking a long period of sick leave, then your employer will contact you about conducting a sickness absence interview. This is a mandatory interview that has to be completed within four weeks from the first day of the illness. The employee is also obligated to attend, which can be in person or by phone, unless this is impossible due to the nature of the illness.

The purpose of this interview is to talk to you about making a plan to come back to work. If you think that you will be on sick leave for more than eight weeks, then the employer is entitled to ask you for a return-to-work plan. The terms of your return can be discussed and agreed upon, according to what makes sense in your situation. You could, for example, ask to return on a part-time basis at first and gradually work back up to full-time.  

You don’t have to divulge the nature of your illness, but your company has the right to ask you for a ‘Fit for Work’ certificate or mulighedserkæring. This applies to both short-term and long-term illnesses.

You and your employer fill out one part, and your doctor also has a part in the completion of the certificate.  The overall point is to evaluate how the illness has impacted your ability to perform your job duties.

How long can I take off sick?

You are allowed an initial 22 weeks off sick within a 9-month period. Before these 22 weeks are up, your municipality will assess whether your sick leave period can be extended.

An extension can be granted for a number of reasons, including the presence of a plan to return to work once you are fit again; a plan to ease back in through a period of part-time work or training known as virksomhedspraktik; diagnosis of serious illness, or pending outcomes of other types of assessments.

READ ALSO: Can you take sick leave in Denmark if your child is ill?

Self-employed

Who is entitled to sick leave?

As a self-employed person, you can take sick leave if:

  • You have run your own business for six of the last 12 months. The business activities must be considered ‘significant’ and have been ongoing in the last month before your absence.
  • You must have spent at least half of normal full-time working hours (18.5 hours per week) running the business.

If your business has not existed this long, prior spells working as an employee can count towards your entitlement.

You can receive municipal sick pay from after two weeks of sickness unless you have taken out a voluntary insurance policy which can give you sick pay from the first or third day of absence.

What steps do I need to take?

Regardless of whether you have the insurance mentioned above, you must register your sickness on the NemRefusion portal within three weeks of your first day of absence.

If you have the insurance, you must registered within a week of the first day on which the insurance covers you (i.e. the first or third day of absence).

Sick pay for self-employed people is paid out by your municipality. You will receive a form via the secure digital mail system e-boks (also accessible via borger.dk and Digital Post). You must inform the municipality how long you expect to be out for and if the sickness is expected to affect your ability to work later.

What about extended absences?

You municipality will continually follow up with you during your sick leave.

If you end up taking a longer period of sick leave, then the municipality will contact you about conducting a sickness absence interview within eight weeks from the first day of the illness.

The purpose of this interview is to talk to you about making a plan to come back to work. The terms of your return can be discussed and agreed upon, according to what makes sense in your situation.

You will be obligated to attend, which can be in person or by phone, unless this is impossible due to the nature of the illness.

The municipality is also entitled to request a doctor’s declaration of your condition, in order to help put together a plan for safeguarding your return to work, the expected duration of the sickness and other aspects.

You can request a ‘fast-track’ process with your municipality if you expect your absence to last longer than eight weeks. More information about this can be found here.

How long can I take off sick?

You are allowed an initial 22 weeks off sick within a 9-month period. Before these 22 weeks are up, your municipality will assess whether your sick leave period can be extended.

An extension can be granted for a number of reasons, including the presence of a plan to return to work once you are fit again; a plan to ease back in through a period of part-time work or training known as virksomhedspraktik; diagnosis of serious illness, or pending outcomes of other types of assessments.

Unemployment insurance (dagpenge)

Who is entitled to sick leave?

You can receive sick paid if you are unemployed and currently receiving unemployment insurance (dagpenge).

This means that, had you not been sick, you would have qualified for unemployment cover (dagpenge) in relevant circumstances, or were already receiving it at the time you fell ill.

This requires membership of an insurance provider known as an A-kasse (which provides for sick pay if you are unemployed at the time you become sick).

If you are move from dagpenge to sick leave, you are affected by different requirements. For example, you will not be obliged to send a set number of job applications per week – one of the criteria for dagpenge.

READ ALSO: A-kasse: Everything foreigners in Denmark need to know about unemployment insurance

What steps do I need to take?

You must register your sickness with your A-kasse on the first day you are ill. You can do this on the jobnet.dk platform.

You A-kasse will pay your sick pay for the first 14 days of your sickness, before informing your municipality which will then contact you via the secure digital mail system e-boks (also accessible via borger.dk and Digital Post). You must inform the municipality how long you expect to be out for and if the sickness is expected to affect your ability to work later.

What about extended absences?

Your municipality takes up ongoing contact with you during your period of sick leave.

If you end up taking a longer period of leave, then the municipality will contact you about conducting a sickness absence interview within eight weeks from the first day of the illness.

The purpose of this interview is to talk to you about making a plan to come back to work. The terms of your return can be discussed and agreed upon, according to what makes sense in your situation.

You will be obligated to attend, which can be in person or by phone, unless this is impossible due to the nature of the illness.

The municipality is also entitled to request a doctor’s declaration of your condition, in order to help put together a plan for safeguarding your return to work, the expected duration of the sickness and other aspects.

You can request a ‘fast-track’ process with your municipality if you expect your absence to last longer than eight weeks. More information about this can be found here.

How long can I take off sick?

You are allowed an initial 22 weeks off sick within a 9-month period. Before these 22 weeks are up, your municipality will assess whether your sick leave period can be extended.

An extension can be granted for a number of reasons, including the presence of a plan to return to work once you are fit again; a plan to ease back in through a period of part-time work or training known as virksomhedspraktik; diagnosis of serious illness, or pending outcomes of other types of assessments.

Source: borger.dk

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