Denmark: Working life country profile

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Health and well-being at work,
  • Löhne und Gehälter,
  • Skills and training,
  • Work organisation,
  • Arbeitszeit,
  • Labour market participation,
  • Collective bargaining,
  • Social partners,
  • Social partners,
  • Inequality,
  • Working conditions,
  • Beschäftigung und Arbeitsmärkte,
  • Arbeitsbeziehungen,
  • Labour and social regulation,
  • Lebensbedingungen und Lebensqualität,
  • Social policies,
  • Beschäftigung und Arbeitsmärkte,
  • Published on: 25 November 2015


This profile describes the key characteristics of working life in Denmark. It aims to complement other Eurofound research, by providing the relevant background information on structures, institutions and relevant regulations regarding working life. This includes indicators, data and regulatory systems on the following aspects: actors and institutions, collective and individual employment relations, health and well-being, pay, working time, skills and training, and equality and non-discrimination at work. The profiles are updated annually.

Key figures

Comparative figures on working life in Denmark                                      




% (point) change














Unemployment rate  total







Unemployment rate  women







Unemployment rate – men







Unemployment rate  youth







Employment rate – total







Employment rate  women







Employment rate  men







Employment rate  youth







Source: Eurostat - Unemployment rate by sex and age - annual average,  % [une_rt_a]; Purchasing power parities (PPPs), price level indices and real expenditures for ESA 2010 aggregates [prc_ppp_ind]).


Economic and labour market context

Between 2010 and 2015, GDP increased substantially (11.3%) and was less than 2 percentage points lower than the EU average for the same period (13%). During this time, the unemployment rate decreased from 7.5% to 6.2%; the biggest decrease was in youth unemployment  (-3.1%), which stood at 10.8% in 2015, nearly half of the EU average for the same year (20.3%). Employment rates for all categories were above EU averages in 2015 but saw some decrease compared with 2010, in particular for young people (down 5.4 percentage points between 2010 and 2015).

More information on:

Legal context

There is no Labour Code in Denmark.

Freedom of membership of an association – both the positive and the negative right – is expressed in the Act on the freedom of association in the labour market. The law was amended in 2006, abolishing the right to closed shop agreements.

Legislation is minimal regarding the regulation of the Danish labour market. Central labour market issues – such as wages, working hours, working conditions or the right to strike – are regulated by agreements between employer and employees.

However, an important act concerning regulation is the Consolidation Act 81 of 3 February 2009 on the Legal Relationship between Employers and Salaried Employees (Funktionærloven). This act – also known as the ‘White-Collar Act’ – regulates working conditions for salaried employees.

The role of the Danish labour inspectorate, the Danish Working Environment Authority, is mainly of an administrative and monitoring nature.

The Danish Working Environment Authority is an agency under the auspices of the Ministry of Employment. It is the authority contributing to the creation of safe and sound working conditions at Danish workplaces.

Industrial relations context

The Danish IR system goes back to the conclusion of the ‘September Compromise’ in 1899 and the introduction of collective labour law institutions in 1910.

 The principal level for collective bargaining in Denmark is the sectoral level. Negotiations in the industrial sector generally set the trend for the other negotiations at this level. This gives the trade union federation, the Central Organisation of Industrial Employees (Centralorganisationen af Industriansatte, CO-Industri) and the largest employer organisation, the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) an important role in the Danish industrial relations system.

In recent decades, the industrial relations system has a significant tendency towards decentralisation of the collective bargaining system including wage bargaining. Wage negotiations follow two trends. In the flexible minimum-wage system the agreement concluded at sector level is further negotiated at company level. Thus, the actual wage is settled at company level. In the normal wage system, wages are only negotiated and settled at sectoral level. The normal wage system only covers 15% of the labour market and is mainly concentrated in the transport sector. The rest is covered by a flexible wage system as the minimum-wage system and the price-list system.

Actors and Institutions

Trade unions, employers’ organisations and public institutions play a key role in the governance of the employment relationship, working conditions and industrial relations structures. They are interlocking parts in a multilevel system of governance that includes the European, national, sectoral, regional (provincial or local) and company levels. This section looks into the main actors and institutions and their role in Denmark.

Public authorities involved in regulating working life

In Denmark, the government and its ministries are as a rule not involved in regulating industrial relations and working conditions. Regarding decision-making, the government is mostly involved in formulating the employment policy. The exception is regulating and monitoring the working environment (occupational health and safety), which is the province of the Ministry of Employment and its agency, the Danish Working Environment Authority. 

The main institutions and mechanisms ensuring the enforcement of employee’s rights (the labour courts) are regulated by the social partners. The focus is on out-of-court mechanisms supplemented with a Labour Court with representatives from the social partners, state-employed judges from the High Court and arbitration courts supervised by the social partners. In case of a breakdown in efforts to renew an existing collective agreement, the Public Conciliator has a right to intervene on behalf of the state.

There are three employer organisations in the public sector covering collective bargaining in the state, local government and regional government. The Agency for the Modernisation of Public Administration (Moderniseringsstyrelsen) negotiates in the central state sector on behalf of the Ministry of Finance. Local Government Denmark (KL) is the employer association for the 98 municipalities and Danish Regions (Danske Regioner) for the five regions in Denmark.


The most important concept of representativeness in Denmark is mutual recognition between the social partner organisations. The system of social dialogue is based on voluntarism and is only encompassed by very little legislation. Recognition is in principal established the moment two organisations conclude a collective agreement. Within the organisations the leaders are chosen by the members. There is no legislation connected to the concept of representativeness.

More information on representativeness of the main social partner organisations can be found in Eurofound’s representativeness study of the cross-industry social partners or in Eurofound’s sectoral representativeness studies.

Trade unions

About trade union representation

Freedom of membership of an association – both the positive and the negative right – is expressed in the ‘Act on the freedom of association in the labour market’ from 1982. The law was amended in 2006, abolishing the right to closed shop agreements.

Among other European countries, the level of trade union density in Denmark – 67% - is relatively high (OECD 2014). However, the density has been steadily falling since 1996 when it was around 75%. The decline has mostly taken place among the unions of skilled and unskilled workers and clerical and commercial employees. Those are the unions under the umbrella of the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions, LO.

There are three trends explaining the decline in the membership in LO-unions. Firstly the members, including potential members, are ‘educating themselves’ into a union of a different confederation based on members with longer education. Secondly, there has always been a tendency for the young and foreign workers not to join the unions and thirdly, but not least, there is competition from the low-fee, so-called ‘yellow unions’ (politically alternative unions in relation to the traditional unions). They are not representative and they are based on low membership fees and individual judicial support. However, unions such as the Christian Union have increased membership steadily during the last 10 years.

Trade union membership and trade union density in Denmark








Trade union density in terms of active employees






OECD/Visser (2014)

Trade union membership in 1000






OECD/Visser (2014)

Main trade union confederations and federations

Long name



Involved in collective bargaining?

Danish Confederation of Trade Unions






Confederation of Professionals in Denmark





Confederation of Professional Associations in Denmark

Akademikerne (former AC)





United Federation of Danish Workers






Union of Commercial and Clerical Employees in Denmark






Danish Trade and Labour






Danish Nurses’ Organisation






Danish Teachers’ Union






Financial Services' Union






Danish Society of Engineers






Danish Association of Lawyers and Economists






Danish Association of Masters and PhDs






There have been no changes in the structure of the trade unions regarding mergers or changes in representativeness. However, the two biggest employee confederations, LO and FTF, have intensified their cooperation during the last three years with the aim of a possible merger within the coming years. LO will elect a new president later in 2015 and the candidates have expressed their views about a possible merger with FTF.

Employers’ organisations

About employers’ representation

It is voluntary to join an employer association. Membership includes agreement that the employer organisation concludes binding collective agreements on behalf of the member. The level of employers’ organisation density has been more or less stable over the past 10 years – around 74% measured by the number of employees covered by the member companies (DA).

Employers’ organisations – membership and density






Employers’ organisation density in terms of active employees


69% (EOM)


Visser (2014)

Employers’ organisation density in private sector establishments*




The last Danish study on employers’ organisation density dates from 2010. According to this study the employers’ organisation density at the private sector was 58% in 2007*

Percentage of employees working in an establishment which is a member of any employer organisation that is involved in collective bargaining. * (Due, J., Madsen, J.S. and Pihl, 2010)

There are two private sector confederations and three employer organisations in the public sector. The largest employer organisation is DI, which covers one million employees including employees abroad.

Main employer organisations and confederations

Long name




Involved in collective bargaining?

Confederation of Danish Employers

Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening


13 employer organisations

covering 25,000 member companies




Danish Employers' Association for the Financial Sector

Finanssektorens Arbejdgiverforening


1 organisation covering 200 member companies









employer organisation in the state



Local Government Denmark








Danish Regions

Danske Regioner


5 regions



Main Organisations

Confederation of Danish Industry



10,000 members




Danish Chamber of Commerce

Dansk Erhverv


17,000 members




Danish Construction Association

Dansk Byggeri





Tripartite and bipartite bodies and concertation

In Denmark, tripartite consultations normally take place on an ad hoc basis. The general process is that the government invites the main social partner organisations to discuss labour market issues or issues that have an effect on employment, such as employment policy. The degree of involvement of the social partners is in general high regardless of the government in office.

A few examples of ad hoc tripartite concertation from the recent years:

  • employment political reform, ‘Bringing more people into employment’, from 2002;
  • the Globalisation Council; the Tripartite committee on lifelong learning and qualification and education for all groups in the labour market;
  • the Welfare Commission;
  • and a tripartite agreement on reducing sickness absence.

All of these initiatives are aimed at the private sector and were formed in the period 2004–2008.

Furthermore, a Tripartite Committee for Quality Reform in the Public Sector was set up in 2007. That committee is responsible for promoting the development of competencies in the public sector. In addition, the government established the Family and Working Life Commission in the autumn of 2005, as a response to an intense public debate on workers’ difficulties in trying to reconcile work and family life. Although the social partners were not direct members of the commission, they secured involvement in the Commission, which issued a report in 2007. In 2012 the newly elected government (Autumn 2011) led by the Social Democrats invited the social partners to a tripartite dialogue on working time and welfare issues but they were cancelled by the government. Trade union representatives from Danish Metal insisted they would not accept any attempt to extend working time, such as abolishing two public holidays as suggested by the government. The Minister of Finance then chose to cancel the negotiations.

The bodies mentioned below are permanent tripartite/bipartite bodies that are either set up by legislation or collective agreement, and mostly concern employment, training and work environment.

Main tripartite and bipartite bodies

Name Type Level Issues covered



National Cooperation Council



Cooperation council administrating the Cooperation Agreement (2006) between LO and DA


Cooperation Committees



Cooperation at workplace – according to the Cooperation Agreement

Danmarks Beskæftigelsesråd

Danish Employment Council



Employment creation, employment policy issues


Danish Working Environment Council



Work environment, occupational health and safety

Regionale og lokale beskæftigelsesråd

Regional and local employment councils


Regional and local government

Employment creation, employment policy issues

Rådet for Voksen- og Efteruddannelse


Danish Council for Adult and Further training



Educational issues regarding citizens that need extra qualifications – competence development

Faglige udvalg

Vocational training committees



Vocational training, further training o


Sector/Branch Work Environment Councils



Working environment, work environment, occupational health and safety at sector/branch level

Det økonomiske råd

Danish Economic Council



The Danish national economy. Advisory body

Workplace-level employee representation

The main channels of employee representation at workplace level are the shop stewards and the Cooperation Committee – in the public sector, the latter is referred to as the Co-determination Committee (MED-udvalg). These committees consist of an equal number of representatives of employees and management. The employee representatives are elected, as is the shop steward. The work environment committee, along with board member representatives, are other important channels for employee representation at workplace.

In the public sector, the Co-determination Committees incorporate the work environment; hence, it is a one-tier system opposed to a two-tier system with cooperation committees and health and safety committees (which since 2012 have been called work environment committees where they exist in the private sector). The co-influence and co-determination system is based on a framework agreement – the so-called MED-agreement. The president of the Co-determination Committees in the public sector is usually the director of the municipality or county, while the vice-president is the joint shop steward.

Workplace representation is codified by collective agreement.

Regulation, composition and competences of the bodies

  Regulation Composition Competences of the body Thresholds/rules

Cooperation Committee


Samarbejdsudvalg (SU)

Collective agreements

Parity of both sides.

Cooperation at workplace

Not involved in collective bargaining at workplace, for instance about wages.

35 employees

Shop steward

Tillidsrepræsentant (TR)


Collective agreements

Combined employee and trade union representative at workplace.


5 employees

Type 3



Collective agreements

Combined committee of the employee and work environment representatives.


25 employees

Employee representation at establishment level

  ECS 2013 ECS 2013


% employees covered

% of establishments covered

Cooperation Committee



Shop steward






Source: ECS 2013. Private sector establishments with more than 10 employees.

Collective employment relations

The central concern of employment relations is the collective governance of work and employment. This section looks into collective bargaining and industrial action and dispute resolution in Denmark.

Collective bargaining

Bargaining system

In Denmark, all important issues relating to the employment relation, such as wage, working conditions, training and pension are regulated by the social partners through recurring collective bargaining. Most important levels are sector and company level that interact according to a decentralised centralisation system. Collective agreements are binding.

Wage bargaining coverage

Collective wage bargaining coverage of employees at different levels





All levels


2013 – ECS


All, excluding national level


2013 – ECS


All levels


2010 – SES


All levels


2014 – DA Labour Market Report 2014 (national data)

Includes employees from both public and private sector.

Sources: Eurofound, European Company Survey 2013 (ECS), private sector companies with establishments >10 employees (NACE B-S) – multiple answers possible; Eurostat, Structure of Earnings survey, companies >10 employees (NACE B-S), single answer: more than 50% of employees covered by such an agreement. More information on methodology, see here

The national data given above are from the annual Labour Market Report of Confederation of Danish Employers (DA). The figure includes coverage in the private as well as the public sector – 74% and 100% respectively. The labour market report is based on data from Statistics Denmark, Eurostat, different state agencies, and DA’s own member associations. The CB coverage is also based on data from the only other employer confederation in Denmark, the Danish Employers' Association for the Financial Sector

Bargaining levels

The only important levels of collective bargaining regarding wage and working time are the sectoral and the company levels interlinked in a decentralised centralisation system.

Levels of collective bargaining – 2014


National level (Intersectoral)

Sectoral level

Company level



Working time


Working time


Working time

Principal or dominant level







Important but not dominant level







Existing level








The interlinkage between the central level and local/company level is determined by the wage system in the sector. In the so-called minimum-wage area (which covers 85%)  only a minimum wage increase is settled at central level, while the actual wage increases are negotiated at company level. Thus, the minimum wage settled in the sectoral agreements hardly ever reflects the real wage level in the companies. Wages, however, can also change depending on sector or the market situation of the company. The remaining 15%  of the labour market is covered by a normal-wage system, where all important issues like wages are only settled at central level. In the public sector, bargaining mostly takes place at central level between the public authorities and large bargaining coalitions of the public sector unions, and only a small part of the agreements are left to be settled at organisational level between the authorities and the unions. Thus, the pay negotiations are closer to the normal wage system than the minimum-wage system.

Timing of the bargaining rounds

Collective bargaining in the private and the public sectors takes place in the first quarter, beginning in January. Following the conclusion of an agreement in the private sector, negotiations begin in the companies. The validity of a collective agreement has always been between two to four years depending on the economic perspectives.


The main mechanism is vertical coordination, in Denmark centralised decentralisation with the central or sectoral level as the central point.

Extension mechanisms

There are no extension mechanisms in Denmark regarding collective agreements.

Derogation mechanisms

In the pace-setting sectoral collective agreement in Denmark, the Industry Agreement covering manufacturing industry, there is a provision of deviation from the sector agreement regarding working time and further training at company level. Deviation requires equal support from both parties. The possibility to agree locally about working time is widespread. Otherwise there are no derogation mechanisms in Danish collective agreements.

Expiry of collective agreements

In Denmark, the main purpose for terminating an expiring agreement is to negotiate a new one. In practice it is necessary to terminate an agreement according to a provision in the main agreements between the social partners, even if the purpose is to re-negotiate the former agreement. Otherwise the parties would not be released from the peace obligation of the former agreement, and would not be able to support  new demands for change by threats of industrial action.

Other aspects of working life addressed in collective agreements

In Denmark, all aspects of working life are subject to collective bargaining. Besides wage and working time, training, life-long learning, further training, paternity leave, education leave, options of free-time, leave during sickness, a child’s first sick day, senior days, stress, and harassment are parts of the bargaining agenda. In the last two decades subjects that used to be regulated by legislation have also appeared in the collective agreement, including leave, stress and harassment. 

Industrial action and disputes

Legal aspects

A ‘conflict of rights’ arises where the matter in dispute is already covered by a collective agreement. In the event of a conflict of rights, there is generally no right to resort to industrial action or a lockout. Once enacted, Danish labour law prescribes a peace obligation while the collective agreement is in force.

If the case concerns a breach of the collective agreement, it must be referred to the Labour Court (Arbejdsretten). On the other hand, if there is disagreement concerning the interpretation of the agreement, the dispute must be settled by the industrial arbitration tribunal (Faglige voldgiftsretter). The legal basis for conflict resolution is the Standard Rules for Handling Industrial Disputes from 1910 (the Danish abbreviation is Normen).

