Parental leave in Denmark: Government wants ‘most choice possible’ for families

Denmark’s government says it is opposed in principle to controlling parental leave through legislation, but praised a recent proposal to tag set amounts of leave to each parent.

Parental leave in Denmark: Government wants 'most choice possible' for families
Labour and employment organisations in Denmark have proposed an updated model for parental leave, which complies with an EU directive on the area. Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

Employment minister Peter Hummelgaard said on Friday that, despite the government’s reluctance to legislate on the area, an EU directive requirement means it will seek to agree a deal giving as much choice as possible for families.

Hummelgaard’s comments came following initial talks between parliamentary parties over reforms to Denmark’s parental leave system.

READ ALSO: Parental leave: How new agreement could change rules in Denmark

“In the government we are of the opinion that we must try to make the best of things and do this in a way that provides as much flexibility as possible for individual families,” Hummelgaard said in comments reported by news wire Ritzau.

The minister also took a swipe at the European Union, saying the government did not want “something pulled down over its head on the part of the EU”.

A preferable arrangement would be for labour organisations – trade unions and employer representatives – to negotiate parental leave terms, Hummelgaard said.

“But we are now faced with implementing this, so our goal is to make the best of it and ensure it brings as much equality with it as possible,” he said.

The EU directive in question requires mothers and fathers to each have at least nine weeks of so-called “earmarked” parental leave, meaning the two parents cannot transfer the leave from one to another.

An agreement announced last week between the Danish Trade Union Confederation (Fagbevægelsens Hovedorganisation, FH) and Confederation of Danish Employers (Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening, DA) would set parental leave in Denmark at 11 weeks for both the mother and father or second parent.

Under the proposal formed by that agreement, the mother has a right to four weeks’ pregnancy leave prior to giving birth and both parents can take two weeks’ leave immediately after the birth.

That leaves a remaining earmarked 9 weeks, which can be taken at any time but are tagged to each parent, as are the initial 2 post-birth weeks. If one parent does not use all of their 11 weeks, those weeks lapse.

The proposal complies with the EU’s parental leave directive.

Hummelgaard expressed his backing for the agreement.

“We think the labour market organisations have put forward a very balanced and thorough proposal, which both falls in with what the directive demands and makes it as easy as possible for parents to arrange parental leave the way they want,” he said.

The proposal has elicited a divided response since its announcement last week, with backers saying they promote equality and critics saying they interfere with childcare decisions in the private sphere.

Conservative parties are largely opposed to earmarking leave for each parent, meaning that parties on the left will likely be required to vote through any bill to implement it.

Member comments

  1. Families are supported by an au pair
    as they can continue with their work without any problem. It is an opportunity to have a right hand with our children

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What are Denmark’s rules for taking extended leave due to child sickness?

It’s a situation we hope you never experience, but Denmark has rules in place for people who take periods of absence from work to look after children with long-term illness.

What are Denmark’s rules for taking extended leave due to child sickness?

If your child is seriously ill and you have to take time off work to care for him or her, you may be entitled to payments to cover lost wages.

Whether you qualify for the welfare support depends on whether the child needs to be hospitalised or cared for at home in a way that can be given equivalence with hospital treatment. More detail on this follows below.

If you are currently looking for work and receiving unemployment insurance (dagpenge in Danish) through membership of an A-kasse, the same rules can apply to you if you have to stop receiving this insurance to look after the child (for example, if you can no longer attend job centre meetings or regularly apply for jobs as required by the dagpenge system).

A short side point on terminology: The Danish term dagpenge is not just used in relation to the unemployment security that you get through A-kasse membership. It is also used in a number of different contexts related to the social welfare system. For example, barselsdagpenge means the money you receive (from the state) while on parental leave. Payments you can receive while looking after a sick child can also be called dagpenge even though they are not the same as A-kasse payouts.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Should I sign up with a Danish union and get unemployment insurance?

People who are employed (rather than self-employed) can find out from their employer whether they have the right to take leave from work to take care of a child for an extended period.

If you are member of a trade union, the collective bargaining agreement (overenskomst in Danish) between your union and you employer will set out the rules that apply in your situation.

Non-union members can only take leave through agreements with their employer, rather than through rules defined in a collective bargaining agreement. As such, you do not have a legal right to take leave from work but can do so via an agreement with your workplace.

If you are currently looking for work and receiving payments through your A-kasse, you should contact the A-kasse.

If you do have the right to take leave to care for your child, a number of criteria will normally have to be fulfilled. Your child must be under 18 years old; the doctor treating them must confirm they expect their illness to last longer than 12 days (less for single parents) and require treatment at a hospital or other facility or equivalent treatment at home.

In order to receive compensation for time of work, you must be off work or work reduced hours as a result of the child’s illness and fulfil the general requirements which would qualify you for parental leave.

READ ALSO: Parental leave in Denmark: What are the new rules and when do they take effect?

Note that these rules for long-term child illness are not the same as the statutory ‘first day off’ which parents have the right to take (either paid or unpaid) if their child is taken ill acutely.

There are also separate rules for loss of income for parents who work less on a more permanent basis, to take care of a child with a disability or a chronic disease. We will write about this in a later article.

How do I apply for payments when off work for over 12 days to look after a sick child?

Before you submit documentation, your employer (or A-kasse) must register your absence via the website. If you are self-employed, you can also register absence on

It is important to submit documentation and applications as quickly as possible. You can only receive money from the day your absence is registered – in other words, it is not backdated.

Once your employer has registered your absence, you have eight weeks to submit the relevant information and documents. You will receive a notification via your secure digital mail E-boks, which provides you with a link to submit your application.

The doctors who are treating you child (not your GP) will be required to complete documentation detailing the child’s illness and expected treatment time, and where the treatment will take place. They will also describe the child’s care needs and what parents will need to do. It is your responsibility to make sure the documentation is submitted. You can also see the doctors’ form here and submit documents via this link, but remember that your employer must register your absence first.

How much will I be paid?

You can receive a maximum of 4,465 kroner per week (in 2022) pre-tax, and for a maximum of 52 weeks within an 18-month period.

If your trade union ensures a full salary during your absence, your employer can be refunded part of your wages while you are away. They must apply within eight weeks of your return to work.

If you have further questions or are unsure how the rules apply to your specific situation, you can call Udbetaling Danmark, the agency responsible for administration and payment of social welfare support. The relevant contact information can be found here.

READ ALSO: ‘Omsorgsdage’: What you need to know about Denmark’s childcare leave days