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Is your colleague new to Denmark? Here are three things you SHOULD tell them

Do the words collective agreement, union representative and flexicurity perplex your colleague? Here is what to tell a colleague who just arrived in Denmark.

9. Jan 2023
3 min
English / Dansk

What are the most important things to know once you get off the aeroplane at the airport and enter the labour market in Denmark?

Put this question to Nana Wesley Hansen, labour market researcher, and she’ll answer promptly:

  • Collective agreement
  • Union representative
  • Flexicurity

If you want to help a colleague who just arrived in Denmark, here is a quick guide to what to tell them:

1. What is a collective agreement? And who negotiates it?

In Denmark, your terms of employment are negotiated between a trade union and employers. The terms negotiated could be your right to days off, annual pay increases and continuing education and training.

This is called a collective agreement. The collective agreement is entered into between employee representatives, in the form of a trade union, and representatives of the businesses having hired the employees.

These collective agreements are independent of the political system and thus have nothing to do with legislation. To illustrate, there is no statutory minimum wage in Denmark, but the pay level is agreed between the trade unions and the employers through collective bargaining.

In the financial sector, Finansforbundet is the union negotiating your pay and terms of employment with your employer.

About Nana Wesley Hansen

  • Associate Professor at the Employment Relations Research Centre (FAOS), Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen
  • PhD in Sociology in 2013, University of Copenhagen
  • Her primary research area is collective bargaining and cooperation in the private and public sectors.
  • Concurrently, Nana Wesley Hansen works with the recruitment of highly-skilled foreign nationals for jobs in Denmark. In her work, she follows policy making and conducts analyses of recruitment practices.

2. What is a union representative? And how may this person help you?

A union representative bridges the gap between the employees and the management at your workplace. It is a colleague who has been elected to represent you and the other employees, and who has special access to the management.

The union representative is someone you can go to with matters that might be difficult to discuss with you manager or colleagues. This could be questions about your employment conditions, your well-being at work or professional events. Here, the union representative plays an important role in ensuring that conflicts are solved locally.

The union representative has been trained by your union to solve these tasks and can draw on the expertise of the union if necessary.

3. What does flexicurity mean for you?

The labour market in Denmark is characterised by a special combination of flexibility and security, hence coining the term flexicurity.
Useful links

Flexicurity, in brief, is about ensuring companies a high degree of flexibility while ensuring employees a high degree of security. For example, it is relatively easy and not exceedingly expensive for employers to dismiss employees in Denmark; in return, as an employee in Denmark, you can accrue entitlement to unemployment benefits to secure an income if you become unemployed.

If your colleague is new to Denmark, it might be worth joining an unemployment insurance fund (a-kasse) depending on the following:

If he or she is:

  • a citizen of the EU, Switzerland or other EEA country (Iceland, Norway or Liechtenstein)
  • has a permanent work and residence permit in Denmark,
    then, he or she is entitled to unemployment benefits on the same terms as Danish citizens.

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