The Danish labour market

The codes can be tough to crack when you are trying to get a foothold in the Danish labour market as a foreigner.

New to the Danish Labour Market

It is hard enough to settle into a foreign country, but it may be even harder to decode the written and the unwritten rules governing the labour market. At the same time, the workplace is also where you meet Danes on an equal footing and truly get the opportunity to become part of Danish society, learn the language, etc.

The Danish labour market is to a greater extent regulated by agreements entered ito by its various players rather than legislation. Employers and trade unions negotiate about salaries, working conditions and many other basic things without the intervention of the government.

To glade mænd

Hence, you must inform yourself about the individual conditions under which you are employed. This is what we call “The Danish Model”. At the same time, you may be eligible to collect unemployment benefits if you lose your job. This, however, requires membership of an unemployment insurance fund (a-kasse), where you can also find out more about the rules and rights in your given situation.

Most people are members of a trade union

In Denmark, two out of three are members of a trade union such as IDA. Trade unions look after employees’ rights and negotiate salaries, benefits, working hours, etc., with employers. This also goes for academics and other high-income earners – including managers. It is due to the work of trade unions such as IDA that the conditions on the Danish labour market are so favourable in terms of things like salary, holiday and working hours.

What does the law say?

A few aspects of the labour market are regulated by legislation. In an engineering or technical job, you will typically be subject to the Act on Salary Employees (“Funktionærloven”). Moreover, we have the holiday Act (“Ferieloven”) and the Maternity Law (“Barselsloven”). They ensure your basic rights such as five weeks of vacation, the basic rigths to maternity leave as well as paid sick leave. What your wage should be, however, it not governed by law. In Denmark wage is negotiated, and there is a principal of freedom of contract, which means that you cannot claim the right to a minimum wage. IDA helps you negotiate your wage and advises you as to what wage level to expect. More information is available at

Check your contract

When you get hired as a student assistant or for a full-time position you are entitled to an employment contract describing the applicable terms and conditions. Make sure that it includes a job description so that it is clear what you are hired to do. Also ensure that your salary and additional working conditions figure in the contract – for example that you are at liberty to take time off to attend exams, what your average working hours will be, etc. As a members of IDA you are welcome to forward your contract to us. We will go through the contract and give you feedback.


“Send your contract to me before your sign it. This will ensure you get the best possible terms and conditions of employment.
Click on my picture and send in your contract.”

Nana Elager-Sørensen, legal counsellor at IDA