Sick leave, citizenship for children and energy providers: Essential articles for life in Denmark

Your rights to take sick leave, how homeowners might be able to cash in on high interest rates, the school system, citizenship rights for Danish-born children, how to use parental leave, and how to decide on an energy provider... here are six must-reads from The Local about life in Denmark.

Sick leave, citizenship for children and energy providers: Essential articles for life in Denmark
Children playing at a Danish kindergarten. File photo: Signe Goldmann/Ritzau Scanpix

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.

Mental health conditions such as depression or stress are treated on equal footing with injuries and physical illnesses.

Taking sick leave under the Danish employment provisions might seem 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 and indeed expected to take sick leave in these situations.

Denmark’s unique borrowing system enabled thousands of people to restructure their mortgages in 2022. High interest rates caused a drop in the market value of covered bonds and in some cases homeowners have been able to cash in.

High interest rates are still with us in 2023, which means the possible benefits are too.

We explain how it all works and how you can potentially pay off a sum of your mortgage.

Education is compulsory in Denmark for everyone between the ages of six or seven and 16. But where you are educated is the choice of the parent, with options of private, state-run or ‘free’ schools.

Most children in Denmark attend state-run schools, which are free. These are called folkeskole and gymnasium. 

Other options include the private ‘free schools’ or friskoler, which cost fees for tuition, although the fees are subsidised meaning they might seem cheap compared to what foreign residents are used to from other countries.

Denmark also has the unique efterskole and højskole, boarding schools where teenagers, young people and adults can attend for short or extended periods to specialise in particular subjects.

Unlike in other countries such as the United States, people born in Denmark do not automatically gain Danish citizenship, so certain criteria apply to children born in Denmark to foreign parents.

Denmark allows dual citizenship, however, meaning it is possible for foreign residents including children to be a dual national, if their country of origin also permits dual citizenship.

In 2022, Denmark’s parliament rubber-stamped a new law to reform parental leave rules by guaranteeing each parent 11 weeks at home with their newborn child.

The new law means that each parent gets 11 weeks of non-transferable parental leave after their child is born.

One parent cannot transfer any of the ‘earmarked’ leave to the other, meaning if they do not use the full 11 weeks, they eventually lapse.

Energy price fluctuations may mean it might be worth switching to a different electricity plan. How do you go about this?

Electricity providers offer both fixed-rate (fastpris) and variable (variabel) plans. Variable plans allow consumers to take advantage of lower prices at off peak times, such as at night.

The rate you are charged can change by the hour and can be around five times lower at its lowest than when it peaks. If the market price gets very high, though, your hourly rate will go up correspondingly.

So how do you check your plan and decide whether it would benefit you to change?

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How could Denmark’s new government change life for foreigners?

A centre coalition government is now a reality in Denmark, with new policies and a ministerial team confirmed and in place. How could the left-right coalition change things for foreign residents?

How could Denmark’s new government change life for foreigners?

We took a closer look at the agreement between the Social Democrats, Liberal (Venstre) and Moderate parties – the three partners in the new government – to see which policies are most likely to affect foreigners who live in the country.

Skilled foreign workers

New policy could make Denmark more accessible for skilled foreign workers.

Skilled foreign labour is mentioned as part of a broader plan for “good conditions for growth and competitiveness for businesses and to promote foreign investment in Denmark”, in the agreement between the government parties.

The government says it will “relax access to foreign labour for as long as unemployment is low.”

This means making an existing deal to boost international recruitment permanent, and taking measures to prevent social dumping so foreign workers are given the same working conditions as Danes, it states.

“In addition to this, the government will introduce a scheme with lower pay limits [beløbsordninger, ed.] for certified companies which are encompassed by controlled wage and working conditions,” it says.

An annual quota of work permits will be released under the scheme, which will be reviewed every two years, according to the plan.

“This will, under controlled conditions, give access to additional labour,” it says.

READ ALSO: How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you are not an EU national?

International students

Government policy in recent years has made Denmark less attractive for international students, but that could change under the new government.

“The government wants to establish 500-1,000 new study places on English-language vocational Master’s degree programmes, targeted at areas with high demand for labour,” it says in the agreement text.

A “dialogue with universities” will “seek to increase the number of international students within defined areas where Danish companies need highly educated labour,” it adds.

Possible adjustment of immigration and asylum rules 

Existing asylum practice in Denmark has received stern criticism, not least for repeated reports of cases in which Syrian refugees, often young women, have had their residence in Denmark revoked because it is considered safe for them to return to the Damascus area.

Older people and children are often also impacted by the rules, but not young men who could face being forced into the military. This has resulted in families being split up in some cases.

READ ALSO: Denmark reverses residence decisions for hundreds of Syrian refugees

The new government states that it will “address the problem we have recently seen where young women from Syria have lost their residence permit despite having shown they want to be part of Denmark”.

“The government will therefore give continued residence for certain foreigners who are educated in areas where there is a labour shortage,” it adds.

There is some suggestion in the agreement that immigration rules in general – and not just asylum rules – will be looked at in this context.

“We want immigration laws that are strict – but at the same time, don’t mean that unintended rules trip up ordinary families,” the government states.

Residence permit agency to get investment

As part of the plan to improve companies’ access to skilled foreign labour where there is demand (see above), the government says it wants to “ensure faster and more efficient case processing at the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI)”.

Money will be set aside for this in the budget, it states.


Family reunification

The incoming government could ease up on years of strict practices by easing family reunification rules.

Specifically, the new government wants to change language criteria applied in family reunification cases.

It also wants to halve the so-called “bank guarantee” (bankgaranti), a requirement which demands couples deposit a large sum of money with municipalities while the foreign partner is granted residence.

READ ALSO: What do we know so far about Denmark’s plan to relax family reunification rules?

Plans for Rwanda asylum facility reworded

The former Social Democratic minority government had a long-term objective of moving part of Denmark’s refugee system offshore to a non-EU country – confirmed in 2021 as Rwanda.

The new government platform states that it will go ahead with the plan but would prefer to work in partnership with the EU or other European countries. There is little enthusiasm for the idea within the EU at the current time.

However, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said this week that that such a centre could “ultimately” still be the result of a bilateral agreement between Denmark and Rwanda.

READ ALSO: Could a centrist government change Danish asylum plan?