Denmark: Developments in working life – Q1 2016

Tripartite discussions between the confederations and the government about the integration of refugees, the debates on the psychosocial working environment and LGBT issues are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Denmark in the first quarter of 2016.

Tripartite agreement on the integration of refugees

On 17 March 2016, the social partners at confederation level concluded a tripartite agreement with the government on a programme about how to effectively integrate the growing number of refugees from the Middle East. The principle of the final agreement is to get refugees who have been granted asylum into work as quickly as possible. The agreement builds partly on a joint proposal from the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) and the Confederation of Danish Employers (DA), which introduces ‘basic integration training’ (IGU) for those refugees with no or low competencies. Based on experience, it is felt that this group will have the most problems in finding work in the labour market. The refugees are offered a salary similar to apprentices taking a ‘basic vocational education’ (EGU) and covered by the same collective agreements. The IGU jobs can last for up to two years and, during this period, refugees will also be offered skill development courses of up to 20 weeks, including Danish lessons.

Discussion about the psychosocial working environment

The employees’ confederations also wanted to discuss the psychosocial working environment (harassment, bullying, mobbing, discrimination, provoked stress or similar) in the tripartite discussions. However, the employers refused to discuss this issue, claiming that it was not a severe problem. In a joint open letter, a representative from DA and one from the municipalities’ employer organisations, Local Government Denmark (KL), claim that stress in general cannot be blamed on the working environment only. In the letter they said they wanted to banish three myths about the psychosocial working environment:

  • that the psychosocial working environment in Denmark in general is open to criticism;
  • that legislation and law enforcement secures a good psychosocial working environment;
  • that the employers alone are responsible for the working environment.

LGBT issues and the Danish labour market

A 2015 study funded by LO shows that it is more difficult to be LGBT in male-dominated workplaces. Results of the study, released just before the annual Copenhagen Pride Week, shows that 34% of the respondents have observed condescending language at their workplace when talking about LGBTs. The study also displays great differences between men and women’s experiences of openness and acceptance of LGBT people in the Danish workplaces.

At the time of the survey, LO Vice-President Lizette Risgaard (now President) said it was important to LO that employees could be themselves at their workplace, and that it was a problem that so many respondents in the survey had commented on the use of condescending colloquial language about LGBTs.

The employer organisation The Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) also commented on LGBTs in the labour market. According to DI, LGBTs should never feel limited at their workplaces, and it is the impression of DI that companies want open and inclusive workplaces that enable everybody to be themselves.

Since 2010, successive governments have talked of a labour market open to everybody no matter what their sexual orientation (and regardless of any other personal characteristics). The 2016 IDAHO Forum (International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia) is to take place in Copenhagen in May and the Minister for Gender Equality, Ellen Trane Nørby of the liberal Venstre party, said: ‘All persons, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, should have the freedom to be who they are and make the choices they want. I am happy and proud that Denmark this year holds the baton when we bring a large number of European countries together at the IDAHO Forum.’

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