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Denmark: Family leave reform

By Nefer Stensballe | January 24, 2022

Denmark is changing its family leave model to distribute benefits equally between both parents, effective August 2, 2022.
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A large majority of the political parties in parliament have agreed on a new model to equalize family leave benefit entitlements between both parents, adopting almost in its entirety a proposal from the two main social partners: the Confederation of Danish Employers (Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening – DA) and the Trade Union Confederation (Fagbevægelsens Hovedorganisation – FH). The bill required to amend current family leave legislation was submitted to parliament on December 22, 2021. The agreement is intended to meet the requirements of the 2019 EU Work-life Balance Directive that European Union member states provide, among other things, paternity leave of at least 10 working days and a minimum of two months of nontransferable parental leave for each parent, by August 2, 2022.

Key details

The reform will introduce a 22-week parental leave for each parent, including partners in same-sex couples. Currently, parents are entitled to separate maternity (14 weeks), paternity (two weeks) and parental (32 weeks) leaves, with parental leave being fully transferable between the parents. Under the new agreement, mothers will retain four weeks of prenatal maternity leave. After birth, each parent will be entitled to two weeks of maternity/paternity leave, followed by 22 weeks of parental leave — nine nontransferable and 13 transferable. The last five weeks of the transferable portion will be available any time before the child turns nine years old. It is worth noting that for some couples where one parent is not an employee (e.g., the parent is self-employed, unemployed or a student), all 22 weeks of parental leave can be claimed by the employee parent. The net effect of the reforms is to increase the share of leave assigned to the father, from two to 11 weeks.

Family leave for single mothers will remain at the current 46 weeks, but the benefit will be extended to all single parents.

From January 1, 2024, single parents will be permitted to transfer a portion of their family leave to a close family member (e.g., the child’s grandparents). LGBT+ families will also be entitled to broader leave transfer rights, allowing legal parents of the child to grant transferable weeks to a “social parent” of the child (e.g., a legal parent’s spouse or cohabiting partner).

Employer implications

Per the EU Directive, the new family leave model will take effect on August 2, 2022, and apply to births from that date onward. The new model is not expected to significantly affect leave financing but is intended to affect how leave is used. According to Statistics Denmark, the average length of parental leave in 2019 was around 40 weeks for mothers and just under five weeks for fathers. The leave period available to fathers would be expected to increase, whereas the effect on the leave entitlement for mothers would be the opposite, as the maximum leave mothers could take after birth will decrease by more than two months, from 46 to 37 weeks.

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Nefer Stensballe

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