Sick leave, citizenship for children and energy providers: Essential articles for life in Denmark

Your rights to take sick leave, how homeowners might be able to cash in on high interest rates, the school system, citizenship rights for Danish-born children, how to use parental leave, and how to decide on an energy provider... here are six must-reads from The Local about life in Denmark.

Sick leave, citizenship for children and energy providers: Essential articles for life in Denmark
Children playing at a Danish kindergarten. File photo: Signe Goldmann/Ritzau Scanpix

If you are unwell and unable to work, Danish employment law allows you to take sick leave if you are in employment, self-employed or receiving social welfare credit.

Mental health conditions such as depression or stress are treated on equal footing with injuries and physical illnesses.

Taking sick leave under the Danish employment provisions might seem difficult to grasp, especially if you are a foreigner in Denmark and used to having different rules or practices in your home country. But if you are legitimately ill, then you are entitled and indeed expected to take sick leave in these situations.

Denmark’s unique borrowing system enabled thousands of people to restructure their mortgages in 2022. High interest rates caused a drop in the market value of covered bonds and in some cases homeowners have been able to cash in.

High interest rates are still with us in 2023, which means the possible benefits are too.

We explain how it all works and how you can potentially pay off a sum of your mortgage.

Education is compulsory in Denmark for everyone between the ages of six or seven and 16. But where you are educated is the choice of the parent, with options of private, state-run or ‘free’ schools.

Most children in Denmark attend state-run schools, which are free. These are called folkeskole and gymnasium. 

Other options include the private ‘free schools’ or friskoler, which cost fees for tuition, although the fees are subsidised meaning they might seem cheap compared to what foreign residents are used to from other countries.

Denmark also has the unique efterskole and højskole, boarding schools where teenagers, young people and adults can attend for short or extended periods to specialise in particular subjects.

Unlike in other countries such as the United States, people born in Denmark do not automatically gain Danish citizenship, so certain criteria apply to children born in Denmark to foreign parents.

Denmark allows dual citizenship, however, meaning it is possible for foreign residents including children to be a dual national, if their country of origin also permits dual citizenship.

In 2022, Denmark’s parliament rubber-stamped a new law to reform parental leave rules by guaranteeing each parent 11 weeks at home with their newborn child.

The new law means that each parent gets 11 weeks of non-transferable parental leave after their child is born.

One parent cannot transfer any of the ‘earmarked’ leave to the other, meaning if they do not use the full 11 weeks, they eventually lapse.

Energy price fluctuations may mean it might be worth switching to a different electricity plan. How do you go about this?

Electricity providers offer both fixed-rate (fastpris) and variable (variabel) plans. Variable plans allow consumers to take advantage of lower prices at off peak times, such as at night.

The rate you are charged can change by the hour and can be around five times lower at its lowest than when it peaks. If the market price gets very high, though, your hourly rate will go up correspondingly.

So how do you check your plan and decide whether it would benefit you to change?

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‘Cheaper’,’amazing nature’, ‘reliable transport’: The best Copenhagen commuter towns

Finding somewhere affordable to live in Denmark's capital is not easy, which is why a lot of people consider moving out of the city to rent or buy. The Local readers gave us an insight into life in a commuter town.

'Cheaper','amazing nature', 'reliable transport': The best Copenhagen commuter towns

With the increase in flexible working, more people are looking to smaller towns outside of Copenhagen to either work from home or commute from. Here are some of the popular commuter towns.

Kokkedal/Fredensborg (north of Copenhagen)

From our reader survey, Kokkedal/Fredensborg were the most popular areas people lived.

“We can have a big house with a garden for the kids compared to a small flat in Copenhagen,” one reader said. 

“Houses are affordable for North Zealand compared to Lyngby, Birkerød or Holte for example,” added Judy, another reader. “Not a lot of apartments or rentals available though.”

She said she loved the “amazing nature” of the area, as well as the safety, community spirit and fact it was close to amenities and Hillerød.

The commute however is not the quickest of the commuter towns.

“On the days I work in town it costs 52kr each way, I need to get a bus or walk to Kokkedal then the train and then a bus or walk to work so it takes up to 1.5 hours,” said one reader. 

