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Danish company gives unlimited sick days to employees with kids

The Local Denmark
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Danish company gives unlimited sick days to employees with kids
Staff at a Danish energy company have been granted unlimited days off work to take care of their children if they are sick. Photo by Andrew Ebrahim on Unsplash

A Danish energy company has said it will not limit sick days for staff with children. More businesses could eventually adopt the model according to an expert.

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Denmark has labour rules in place providing for parents to take time off work if their children are sick, but the number of days that can be taken is limited.

This will no longer be the case at energy company Norlys, which has announced unlimited sick days for staff with children, broadcaster DR reports.

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

Norlys, which has energy, internet and TV divisions, has around 3,000 employees according to DR.

It will not deduct wages for employees when they stay home to take care of unwell children, nor will the employee lose any holiday or time off in lieu.

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“Many of my colleagues were stressed when one of their children got sick. Because of work, many of them – myself included – have dropped off a half-unwell child at kindergarten, nursery or with carers,” Maria Østergaard, a Norlys employee committee member who raised the issue with company leadership, told DR.

She called the decision by Norlys a “huge vote of confidence” and said staff were “happy and very proud” of the move.

The new arrangement took effect on March 1st.

The seemingly generous offer from Norlys to its staff is unusual, even in Denmark, a country known for its work-life balance ethic and with a reputation for good labour conditions.

Professor in labour market research at Aalborg University Thomas Bredgaard told DR he had not seen anything similar before at Danish companies, but said it was likely the idea could spread if it is successful at Norlys.

A current high demand for labour in Denmark means workplaces must make themselves attractive, he noted.

“It’s about offering some good conditions at workplaces so they can attract competent staff. And this is a good example of that,” he said.

Negotiations for collective bargaining agreements could eventually enable the measure to be implemented more broadly, he said.

“If you, for example, can’t get higher salaries or other benefits, you could put this proposal on the table. Good ideas have a tendency to spread,” he said.

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

Norlys director of HR Agnete Lundemose told DR she expected the new staff benefit to boost the company as well as support employees.

“We think we’ll get more satisfied and less stressed staff and we’ll get something back in the form of increased loyalty from employees,” she said.

The HR director added she did not expect a hefty bill arising from increased staff absence.

“We do not expect it to give us a lot of extra costs because we believe that staff are fully capable of balancing it themselves,” she said.

The Confederation of Danish Industry and Danish Chamber of Commerce declined to comment to DR regarding the story, citing ongoing collective bargaining negotiations.

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

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