A ‘conflict of interests’ occurs in periods and areas when and where there is no collective agreement in force – in these instances, industrial action, such as strikes, lockouts or blockades can be taken provided that there is a reasonable degree of proportionality between the goal to be obtained and the means used to obtain it. This freedom applies both to the workers and the employers. Conflicts of interests may occur in connection with the renewal of a collective agreement. In this case, an attempt at mediation is made by the public conciliator (Forligsmanden) in order to avoid further conflict, such as a general strike.

In addition, conflicts of interests may arise between trade unions and employers not covered by a collective agreement. During the period when a collective agreement is in force, conflicts of interests could also arise if, for instance, new technology at the workplace creates new work not covered by the existing collective agreement. On both occasions, the trade unions can take industrial action against the employer in order to obtain a collective agreement.

The collective labour law deals primarily with conflicts of rights. Conflicts of interests are mainly of a political–economic nature.

Incidence of different forms of Industrial action, 2010–2013

Work-to-rule or refusal to do overtime


Work stoppage or strike for less than a day


Strike of a day or more


Blockade or occupation


Percentage of private sector establishments reporting any form of Industrial action during the indicated period. Source: European company survey

Industrial action developments 2012–2014






Working days lost per 1000 employees 4.1 372.1 6.8 Own calculations based on number of lost working days

Number of strikes




Statistics Denmark, Work stoppages, ABST1

Number of workers involved





Number of lost working days





Dispute resolution mechanisms

Collective dispute resolution mechanisms

Danish collective dispute resolution mechanisms consist of a number of out-of-court resolution mechanisms (different meetings between the involved parties and organisations) combined with the labour court system consisting of the Industrial Arbitration Tribunals and the Labour Court.

First the parties at workplace and secondly the social partners have an obligation to resolve the conflict before it goes to court. This happens through meetings between the parties.

If the case concerns a breach of the collective agreement, it must in the end be referred to the Labour Court (Arbejdsretten). On the other hand, if there is disagreement concerning the interpretation of the agreement, the dispute must be settled by industrial arbitration tribunals.

Individual dispute resolution mechanisms

The main individual dispute resolution mechanism is the civil court. Only collective disputes are taken up by the labour court system. Thus, in case the union of the complainant, if any union involved does not want to take the case, the only possibility for the individual is to take the case to the civil court.

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations are the relationship between the individual worker and their employer. This relationship is shaped by legal regulation and by the outcomes of social partner negotiations over the terms and conditions governing the employment relationship. This section looks into the start and termination of the employment relationship and entitlements and obligations in Denmark

Start and termination of the employment relationship

Requirements regarding an employment contract

When employing a new employee for longer than a month with an average weekly working time of more than eight hours, it is obligatory to draw up an employment contract.

The employment contract has to be issued within four weeks of the start of the employment relationship. These conditions are set out in the pace-setting Industrial Agreement.

As a rule, children under 13 are not allowed to do paid work. Compensation might be given in connection with cultural activities. Applications to pay someone under the age of 13 are sent to the police. Rules concerning work for 13–15 year olds and below 13 are administered by the Danish Working Environment Authority.

Dismissal and termination procedures

It is the employer’s right according to the managerial prerogative to dismiss employees if necessary in connection with the organisation of work in the company. Disputes about allegedly unfair individual dismissals can be taken by the unions to the Dismissals Board, which is a board set up by the social partners in line with collective agreement provisions. Individuals who are not members of agreement-signing unions can appeal their dismissal in the Civil Courts.

Dismissals and termination procedures are laid down in legislation as well as in collective agreements. Termination procedures mainly deal with the notice period and, for some, collective agreements on severance pay. The main act covering dismissals of salaried employees is the Act on the legal relationship between the employers and salaried employees (Funktionærloven - Consolidation Act no. 81 of 3 February 2009). The main act covering collective dismissals is the Act on the notification in case of collective redundancies (Consolidation Act no. 291 of 22 March 2010). The notice periods laid down in the collective agreements are in general short.

Entitlements and obligations

Parental, maternity and paternity leave

Provisions on parental, maternity and paternity leave are laid down in collective agreements as well as in legislation for those not covered by a collective agreement. Basically, the employees on leave in relation to a birth receive full pay for the agreed period of the leave. The uptake of paternity leave has been growing the last decade.

Statutory leave arrangements


Maximum duration

Rate of reimbursement

Who pays?