Judy agreed that it normally took her an hour and a half to get to Copenhagen’s central station. She said that the “cost can be reduced by using a pendelkort and there is a tax deduction for long distance commutes.” However another reader in the area said it took them 30 minutes to get to Copenhagen central.

The worst part about living in the area, Judy said, was that “local trains and buses only run once an hour on weekends”.

“If you don’t have a car, it’s a pain.”

Another reader complained that “the restaurant scene is not great” and that the “general access to culture” was limited, although the Louisiana Art Gallery, they said, was “not far away”. 

What Judy loved about the area was “amazing nature. Safety. Close to amenities. Community spirit. Houses are more affordable than similar areas like Birkerød. Three stops from Hillerød station. by train. There are also buses to towns on the kystbanen line.”

Kokkedal station. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The north of Copenhagen is a popular choice for commuters, due to the area’s many beaches and the good train links to the centre of Copenhagen.

Other popular commuter towns are Hillerød, Holte, Bikerød, Rungsted and Hørsholm. 

Vedbæk (north of Copenhagen)

A few kilometres south of Kokkedal but still north of Copenhagen, Vedbæk, reported our reader Ron, offers “small town life” where “nearly everyone knows each other”.

The wealthy coastal town, he said, “has everything we need, with easy train access to the Copenhagen on the Regionaltog.” In addition, the commute is “very reliable”, taking only 20 minutes on the train to Nørreport.

The downside, he said, was that housing in the area was very expensive. “It’s probably even more expensive in Vedbæk than in Copenhagen!”

The coastal town of Vedbæk is perfect for commuting. Photo: Tobias Kobborg/Ritzau Scanpix

Stenløse (west of Copenhagen)

To the west of Copenhagen, in Stenløse, housing costs are “much much lower” than the capital, according to one reader. They liked the “house prices, quiet, facilities, nature” and fact it was “still close to the city (36 minutes by train to go to Copenhagen Central).”

However they pointed out there are “only a few restaurants” and “a car is somewhat important.” 

The reader mostly worked from home but their commute involved cycling to the station then taking the S-tog to Copenhagen central station and another bike ride of a few minutes. “It takes about 40 minutes. Train is pretty reliable and runs every 10 minutes during the weekdays,” the reader said.

Other popular commuter areas in the west include Roskilde, Ringsted and Slagelse.

Køge (south of Copenhagen)

To the south of Copenhagen and on the coast, Køge was described by a reader as “quieter” and “cleaner” than Copenhagen, with no real negatives. 

“It’s a lot cheaper. I pay around 3,000 kroner for a single room student accommodation – two of my friends that live in Copenhagen pay 7,000 kroner a month – for a student apartment smaller than mine!” the reader said.

Their commute is “30 – 50 minutes depending on transportation mode (S-tog and regionaltog) – it costs around 650 kr a month with Ungdomskort.”

Dragør is another favourite to the south of Copenhagen due to its old-town charm.

The view across the straits to Nykobing Falster. Photo: Hubertus45/Wikimedia Commons

Nykøbing F (southern Denmark)

Nykøbing F, as it’s known, is a city on the island of Falster in southern Denmark, next to Lolland. Despite being further afield, Matthew found his commute “easy and reasonable” and house prices “much less” than in Copenhagen. He found the area he lives “peaceful” and “beautiful” with nothing he doesn’t like.

Odense (Fyn)

As the third largest city in Denmark, on the island of Fyn, Odense may feel far from Copenhagen. But reader Adrian said his commute to Copenhagen by train took “just over an hour. In a quiet carriage it’s relaxing and a great place to get work done.”

Adrian said house prices in Odense were at least half the cost of those in Copenhagen. “Cheaper housing, easy parking everywhere. Odense is a city with a small town vibe,” he said. The only minor point he said was the “lack of ‘cool’ cafes compared to Copenhagen.”

It’s says something about transport in Denmark that commuting from a different island 300km away can take the same time as commuting from a village just 40km north of Copenhagen. 

Some commuters even travel from Malmö in Sweden, taking advantage of the the fast train over the Øresund Bridge.

Do you have experience of living in a Copenhagen commuter town or village? We’re still interested in collecting readers’ experience of the different options. So if you want to contribute, please fill in the form below: