Copenhagen Municipality to trial four-day working week

Selected municipal staff in Copenhagen will soon be able to choose to distribute their weekly working hours over four days in a new trial scheme.

Copenhagen Municipality to trial four-day working week
Copenhagen City Hall. Selected municipal staff are likely to be permitted to work their weekly hours over four days from next year. File photo: Søren Bidstrup/Ritzau Scanpix

The city government’s residents’ council (borgerrepræsentation) has voted to bring in a trail scheme that will provide for four-day working weeks from 2024, according to local media TV2 Kosmopol.

The decision means that shorter weeks – with additional hours fitted into the four working days – will be an option at several departments in the municipality, which is Denmark’s largest local government with 45,000 staff.

The trial will go ahead provided a majority accepts it as part of next year’s budget, which will be finalised in the autumn.

It will take the form of an initial one-year trial scheme with the option of extension to also include 2025.

Trade union Djøf told news wire Ritzau it took a positive view of the project.

“Many people appreciate having an extra day when they can pick up the kids early or get some errands done which you need time for during the day,” chairperson Sara Vergo said.

A survey by the trade union last year found that 64 percent of staff and 65 percent of managers would consider implementing a four-day working week in some form.

The Copenhagen Municipality proposal went through without a vote because all parties were in favour.

The decision does not mean city employees will be working fewer hours. Instead, they will distribute their existing hours over four days.

The municipality would not be allowed by law to pay staff for a full 37-hour week if they have only worked 30 hours, it said.

While parties agreed on the trial, there was some disagreement over its exact form, TV2 Kosmopol writes.

The Social Democratic and Socialist People’s Party (SF) representatives wanted the trial to be implemented in April, rather than waiting until next year.

Copenhagen is not the first Danish municipality to experiment with a four-day week. Other local governments have in recent years trialled shorter weeks and a higher degree of flexibility over staff hours.

“We know that there’s a relatively large stress crisis in Denmark and that one of the remedies against this is to spend less time at work and more flexible working hours,” Troels Christian Jakobsen of the Alternative party, who tabled the proposal for the Copenhagen scheme, said to Ritzau.

“We didn’t succeed on this occasion on getting fewer working hours. There are a load of rules that prevent that,” he said.

“But we have certainly met our goal on giving a more flexible framework for the work and we have a strong sense that this can help to improve job satisfaction,” he said.

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Denmark announces major spending plan to fight social dumping 

The Danish parliament has agreed a 1.3 billion kroner spending plan that is designed to tackle social dumping and other problem areas at workplaces.

Denmark announces major spending plan to fight social dumping 

The deal, termed a “working environment agreement” (arbejdsmiljøaftale), specifies social dumping as a major area of focus.

“This is an agreement of historic level. I am happy that everyone is part of it,” employment minister Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen said following the conclusion of negotiations on Thursday.

Social dumping is the practice by which foreign workers are used to circumvent Danish collective bargaining agreements, saving employers money by hiring staff on wages and working conditions inferior to those set by the Danish labour model.

READ ALSO: ‘One in two’ tax inspections found social dumping at Danish companies

Some 673 million kroner of the total 1.3 billion are earmarked for prevention of social dumping.

“This is an anti social dumping effort that acts against labour crime and cheating the system. So that people who actually play by the rules get fair competition,” Halsboe-Jørgensen said.

Other elements of the spending will aim to address industrial accidents and mental health at workplaces.

“Work should not make you sick. Neither physically or mentally.  That’s why we’re also proud that we’re tackling psychological working environments,” Socialist People’s Party (SF) representative Astrid Carøe said.

The money provided by the deal will be spent over a four-year period from 2024 until 2027.

The signatory parties describe it as a “historically large grant” to the agency Arbejdstilsynet, which is responsible for ensuring acceptable working environments.

Increased inspection frequencies, introduced in a prior 2019 agreement, continue under the new deal.