Denmark: Latest working life developments Q3 2018
A simplified Holiday Act and the publication of a White Paper on the working environment are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Denmark in the third quarter of 2018.
New law makes it easier for employees to take holidays
In January 2018, parliament passed a bill outlining a political agreement on a new Holiday Act prepared by social partners in October 2017.  The act changes the so-called ‘shifted holiday period’ and entitles people who are new to the labour market to paid holiday in the first year of their employment. Today, the periods during which you can earn and use paid holiday are staggered. Employees earn paid holidays from 1 January to 31 December, but cannot use this holiday until after 1 May the following year. This means that employees can wait up to 16 months from the time they earn a paid holiday until they can use it.
With the new Holiday Act, employees will continue to earn the 2.08 days of paid holiday per month that they do currently, but will be able to both earn and use these days within the same 12-month period (from 1 September to 31 August the following year). The Act is due to enter into force on 1 September 2020.
The bill was prepared by the social partners in the forum of a committee that was set up by the government in 2015. At that time, the Danish trade unions – the Confederation of Professionals in Denmark (FTF), Akademikerne and the Danish Union of Public Employees (FOA) – already supported the changes because it improved the situation for new employees. The employer organisation – Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening – also backed the bill and commented in press material that the new Holiday Act would ease the administrative costs for employers in the private sector.
Expert committee publishes White Paper on working environment
Last year, Minister for Employment Troels Lund Poulsen established an expert committee on the working environment. The committee’s brief was to rethink the working environment (occupational health and safety) system in Denmark.
The committee consists of four researchers, four representatives of the social partners and a chairperson appointed by the government. There is a long-standing tradition in Denmark to have a tripartite dialogue on working environment issues.
Since it was established, the committee has published several reports and the Working Environment Authority has carried out a number of different analyses on the committee’s behalf.
The latest of the committee’s reports is a White Paper, released in September 2018. The White Paper analyses changes in the working environment from 2012 to 2018, based on existing and new research. This analysis is followed by 18 policy recommendations for a better working environment in four key areas.
- National reduction goals (reduction in psychosocial occupational health and safety, musculoskeletal disorders and workplace accidents) should be measurable on a workplace level.
- There should be a targeted effort from the authorities in the area of labour inspections (on workplaces with a high level of non-compliance) and greater dialogue between businesses and the authorities.
- There should be better and more transparent regulations, especially with regards to psychosocial occupational health and safety.
- Research, knowledge production and communication should be linked to workplaces, with a new national strategy for research on the working environment formulated.
The recommendations are supported by the social partners represented in the committee, who are the main organisations in both the public and the private sector. The employees are represented by FTF for the public sector and the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) for the private sector, while employers are represented by the Danish National Association of Municipalities (KL) for the public sector and the Confederation of Danish Employers (DA) for the private sector.
The social partners were generally satisfied with the recommendations, but they also had some comments about what was missing. The LO stated that the recommendations pointed in the right direction, but could not make up for 10 years of cutbacks to the Working Environment Authority.  ‘If we want an efficient authority, we need to add DKK 100 million (€13.4 million as at 22 October 2018) to the authority each year,’ Morten Skov Christiansen, Vice President of the LO, said in a statement.
Pernille Knudsen, Vice CEO of the DA, made the following statement on behalf of her organisation: ‘The recommendations give a good starting point to strengthen the occupational health and safety effort in Denmark with an increased focus on the reality and needs of workplaces.’ The DA also stated that it is important to remember that the working environment in Danish workplaces is generally of a high standard.
- Ministry of Employment: Expert committee gives recommendations to the Government
- Expert Committee: White Paper on a new and better working environment system
The recommendations from the expert committee are generally in line with the way the working environment system works now and so they can be implemented within the existing structures. The recommendations are not a reimagining of the system, but a set of adjustments. While this may be disappointing to some (since the task was to rethink the system), it is likely that the recommendations will be implemented soon as they are backed by both the social partners and the government.