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WORKING IN DENMARK

Feriepenge: Denmark’s vacation pay rules explained

If you work for a company in Denmark, your yearly time off is likely to be provided for by the 'feriepenge' accrual system for paid annual leave.

If you work in Denmark, a good understanding of 'feriepenge' (holiday allowance) rules will help you plan time off in the summer and around the calendar.
If you work in Denmark, a good understanding of 'feriepenge' (holiday allowance) rules will help you plan time off in the summer and around the calendar. Photo by S'well on Unsplash

One of the perks of being a full-time employee in the country, Danish holiday usually adds up to five weeks of vacation annually. There are also nine days of public holidays, which everyone benefits from.

The Danish Holiday Act (Ferieloven) provides the basis for paid holiday through accrued feriepenge (‘vacation money’ or ‘vacation allowance’). This covers most salaried employees, although some people, such as independent consultants or freelancers, are not encompassed.

What is feriepenge?

‘Holiday money’ or feriepenge is a monthly contribution paid out of your salary into a special fund, depending on how much you earn.

You can claim back the money once per year, provided you actually take holiday from work. It is earned at the rate of 2.08 vacation days per month.

If you are employed in Denmark, you will be notified when the money can be paid out (this is in May under normal circumstances) and directed to the borger.dk website, from where you claim it back from national administrator Udbetaling Danmark.

Anyone who is an employee of a company registered in Denmark and who pays Danish taxes is likely to receive holiday pay, as this means you will be covered by the Danish Holiday Act (ferieloven). You are not an employee if, for example, you are self-employed, are a board member on the company for which you work or are unemployed.

How do I save up time off using feriepenge?

The law, which covers the five standard weeks or (normally 25 days) of paid vacation, states that you are entitled to take vacation during the vacation year period. You earn paid vacation throughout a calendar year at the rate of 2.08 days per month.

You earn vacation time in the period September 1st-August 31st. You can then use your vacation in the same year that you earn it and up to December 31st the subsequent year – in other words, over a 16-month period.

These rules also mean that holiday earned during a given month can be used from the very next month, in what is referred to as concurrent holiday (samtidighedsferie).

So when can I take time off using this accrued vacation?

The Danish vacation year is further broken down so that there is a “main holiday period” which starts on May 1st and ends on September 30th. During this time, you are entitled to take three weeks’ consecutive vacation out of your five weeks.

A lot of people take three weeks in a row while others break it up – which is why you often hear Danish people who work full time wishing each other a “good summer holiday” as if it’s the end of the school term.

Outside of the main holiday period, the remaining 10 days of vacation can be taken whenever you like. You can take up to five days together but may also use the days individually.

If your employer wants to decide when you should take any of your vacation days, they have to let you know at least three months in advance for main holiday, or one month in advance for remaining holiday (barring exceptional circumstances, such as an unforeseen change to the company’s operations or if the company closes for the summer shortly after you begin employment).

If you have not earned paid vacation, you still have the right to take unpaid holiday.

Public Holidays

In addition to the vacation days, there are also public holidays. These are bunched up mostly in the early part of the year and around Christmas. However, the period between June and Christmas includes the above-mentioned main annual leave, so there’s not usually long to wait until you can take time off.

Denmark has public holidays on:’

  • New Year’s Day  
  • Maundy Thursday
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday  
  • Great Prayer Day (Store Bededag)
  • Ascension Day
  • Whit Monday
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day

In addition to the usual public holidays, companies can choose to give extra time off, for example on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve. There are also differences regarding Labour Day and Constitution Day, depending on where you work, what kind of work you do, or the collective bargaining agreement under which you are employed.

Sometimes you can get a whole day off for these extra holidays, sometimes just a half day. Check with your employer for details.

Member comments

  1. Want to mention that for those on sponsored visas you can’t necessarily take unpaid holiday as SIRI may then question your visa status.

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For members

WORKING IN DENMARK

INTERVIEW: Does Denmark have a distinct management style?

The Local's Emma Firth interviewed Jakob Lauring, Professor at Aarhus University and researcher of cross-cultural management, about the Danish style of leadership.

INTERVIEW: Does Denmark have a distinct management style?

Does Denmark have a distinctive management style?

“I would guess so. Of course it’s somewhat in line with other Northern European styles, which is relatively democratic with a low power style. In a Danish workplace, everyone can voice an opinion and even managers need to ask employees for their point. This is similar to Norway and Sweden but it’s been argued that the Danish style is more informal and less consensus-seeking than other Nordic countries.

“If you compare Danish management to Germany and the U.K., it is quite different. There are not many layers in the Danish company, perhaps just three layers of employee, middle manager and top manager. In a British organisation for example there are seven to eight layers.

“The Nordic style of management is more similar but that’s the same with the cultural values in those countries.”

Where does the Danish leadership style come from?

“It relates to national cultural values, which in Denmark are about having equality and respect for everyone. Whether it’s always fulfilled, we don’t know but the idea is there and it’s something to strive for. Participation, involvement and inclusion are key elements of it. It’s perceived negatively if people are striving for power.

“In Denmark, the ideal manager is very much part of the workforce. They help the workforce with the job and do not have to actually lead them. This idea of being equal can mean it’s more demanding for workers, especially the lower levels as they are expected to know what do do by themselves and get on with things when they run out of work.

“This can be hard cross-culturally. If Danish managers go abroad, they can get quite frustrated that people don’t organise themselves and take initiative.”

Does this leadership style cause cultural clashes? 

“Yes, it seems to be generally that when Danish managers go abroad, they expect far too much from the workers. But these workers don’t have the salary that goes with the Danish responsibility, so they’re not interested in taking that on. Something core to Danish workplace relations, is that everyone wants to take responsibility, that’s how you get status. In the UK for example, it is more to have a form of power and some managers lead but don’t take part in the work.”

What challenges do people face when they move to Denmark to work?

“When foreign people come to work in Denmark, it takes time for them to get used to an informal way of working and a lot of informal values.

“In a Danish workplace, there are no clear hierarchies, so it is much more of a cultural balance of taking responsibility and having freedom.

“For example, if there’s fruit in the office, you can take it freely. But some people might come and take it home to their family. This is not allowed but it’s not a written rule, you’re just expected to know. Similarly, your workplace may say you can work from home but really only for two days a week. But there are no written rules on that. We don’t have explicit rules but they are still there and Danish people know when not to step over the line.

“So it can be quite difficult for foreign workers to know, ‘What is my responsibility and what is my freedom?'”

How good is Denmark’s work-life balance for managers?

“Denmark is usually known to have fairly good work life balance but in a family, both parents tend to work full-time.

“The standard working week is 37 hours and there’s some flexibility, so for example one parent can go into work early and the other come home later, so you can be with your children. But it also means that all children are in nursery or kindergarten. It is very uncommon for one parent not to have a career, or to be at home with children. So you can say work-life balance is quite good but it also means both people are quite busy.”

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