EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Telework in Denmark

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In 2006, more than a quarter of the Danish workforce were engaged in telework to some extent. Collective agreements have made provision for this type of work since the 1990s, and various definitions of the practice have arisen. However, the social partners in Denmark have been slow in implementing the EU framework agreement on telework, concluded by the European social partners in 2002. A variety of reasons have been put forward to explain this delay.

Definition of telework

The Danish social partners have used the definition of telework set out by the European social partners as a starting point for implementing the 2002 European framework agreement on telework (107Kb PDF). However, the majority of collective agreements at confederal and sectoral levels tend to deviate from this definition of telework. Most forms of work carried out by employees outside the employers’ premises are often included in the social partners’ definitions of telework. This is mainly because most collective agreements already had existing rules and procedures regarding telework and other forms of home-based work before 2002. Examples of how social partners have defined telework in their collective agreements are presented below.

Telework is understood as work which, after agreement with the company, is carried out outside the company’s premises, such as the employee’s home. The agreement does not include work performed at a remote posting and business-related travelling. Telework does not include mobile work such as that carried out by, for instance, sales workers and others who perform work at shifting locations. Potential agreements with these types of employees regarding work at home are, however, included in the agreement.

(Danish Employers’ Association for the Financial Sector (Finanssektorens Arbejdsgiverforening, FA) and the Financial Services’ Union (Finansforbundet), 2003, p. 170 – author’s translation)

Teleworking is work that can be performed remote from the normal workplace using a personal computer (PC), an electronic communication link or some other similar equipment provided by the employer. The type of work that can be performed by teleworking must be of a repetitive nature in order to be covered by the agreement and can only be undertaken within a proportion of the agreed working hours. The agreement does not include work performed at a remote posting or during business travel. Teleworking does not include mobile work, that is, work performed at shifting locations.

(Ministry of Finance (Finansministeriet, FM), 2005)

Teleworking and home-based work is work that is performed remotely from the normal workplace by the use of a PC, an electronic communication form or other form of material which is made available by the employer. Work which is performed as telework and home-based work has to have a regular ‘tilbagevendende karakter’ [recurring character] to be included by the agreement and can only be used as part of the agreed working hours.

(Association of Local Government Employees’ Organisations (Kommunale Tjenestemænd og Overenskomstansatte, KTO) et al, 1997 and 2005, p. 8)

Prevalence of telework

Number of employees involved

Telework is rather widespread in Denmark. In 2006, approximately 716,000 people worked from home, but relatively few people (112,000) teleworked on a regular basis (Statistics Denmark (Danmarks Statistik), 2006). According to a recent survey by Statistics Denmark, men are more likely than women to work from home and primarily people aged 30–54 years tend to be teleworkers (Tables 1 and 2).

Table 1: Number of people working from home, by frequency, 15–66 age group, 2006
  Total (000s) Men (000s) Women (000s)
Working from home 716 421 295
Regularly 112 53 59
Occasionally 604 368 236

Source: Statistics Denmark database, 2006

Table 2: Number of people working from home, by frequency and age group, 2006
  15–29 years 30–54 years 55–66 years
  Men (000s) Women (000s) Men (000s) Women (000s) Men (000s) Women (000s)
Working from home 46 31 293 219 82 45
Regularly 4 4 32 43 17 12
Occasionally 42 27 261 176 65 33

Source: Statistics Denmark, 2006

Proportion of national workforce involved

The number of people working from home as a proportion of the total national workforce is relatively high in Denmark. In 2006, more than 25% of the Danish workforce were teleworkers: 4% worked from home on a regular basis while the remaining 21.7% occasionally worked from home. Some 10.6% of the female workforce and 15.1% of men are teleworkers. Again, teleworking is most prevalent among the 30–54 age group, where 10.6% of men and 7.9% of women worked at least occasionally from home in 2006 (Tables 3 and 4).