Legal basis

Maternity leave

According to the pace-setting collective agreement, the Industry Agreement, women with nine month’s seniority in the job have the right to maternity leave with full pay from four weeks before the expected day of giving birth and up to 14 weeks after. Fathers have the right to two weeks’ paid leave after the birth.

Full pay

The employer.


It is a precondition for the paid maternity/paternity leave that the employer receives compensation from the state equivalent to the maximum unemployment benefit.

Collective agreement

Parental leave

After the 14 weeks, the employer pays a further 11 weeks’ leave, with both  parents having the right to four weeks each. The remaining three weeks’ leave can be taken by either the mother or the father. The part of the 11 weeks’ leave granted to each of the parents cannot be traded between them and if not taken the payment is cancelled.

Full pay

The employer

Collective agreement

Paternity leave

The father has the right, but not the duty, to take two weeks’ paternity leave in connection with the birth. After the first 14 weeks, the father has the right to four additional weeks – and the possibility to take another three weeks.

Full pay

The employer

Collective agreement


The Act on Maternity Leave (Consolidation Act no 872 of 29-04-2015) – Barselsloven covering those not covered by collective agreement – the rules are the same for the first 4+14 weeks. The parents receive a maternity leave benefit during the period. The maximum is €530 a week. After the 14 weeks, both parents can obtain a further 32 weeks of leave, or 64 weeks together. However, it is only for half of the 64 weeks that the parent receives maternity leave benefit. The act requires that the mother or father receiving benefit has been working for the last 13 weeks before the child’s birth.

See left column

The employer


Sick leave

According to the pace-setting collective agreement, the Industry Agreement, five weeks sick leave with full pay is granted to employees with six months of seniority in a company. After five weeks of sickness the employer pays another four weeks sick leave. Most agreements follow a similar practice.

The Act on Sickness Benefit (Consolidation Act no 871 of 28 June 2013 – Sygedagpengeloven) concerns those not covered by collective agreement, including the self-employed. The employer pays the first 30 days of leave, and then the municipality takes over the responsibility for sick pay in relation to the act.

Retirement age

The retirement age for receiving state pension (old age pension) has in general been increased from 65 years to 67 over a period of three years. For those born before the second half of 1953, the pension age is still 65. For those born after this time the pension age increases by six months every six months. So for those born in the first half of 1954, the pension age is 66; for those born in the second half of 1954, it is 66½; for those born after this, the retirement age is 67. A further increase is foreseen after 2015 based on the life expectancy of men and women. It has not been finally decided yet.

The voluntary early retirement age is about to be phased out. Currently it is still 60 years for those born before the second half of 1953. Then it is rises incrementally for those born after this, reaching age 64 for those born in the second half of 1959.


Minimum wages

In Denmark, the minimum wage is set by collective agreement at sector level. There is no statutory national minimum wage, nor is a single national minimum wage set by collective agreement. Thus, minimum wages are only determined by the social partners at individual sector level.

For more information regarding the level and development of minimum wages, please see Eurofound’s annual update on developments in collectively agreed pay or visit Eurostat.

Collectively agreed pay outcomes

For more detailed information on the most recent outcomes in terms of collectively agreed pay, please consult Eurofound’s collective wage bargaining portal or Eurofound’s most recent annual update on developments in collectively agreed pay.

Working time

This section briefly summarises regulation and issues regarding working time, overtime, part-time work as well as working time flexibility in Denmark.

Working time regulation

Working time is mainly regulated by collective bargaining. The exception is the Holiday Act (Ferieloven) that secures all employees five weeks of annual leave, and the minimum resting hours (11 hours) guaranteed in the Act on the working environment (Arbejdsmiljøloven), The most important level regarding regulation of working time in the collective agreements is the sectoral level. One significant exception is the Industrial Agreement. A paragraph in the agreement allows the company level to deviate from the sector agreement and decide their own working hours provided that both parties at company level agree. Thus, the company level is the most important level under the Industrial Agreement.

For more detailed information on working time (including annual leave, statutory and collectively agreed working time), please consult Eurofound’s most recent annual update on working time.

Overtime regulation

Overtime is regulated by collective agreements. Working overtime means to work more than the single weekly agreed working time due to some degree of force majeure. Overtime is either paid according to the time of the day for the extra work, or it can be taken as time off in lieu. The latter prevails in the public sector, where paid overtime is rare.

Agreed flexible working time cannot exceed 48 hours as stipulated in the Working Time Directive. No opt-out option is included

Part-time work

Part-time work is regulated by both collective agreement and by supplementary legislation building on the part-time work Directive in areas where there is no collective agreement. Part-time working hours can also be agreed individually between employer and employee.

