Denmark formalises plan to abolish public holiday

Denmark’s government will scrap the Great Prayer Day public holiday from 2024, it said in a statement on Thursday.

Denmark formalises plan to abolish public holiday
Denmark's Great Prayer Holiday is set to be abolished in a parliamentary bill. File photo: John Randeris/Ritzau Scanpix

A formal bill has now been drawn up for the abolition of Great Prayer Day and sent into consultation, the first stage of the process through parliament before it becomes law.

In compensation for working on the public holiday, the government says it will legislate for additional wages equivalent to one working day. It also plans to cut 2,700 positions in the public sector, ostensibly by reorganisation of existing roles.

The coalition government has a parliamentary majority and can therefore pass the bill without votes from other parties. The proposal has met with heavy criticism.

READ ALSO: Danish finance ministry says country will earn 3 billion kroner by scrapping public holiday

The three governing parties – the Social Democrats, Liberals (Venstre) and Moderates – want to abolish a public holiday in a move they say will enable accelerated defence spending, an objective set out in the coalition policy agreement in December.

Monthly wage earners will receive a wage supplement of 0.45 percent of their annual salary, equivalent to one working day, while hourly wage earners receive extra pay at their regular rate.

No additional hours will be worked by the total public sector workforce. This means the government can reduce the number of public employees by 2,700, it said.

The proposal has been criticised by trade unions and public sector workers who will have to work on Great Prayer Day, when they are used to having the day off.

Great Prayer Day (Store Bededag) has existed since the 1600s and falls on the fourth Sunday after Easter, giving everyone who works in Denmark an additional long spring weekend.

It is also the weekend on which many young Danes attend their traditional confirmation ceremonies.

READ ALSO: Store Bededag: Why does Denmark have annual ‘Prayer Day’ holiday?

The bill could be passed within a month provided it meets with parliamentary rules, minimising time in which objections and criticism can be brought up against it in parliament.

The government’s ambition is to pass the law before collective bargaining agreements are voted on by trade unions in the spring. Negotiations for these have already begun with employer organisations in some sectors.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What is a Danish collective bargaining agreement?

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Denmark’s defence minister takes sick leave following illness

Denmark’s Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen is to take sick leave for an undetermined period, two months after leading the Liberal (Venstre) party into coalition government.

Denmark’s defence minister takes sick leave following illness

The 49-year-old was admitted briefly to hospital last week for “nausea”, just after returning from Ukraine.

“I was eager to go back to work immediately. But now that it’s been a few days I have to realise I’m not ready for this,” he said on Facebook.  “I have been unusually busy for a long time. Now my body is sending me a signal that it’s time to take a break, if not it’s going to end badly,” he said.

“The bottom line is that, on the advice of my doctor, I need to unplug for a while and take leave. And then I will return when I’m ready.”

Economy Minister Troels Lund Poulsen will fill in for Ellemann-Jensen during his absence, the government said.

His absence comes as Danes protest against government plans to abolish a public holiday, Great Prayer Day. The government says the plan will help fund the defence budget.

Ellemann-Jensen has led the Liberal party since late 2019. The party is traditionally the second largest in the Danish parliament and senior member of the ‘blue bloc’ alliance of conservative parties.

It suffered a poor result in the 2022 election with its 13 percent share of the vote representing 10 points less than its vote share in 2019. Ellemann-Jensen subsequently took the party into coalition government with two other parties including erstwhile rivals the Social Democrats.

READ ALSO: Denmark’s Social Democrats in worst opinion poll since 2015