Table 3: Number of people working from home, by frequency, 15–66 age group, 2006 (% of total workforce)
  Total Men Women
Working from home 25.7 15.1 10.6
Regularly 4.0 1.9 2.1
Occasionally 21.7 13.2 8.5

Source: Statistics Denmark, 2006

Table 4: Number of people working from home, by frequency and age group, 2006 (% of total workforce)
  15–29 years 30–54 years 55–66 years
  Men Women Men Women Men Women
Working from home 1.7 1.1 10.6 7.9 2.9 1.6
Regularly 0.1 0.1 1.2 1.5 0.6 0.4
Occasionally 1.5 1 9.4 6.4 2.3 1.2

Source: Statistics Denmark, 2006

Impact of occupation and skills levels

A study by the Danish National Institute of Social Research (Socialforskningsinstituttet, SFI) shows that salaried employees are most likely to be allowed to work from home (Bonke and Meibak, 1999, p. 26). In 1998, fewer than 3% of skilled workers and 6% of unskilled workers had the right to work from home, whereas 12.4% to 30.4% of salaried employees enjoyed such rights. People working in the public sector are almost twice as likely as employees in the private sector to have the opportunity to telework (ibid, Table 6.2.1).

Most employees tend to use their right to work from home. Fewer than 5% of salaried employees (excluding senior managers), who have the right to work from home, have not opted for teleworking. The proportion of skilled workers and unskilled workers not using their right to telework is even less (ibid). Table 5 below gives an overview of employees’ possibilities for working at home according to occupational level and sector.

Table 5: Possibilities for working at home, by occupation and sector, 1998 (%)
  Possibilities for working from home Have used option to work from home Have not used option to work from home
Occupational level      
Senior managers 30.4 26.2 4.3
Line managers 26.7 24.1 2.5
Salaried employees in general 12.4 10.4 2.1
Skilled workers 2.9 1.6 1.3
Unskilled workers 5.7 5.7 0.0
Total average 18.9 16.6 2.2
Sector      
Private sector 14.2 12.0 2.2
Public sector 26.9 24.7 2.2

Source: Bonke and Meibak, 1999, Table 6.2.1

A recent study from Statistics Denmark (2007) has shown that self-employed people are more likely to regularly work from home (45% compared with 25% for employees). Conversely, employees are more likely to work from home occasionally (14% compared with 7% for self-employed persons).

Main sectors using telework

The 2007 study from Statistics Denmark revealed that, on average, about 26% of employees in the public sector and 25% of employees in the private sector work from home. However, the main sectors of economic activity where employees report working from home (47%) include agriculture, fishing, mining and quarrying (Table 6). A relatively large group of employees in the financial intermediation and business services sectors also worked from home (39%). Telework was less widespread in the sectors of wholesale and retail trade, and in hotels and restaurants where fewer than one in five persons worked from home.

Table 6: Number of people aged 15–66 years working from home, by sector, 2007 (% of total workforce)
  Working from home (Total)
Agriculture, fishing, mining and quarrying 47
Financial intermediation and business services 39
Public and personal services 28
Electricity, gas and water supply 26
Construction 19
Manufacturing 18
Transport, post and telecommunications 18
Wholesale and retail trade, hotels and restaurants 17

Source: Statistics Denmark, 2007

Development of telework at national level

At national level, the number of teleworkers has increased from 20.7% in 2000 to 25.7% of the total workforce in 2006. The increase is most prevalent among the group of people who work from home occasionally (5.6 percentage points), while the number of persons working regularly at home has declined by 0.6 percentage points. Furthermore, the incidence of telework has risen both among men and women, as well as across the age groups during the last four years. Nonetheless, the largest increase is among men and women aged 30–54 years who only occasionally work from home. Tables 7 and 8 show the number of people working from home according to frequency, sex and age.

Table 7: Number of people working from home, by frequency, 2006 and 2000 (% of total workforce)
  Total Men Women
  2006 2000 2006 2000 2006 2000
Working from home 25.7 20.7 15.1 12.6 10.6 8.1
Regularly 4 4.6 1.9 2.2 2.1 2.4
Occasionally 21.7 16.1 13.2 10.4 8.5 5.7

Source: Statistics Denmark, 2000 and 2006

Table 8: Number of people working from home, by frequency and age group, 2006 and 2000 (% of total workforce)
  15–29 years 30–54 years 55–66 years
  Men Women Men Women Men Women
  2006 2000 2006 2000 2006 2000 2006 2000 2006 2000 2006 2000
Working from home 1.7 1.5 1.1 0.9 10.6 8.7 7.9 6.2 1.9 2.2 1.6 0.9
Regularly 0.1 0.3 0.1 0.2 1.2 1.4 1.5 1.8 0.6 0.6 0.4 0.4
Occasionally 1.5 1.2 1 0.7 9.4 7.3 6.4 4.4 2.3 1.5 1.2 0.5