Since 2008 part-time work has constituted an average of around 25.5% of total employment each year. The crisis did not result in significant changes in this pattern. Put in an EU-wide perspective, part-time work in Denmark is generally higher than average. In 2013, the EU28 average was 20.3% while in Denmark it was 25.4% (LFS)

Working time flexibility

Working time flexibility, understood as ‘flex time’, is regulated by collective agreement or in individual contracts. Flexible working hours are normally to be placed within the times of 06.00 to 18.00, but can also be agreed for shifts.

Proportion of establishments reporting that some employees may adapt the start and end of their working day to their personal needs

Establishment size

None or fewer than 20% in the establishment

Between 20-80% in the establishment

More than 80% in the establishment

















Source: European Company Survey 2013

Health and well-being

Maintaining health and well-being should be high-priority for workers and employers alike. Health is an asset closely associated with a person’s quality of life and longevity, as well as their ability to work. A healthy economy depends on a healthy workforce; organisations lose productivity through ill-health of their workers. This section looks into psychosocial risks and health and safety in Denmark.

Psychosocial risks

The regulation of health and safety and the working environment is mostly regulated by legislation – in this case the Act on the Working Environment (Consolidation Act no 268 of 18 March 2005 – Arbejdsmiljøloven). This includes psychosocial as well as physical health and well-being.    

All workplaces need a workplace assessment (APV) and in contrast to the shop steward who is elected on a voluntary basis, a working environment representative elected among the employees is obligatory in companies with more than 10 employees.

The social partners and the government also finance the Sector Work Environment Council´s (BAR) activities targeting the working environment in 11 sectors covering the labour market. The Sector Work Environment Councils does not regulate, but gives advice and guidance to secure health and well-being at work.

There was a peak in work intensity in 2005. In 2000 and 2010 the level was around 59–60%. A reasonable explanation for the decline in work intensity was the financial crisis.

Long working hours is an issue for almost half of the labour force. There has been an increase in long working hours between 2000 and 2010.

There is a decline in workers being subject to discrimination.   

Selected working conditions indicators affecting psychosocial risks





Work intensity: Working to tight deadlines at least a quarter of the time








Long working hours: Working more than 10 hours once or more per month







Discrimination: having been subjected to discrimination at work over the past 12 months






Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey

More detailed figures are available from Eurofound’s European Working conditions survey

Health and safety at work

Since 2008, there has been a decline in the number of accidents, particularly in the 2008–2009 period. Though the curve flattened out after 2009, the trend is still that fewer and fewer accidents occur.

Accidents at work, with four days’ absence or more – working days lost







All accidents






Percent change on previous year






Per 1,000 employees






Source: Eurostat, [hsw_mi01] and [lfsa_eegaed]

Figures from the national statistical office show that the total number of accidents (including accidents with less than four days’ absence) in 2013 was 21,318.

Skills, learning and employability

Skills are the passport to employment; the better skilled an individual, the more employable they are. Good skills also tend to secure better-quality jobs and better earnings. This section briefly summarises the Danish system for ensuring skills and employability and looks into the extent of training.

National system for ensuring skills and employability

The Danish vocational education and training programmes are alternating or ‘sandwich-type’ programmes, where practical training in a company alternates with teaching at a vocational college.

The Ministry of Education has the overall parliamentary, economic and legal responsibility for vocational education and training, which is regulated under the Act on Vocational Education (Consolidation Act No. 439 of 29 April 2013 – Erhvervsuddannelsesloven)

Responsibility for the content, length and structure of the individual educations is divided between the Ministry of Education, the Council for Initial Vocational Education and Training, the Vocational Committees of the individual programmes and the institutions for vocational education and training (vocational colleges), which is approved to offer training.

The Vocational Committees (faglige udvalg) are bipartite committees with representation of the social partners. The vocational committees decide duration and structure of the training programmes, including the distribution of school and practical training in the different programmes.

Provisions about adult and continuing training are mainly laid down in the collective agreements supplemented with legislation on adult vocational training.


See above for regulation on training.

In the table below it appears that establishments with 10–249 employees and employee representation are more like to pay employees for training. For establishments with more than 249 employees, there is no such correlation. The table shows that all establishments without employee representation offers more than 80 % of their employees paid time off for training. It should be noted that there are very few large establishments in Denmark and only one without employee representation is included in the survey. Hence the result for this group is not significant. 

