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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IN NUMBERS: How close is Denmark to becoming cash free?

Although app payments are commonplace in Denmark and almost all businesses accept debit cards, one in five people in the country still say they would find it difficult to be without cash.

IN NUMBERS: How close is Denmark to becoming cash free?

Some 20 percent of the Danish public say they would find it difficult to may everyday payments if cash was no longer in use, national agency Statistics Denmark found in a recent survey.

It should be noted that there are no immediate political plans to make Denmark cashless. But given the country’s position as one of the most digitalised societies in the EU, it is notable that such a high number still uses cash on such a regular basis.

Some 20 percent of people between the ages of 15 and 89 said they agreed with the statement “I would find it difficult to make payments if cash was abolished as a payment method”.

The figure comes from the agency’s annual publication on IT habits in the general Danish population.

“One in five say they would find it hard to get by without cash, our study shows. It might not be surprising that this is particularly among elderly people,” Statistics Denmark senior consultant Agnes Tassy said.

“Many people in the older age group also belong to the category we have chosen to call ‘digitally challenged’. In that group, 40 percent would find it hard to be without cash,” she said.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Is it better for tourists to use cash or card in Denmark?

The agency defines “digitally challenged” as people who say they cannot navigate the internet or install an app.

Among the remainder of the population, most people say they could manage without cash although 17 percent still said they would find it to be a problem.

As part of the study, the data agency also asked members of the public which payment methods they had used at least once during the last three months.

Here, 53 percent said they had used all three primary types: cash, payment app and payment card.

30 percent said they used the latter two types but not cash, while only 7 percent said they did not use a mobile app but did use cash and card. A similarly low number, 7 percent, said they only used a card and neither an app nor cash. Just 2 percent only use cash.

In the study, six out of ten said they had used cash at some point around the beginning of 2022, the period the questions in the survey relate to.

But even though one in five say they’d find it hard not to use cash at all, only 2 percent – equivalent to 90,000 people – use cash as their sole method of payment.

A very high proportion – 97 percent – said they used payment cards at the beginning of 2022. Around 84 percent used a mobile app to pay for an item or service.

READ ALSO: Dankort: What is Denmark’s payment card and how is it different from other card types?

Graphic: Statistics Denmark

Breaking those numbers down by age, as in the graphic above, the percent of card users remains high across age groups (grey line), as does the middling amount of people who use cash (blue line).

Mobile apps (green line) have a very high usage in younger age groups, before a drop of for people in their fifties and sixties and a nosedive in usage for the over-80s.

“Across all age groups, the little plastic card is payment form most people rely on. Between 73 percent and 85 percent used a card the most often in 2022. For the entire population, the case is that 8 out of 10 most often pay by card, while 14 percent most often use an app,” Tassy said.

The use of cash rises with age, with one in five over 80 using it most often but only 3 percent of people aged between 15 and 34.