Source: Statistics Denmark, 2000 and 2006

The increasing number of teleworkers is hardly due to the 2002 framework agreement. Telework has been regulated through collective agreements in Denmark since the late 1990s, whereas the Danish social partners only completed the implementation of the European social partners’ framework agreement on telework in 2006 (European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO), 1998; Johnston and Botterman, 1998, p. 27).

No statistical information is available regarding the development of telework at the dominant sectoral levels.

Regulatory framework

The European social partners’ framework agreement on telework has been implemented through legally binding collective agreements at confederal and sectoral levels in Denmark. Social partners at these levels have, to varying degrees, chosen to transpose the 2002 agreement into their existing collective agreements regarding telework and home-based work. Trade unions at sectoral level which have managed to conclude an agreement on telework and home-based work include the Danish Central Organisation of Industrial Employees (Centralorganisationen af industriansatte i Danmark, CO-industri), Finansforbundet and KTO. Their counterpart employer organisations include the Confederation of Danish Industries (Dansk Industri, DI), FA and Local Government Denmark (Kommunernes Landsforening, KL). At confederal level, the Confederation of Danish Employers (Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening, DA) and the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen i Danmark, LO) have also concluded an agreement on telework, which covers employees excluded from a sectoral agreement.

In this context, it is interesting that FA and Finansforbundet were among the first to implement the 2002 framework agreement on telework in Denmark, since FA is not a member of the Confederation of European Business (BusinessEurope, formerly UNICE) or the European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation and of Enterprises of General Economic Interest (Centre européen des entreprises à participation publique et des entreprises d’intérêt économique general, CEEP). In fact, most trade unions and employer organisations in Denmark delayed the implementation of the telework agreement. Concern about a possible European directive is the main reason why FA agreed to implement the European social partners’ agreement.

Although some trade union and employer organisations at confederal and sectoral levels have implemented the telework agreement, a recent study has revealed that most affiliates of the main trade union and employer confederations have failed to transpose the telework agreement into collective agreements at sectoral and local levels. For example, only one out of DA’s 13 affiliates has implemented the telework agreement through collective agreements, while two affiliates have used guidelines for good practice. Likewise, only eight of LO’s 18 affiliates – mainly in the public sector – have transposed the telework agreement into collective agreements, while 67 of the 98 member organisations in the Confederation of Salaried Employees and Civil Servants in Denmark (Funktionærernes og Tjenestemændenes Fællesråd, FTF) have transposed the agreement. Apart from one member organisation, FTF’s affiliates who have implemented the telework agreement through collective agreements represent employees in the public sector (Larsen and Andersen, 2007, Table 2).

Implementing the European social partners’ telework agreement through collective agreements has meant that the telework agreement can be legally enforced and any breaches can be brought before the national labour court. However, the agreements adopted at confederal and sectoral levels only cover employees who are members of the signatory parties unless otherwise stated in the collective agreement. Collective agreements cover approximately 76% of Danish workplaces but the vast majority of trade unions and employer organisations have failed to implement the telework agreement. Nevertheless, the government does not intend to introduce legislation which would secure workers who are not covered by a collective agreement (Gill and Krieger, 2000, p. 114). The government’s main argument is that the 2002 framework agreement on telework states that the agreement is voluntary and that the national social partners – rather than the government – are responsible for its implementation.

Reasons for delays in implementation

Different reasons are given as to why the implementation process has been delayed and why several trade unions and employer organisations at sectoral level have failed to implement the telework agreement. Several social partners mentioned bad planning as a contributing factor to the delays. In addition, uncertainties on how to interpret the voluntary nature of the European social partners’ telework agreement and the unclear rules and procedures of that agreement have also caused various implementation problems, particularly within the private sector. The private sector employer organisations have been unsure how to implement the 2002 agreement; on the one hand, they want to send a political signal to the EU that they take autonomous agreements just as seriously as European directives but, on the other hand, they want to signify that there is a difference between autonomous agreements and European directives.

Moreover, some employer organisations have been unwilling to implement the telework agreement through collective agreements. DA, for example, has refused to implement the telework agreement through collective agreements with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations (Akademikernes Centralorganisation, AC), mainly because there is no tradition for collective bargaining between AC and DA. The delays within the private sector are also due to the fact that most labour market organisations tend to wait for CO-industri and DI to complete their collective bargaining process before starting or finalising their negotiations. Regarding the public sector, KL and KTO have only recently reached an agreement with respect to implementing the telework agreement. They were delayed for two reasons primarily: the social partners were unable to agree on how to translate the 2002 agreement into Danish; and the two parties disagreed on whether the agreement should be divided into two or three levels. In the case of three levels, this would mean specifying rules for sectoral, local and individual agreements, while two levels implies stating rules and procedures for sectoral and individual agreements only.

With regard to the failure to implement the telework agreement, most affiliates of DA, FTF and LO referred in a recent study to a series of arguments. The most common reasons given by the trade union and employer representatives were that telework was irrelevant for their members, that they saw no need to regulate telework and that they had received no or few requests to implement the agreement. Some organisations also referred to the fact that they already had existing guidelines for good practice in relation to telework and therefore saw no need to transpose the European agreement into their collective agreements. A small number of organisations reported that they were unaware of the European agreement, while others felt no obligation to implement the telework agreement (Larsen and Andersen, 2007, Table 2).

The social partners have not taken any specific initiatives to widen the implementation rate of the telework agreement.

Restrictions on telework

Few restrictions exist with respect to telework. The definitions of telework in the collective agreements of the Ministry of Finance (FM), FA and their counterparts exclude mobile work, that is, the tasks of sales persons and work performed at shifting locations, as well as work carried out at a remote posting or during business travel (see ‘Definitions of telework’ above). Furthermore, the collective agreement between FM and its counterparts excludes teachers. It is also a common feature within the public sector more generally – as well as in the FA and Finansforbundet collective agreements – that teleworkers are required to work some hours at the employers’ premises and are entitled to a work station at the employers’ premises.

Changes in regulation

The regulation of telework has changed over the past 10 years, since it was first regulated through collective agreements during the late 1990s.

Employment and working conditions

Teleworkers tend to follow the existing rules and procedures regarding wage and employment conditions set by the social partners’ collective agreements. Nevertheless, various specific regulations exist with respect to working hours. The collective agreements for teleworkers in the public sector state that teleworkers benefit from the same rights concerning working hours as comparable workers at the employers’ premises. Teleworkers covered by the collective agreement of FA and Finansforbundet also have the same rights as comparable workers; however, teleworkers do not receive extra supplements if they organise their working hours outside the hours specified in the collective agreement.

The collective agreement signed by FM and its counterparts states that the notice period for local agreements is three months and is one month for individual agreements. The notice period for individual agreements for local government employees is much shorter; nonetheless, according to the collective agreement of KTO, KL and Danish Regions (Danske Regioner), teleworkers have the right to return to their previous position or an alternative position if they wish to do so. Such a right is not included in the collective agreements of CO-industri and DI or of FA and Finansforbundet, where employees only enjoy such rights at the employers’ discretion.

Topics to be included or discussed in local agreements

The collective agreement of FA and Finansforbundet specifies a range of topics which have to be taken into consideration when drafting local or individual agreements regarding telework. These include:

  • work tasks;
  • frameworks for the period of telework;
  • systems for registering time;
  • office design, installation and service;
  • health and safety procedures and questions;
  • employer assessment of the teleworker’s workplace;
  • information flow to and from the company;
  • contact between the teleworker and the employee representative and health and safety executive;
  • elements of the evaluation, form of work and time periods;
  • compensation for running costs, including rent, heat, electricity and telephone;
  • the employee’s work station at the enterprise;
  • the notice period for determining the local or individual agreement (FA and Finansforbundet, 2003, pp. 172–173).

Topics to be included or discussed in individual agreements

The following issues have to be covered in individual agreements:

  • membership of the organisation;
  • type of work and its scope;
  • working hours and rules for availability;
  • equipment at the workplace of the teleworker;
  • design of the teleworker’s work station;
  • rules and procedures for health and safety (FA and Finansforbundet, 2003, pp. 172–173).

Non-discrimination and voluntary nature of telework

The different collective agreements state that teleworkers enjoy the same rights as those guaranteed by the collective agreements for comparable workers. Telework is voluntary for the employees and employers.

Data protection and right of privacy

The collective agreements of FA and Finansforbundet and of CO-industri and DI set out specific rules for data protection and the right of privacy of teleworkers. In the former agreement, companies only have access to the employee’s home to check that health and safety regulations are kept. According to the collective agreement, such visits can only take place after agreement with the employee. The CO-industri and DI collective agreement stipulates that employers must respect the privacy of teleworkers. With regard to data protection, both collective agreements state that teleworkers are covered by the same rules and procedures which are applicable to other employees at the employers’ premises. However, employers have to inform teleworkers about any limitations on the information technology (IT) equipment provided by the employer.

Access to training

In most collective agreements, no specific clause states that teleworkers have the same access to training as workers at the employers’ premises. Nevertheless, the general rules within various collective agreements seem to ensure that teleworkers have the same access to training, since they state that teleworkers enjoy the same rights as employees’ working at the employers’ premises.

Health and safety and collective rights

Teleworkers are protected with regard to health and safety in the same way as other workers at the employers’ premises.

Most collective agreements stipulate in their general rules that teleworkers enjoy the same rights as employees working at the employers’ premises, which seems to ensure that teleworkers have the same collective rights.

Views of social partners and government

The social partners and the government have a relatively positive view on teleworking. Indeed, teleworking was already regulated through collective agreements before the European social partners signed the 2002 framework agreement.

The voluntary nature of the European social partners’ telework agreement has enabled the Danish social partners to implement the 2002 agreement according to what may be termed Danish labour market traditions. The government has not introduced new legislation, as no EU requirements state that all employees have to be covered by the 2002 framework agreement on telework.

References

Association of Local Government Employees’ Organisations (KTO), Local Government Denmark (KL) and Committee of Danish Regions (Amtsrådsforeningen), Rammeaftale om tele og hjemmearbejde med tilhørende vejledning, Copenhagen, KL, 1997.

KTO, KL and Committee of Danish Regions, Protokollat om rammeaftale om tele og hjemmearbejde, Copenhagen, KL, 2005.

Bonke, J. and Meibak, N.T., Danskere på fuldtid- deres faktiske og ønskede arbejdstid, SFI survey, Copenhagen, Danish National Institute for Social Research, 1999, available online at: http://www.sfi.dk/graphics/SFI/Billeder/medarbejderfotos/jens1.pdf

Danish Employers’ Association for the Financial Sector (FA) and Finansforbundet, Standardoverenskomst mellem Finanssektorens arbejdsgivere og Finansforbundet om Løn –og arbejdsvilkår på pengeinstituttet og realkredit området, 2003.

European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO), part of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound), Teleworking and industrial relations in Europe, Dublin, Eurofound, 1998, available online at: /ef/search/node/eiro OR ?oldIndex1998/11/study/index.htm

Gill, C. and Krieger, H., ‘Recent survey evidence on participation in Europe: Towards a European model?’, European Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2000, pp. 109–132.

Johnston, P. and Botterman, M., Status report on European telework – Telework 98, Brussels, European Commission, 1998, available online at: http://www.eto.org.uk/twork/tw98/

Larsen, T.P. and Andersen, S.K., ‘A new mode of European regulation? The implementation of the autonomous framework agreement on telework in five countries’, European Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2007, pp. 189–198.

Ministry of Finance, Cirkulære om rammeaftale om distancearbejde, Circular of 6 July 2005, J. No. 05-330-40, Copenhagen, 2005, available online at: http://www.perst.dk/db/filarkiv/12405/039-05.pdf

Statistics Denmark, Arbejdskraftundersøgelsen, Copenhagen, Statistikbanken, 2000.

Statistics Denmark, Arbejdskraftundersøgelsen, Copenhagen, Statistikbanken, 2006.

Statistics Denmark, ‘Hver fjerde arbejder hjemme’, Nyt fra Danmarks Statistik, No. 537, 20 December 2007.

Trine P. Larsen, FAOS

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