Proportion of employees receiving paid time off for training

Establishment size

Employee representation at establishment or company exists

None or fewer than 20% in the establishment

Between 20-80% in the establishment

More than 80% in the establishment































Source: European Company Survey 2013

Work organisation

Work organisation underpins economic and business development and has important consequences for productivity, innovation and working conditions. Eurofound research finds that some types of work organisation are associated with a better quality of work and employment. Therefore, developing or introducing different forms of work organisation are of particular interest because of the expected effect on productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of companies, as well as on workers’ working conditions. Ongoing research by Eurofound, based on EurWORK, the European Working Conditions Survey  and the European Company Survey , monitors developments in work organisation,

For Denmark the European Company Survey 2013 shows that between 2010 and 2013, 59% of establishments with 10 or more employees reported changes in the use of technology, 49% introduced changes in ways to coordinate and allocate the work to workers, and 20% saw changes in their working time arrangements.

According to the managerial prerogative, the manager has to right to manage and distribute work. However, even though no hard data exist on employees’ co-determination and participation in innovative work organisation, there is a trend in Danish companies towards involving the employees, in groups or individually, in the work organisation of the company. The rationale behind this is that flexible working conditions and participation have an influence not only on productivity, but also on innovative changes in the work processes and/or products of the company

Equality and non-discrimination at work

Discrimination at work is regulated by the Act on Prohibition on Discrimination at the Labour Market (Consolidation Act no 1349 of 16 December 2008 – Forskelsbehandlingsloven), which basically follows the European standards. Discrimination is understood under this act as any direct or indirect discrimination based on race, colour, religion or belief, political opinion, sexual orientation, age, disability or national, social or ethnic origin.

Cases of discrimination are dealt with by the Committee of Equal Treatment (Ligebehandlingsnævnet) and cases can also be brought in the normal juridical system.

Equal pay and gender pay gap

In Denmark, the gender pay gap has been more or less the same for the last 25 years, around 17%. The latest figures show a slow decrease.

Formally, the issue of equal pay was introduced in the agreements of 1973. Since then, the agreements have not distinguished between men and women. However, in 2003, DA and LO published a joint report on gender equality in the labour market which was the result of a bipartite investigation into the gender pay gap.

According to the Act on a gender based wage statistics, an employer with at least 35 employees must prepare gender-specific wage statistics where a minimum of 10 employees of each gender are employed, measured in accordance with the six-digit DISCO code.

The law has been criticised for its high thresholds which release a large number of companies from the obligation, given that company size in Denmark is generally small. More than 70% of companies have fewer than 35 employees, and of those with more, not all employ at least 10 of each gender.

Quota regulations

In Denmark, there are no legal obligations for specific quotas for the employment or appointment of people from certain groups in the labour market, including supervisory boards.


Confederation of Danish Employers (DA) (2014), Arbejdsmarkedsrapport 2014 [Labour market report 2014], DA, Copenhagen.

Due, J., Madsen, J.S. and Pihl, M.D.  (2010), Udviklingen i den faglige organisering: årsager og konsekvenser for den danske model. LO-dokumentation Nr.1/2010, LO, Copenhagen.

Due, J. and Madsen, J.S. (2016), Fra storkonflikt til barselsfond, Djøfs Forlag, Copenhagen.

Dansk Industri/CO Industri (2012), Industriens Overenskomst 2012 – 2014 [The Industry Agreement], Copenhagen.

Dansk Industri/CO Industri (2014), Industriens Overenskomst 2014–2017 [The Industry Agreement], Copenhagen.

Jensen, C.S. (2007), Arbejdmarkedsrelationer i Danmark, Djøfs Forlag, Copenhagen.

Kristiansen, J. (2008), Den kollektive arbejdsret, 2. udgave, Djøfs Forlag, Copenhagen.

Larsen, T., Navrbjerg, S.E., Møller Johansen, M. (2010), Tillidsrepræsentanten og arbejdspladsen. Tillidsrepræsentantundersøgelsen 2010 [A survey of the role of the shop steward in the companies made 2010 – a similar survey was made in 1998], LO, Copenhagen.

Mailand, M. (2008), Regulering af arbejde og velfærd – mod nye arbejdsdelinger mellem staten og arbejdsmarkedets parter, Djøfs Forlag, Copenhagen.

Scheuer, S. (1999), ‘The impact of collective agreements on working time in Denmark’, British Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol. 37, No. 3, pp. 465–481.

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