Annual Leave in Denmark: The Rules Explained 2024





Peter Simonsen helps foreigners looking to explore life in Denmark. With a wealth of knowledge about the Danish culture and way of life, Peter helps newcomers adjust and thrive in their new environment.

Annual leave policies play an essential role in ensuring that employees get the rest and recuperation they need while also contributing productively to their workplaces. For foreigners navigating the Danish work environment, grasping the nuances of these regulations becomes even more vital.

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This article delves deep into the intricacies of annual leave in Denmark, detailing how it works, accrued, and employees' rights in various situations.

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Key Takeaways

  • Denmark's annual leave is governed by the Danish Holiday Act, ensuring workers' rights.
  • Employees accrue 2.08 days of leave monthly, amounting to 25 days annually.
  • Holiday pay ensures continuous income during leave, typically mirroring regular salary.
  • Part-time workers accrue leave proportional to their work hours.
  • Unused leave may result in financial compensation or be carried over, based on specific conditions.
  • Leaving a job ensures compensation for any unused accrued leave.

Historical Context of Annual Leave in Denmark

Denmark, like many other European countries, has undergone significant changes in its labor regulations over the past century. The concept of annual leave, as we know it today, evolved not merely as a statutory provision but as a reflection of the nation's commitment to the well-being and rights of its workforce.

The Early 20th Century

In the early decades of the 20th century, labor movements in Denmark began advocating for better working conditions and shorter work hours. It was during this period that the groundwork for structured annual leave began. Workers' unions played a pivotal role, emphasizing the need for employees to have designated time off to recuperate and spend quality time with their families.

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The Establishment of the Holiday Act

By the mid-20th century, Denmark recognized the need for a more organized and standardized approach to annual leave. This recognition led to the drafting and eventual implementation of the Ferieloven, or the Holiday Act.

The Act not only laid down the basic framework for annual leave entitlements but also reinforced Denmark's commitment to ensuring that its workforce enjoyed adequate rest and recreation. Over the years, the Holiday Act has undergone amendments to stay relevant to the changing needs of Danish society and the workforce.

The Evolution Towards Modern Times

As the global work environment started evolving in the latter half of the 20th century, so did the perspective on annual leave. The emphasis shifted from merely granting days off to ensuring that these days contributed to an employee's overall well-being.

Denmark's approach to annual leave began to resonate more with the idea of work-life balance. The country has since then consistently ranked high in global indices for employee satisfaction and work-life balance, with its annual leave policies playing a significant role in this recognition.

The Danish Holiday Act

One of the cornerstones of Denmark's labor regulations is the Ferieloven, commonly known in English as the Holiday Act. This legislation lays out the standardized rules and entitlements regarding annual leave for all employees working in Denmark. It ensures that both domestic and foreign employees have a clear and unified understanding of their leave rights.

Overview of the Act

The Holiday Act is not merely a statutory requirement; it embodies Denmark's philosophy towards work-life balance. The Act guarantees that every employee, regardless of the nature of employment (permanent, temporary, full-time, or part-time), is entitled to annual leave.

Key Provisions of the Ferieloven

Accrual Period: The Act specifies a fixed period, from September 1st to August 31st, during which annual leave is accrued. This period is considered the "qualifying year."

Duration of Leave: For every month of employment within the accrual period, an employee is entitled to accrue 2.08 days of leave. This totals up to 25 days of annual leave for a full working year.

Main Holiday Period: While the Act allows flexibility in when the leave can be taken, it does earmark a "main holiday" period between May 1st and September 30th. During this period, employees are encouraged, but not mandated, to take three consecutive weeks of their accrued leave.

Advance Notice: The Holiday Act stipulates that employees should ideally inform their employers about their leave plans three months in advance for the main holiday period and one month in advance for other periods.

Holiday Allowance: If an employee doesn't have the right to paid leave (e.g., because they recently entered the labor market), they might still be entitled to a holiday allowance, subject to specific conditions set out in the Act.

These are the foundational aspects of the Holiday Act. However, individual employment contracts or collective agreements might offer additional benefits or stipulations, provided they do not contravene the minimum standards set by the Act.

Accrual of Annual Leave

In the Danish work environment, understanding how annual leave accrues is crucial for planning and maximizing one's time off. The Ferieloven, or Holiday Act, provides a clear structure for this accrual, ensuring both transparency and fairness in the process.

The Qualifying Year

The concept of a "qualifying year" is central to understanding annual leave accrual in Denmark. The qualifying year runs from September 1st to August 31st. It is during this period that an employee accrues their leave, which they can then utilize in the subsequent "holiday year."

Rate of Accrual

For each month an employee works during the qualifying year, they accrue 2.08 days of annual leave. This translates to:

Full-Year Employment: An employee working for the entire qualifying year (12 months) will accrue a total of 25 days of annual leave.

Partial Year Employment: For those who haven't worked the entire year, the leave accrues proportionally. For example, if an employee works for 6 months of the qualifying year, they would accrue 12.5 days of leave (2.08 days x 6).

Accrual for Different Employment Types

It's worth noting that the rate of accrual remains consistent regardless of whether an employee is full-time or part-time. The fundamental criterion is the duration (in months) for which one is employed during the qualifying year.

Full-Time Workers: Typically, full-time workers who are employed throughout the qualifying year will accrue the full 25 days of leave.

Part-Time Workers: Part-time employees will also accrue leave based on the number of months they work. However, when utilizing this leave, the "days" of leave might represent their standard working day, which could be fewer hours than a full-time worker's day.

Starting or Ending Employment Mid-Year

For those who start or end their employment partway through the qualifying year, the leave accrual is calculated based on the actual number of months worked within that period. For instance, if an individual starts a job in March and works until the end of the qualifying year in August, they would accrue leave for those 6 months only.

Usage of Annual Leave

Once annual leave has been accrued, understanding how and when to use it is equally essential. The Danish Holiday Act offers guidelines on this, ensuring that employees can enjoy their time off while maintaining a balance with their work responsibilities.

Standard Procedure for Requesting Leave

While the Holiday Act provides the framework for annual leave, the actual process of requesting and availing of it typically depends on the employer's internal policies and the specific terms of one's employment contract. However, there are some general norms to be aware of:

  1. Advance Notice: It's standard practice for employees to inform their employers about their leave plans well in advance. For leave during the "main holiday" period (from May 1st to September 30th), a three-month notice is advisable. For other periods, a one-month notice is generally expected.
  2. Leave Approval: While employers are encouraged to accommodate leave requests, there may be instances where operational demands necessitate adjustments. In such cases, open communication between the employee and employer is key to finding a mutually agreeable solution.
annual leave in denmark

"Main Holiday" Period

The Holiday Act earmarks a specific period, from May 1st to September 30th, as the "main holiday" period. During these months, employees are encouraged to take at least three consecutive weeks of their accrued leave. While this is a guideline and not a strict rule, it reflects the cultural norm in Denmark, where the summer months are typically preferred for extended holidays.

Using Leave Outside the Main Holiday Period

Outside of the main holiday period, employees have the flexibility to use their accrued leave as they see fit, provided they adhere to the notice requirements and any other stipulations outlined in their employment contracts.

Unused Leave

If, for some reason, an employee cannot utilize all their accrued leave within the holiday year, the provisions regarding carry-over or compensation for unused leave come into play. Specific rules around this will be explored further in the section on the financial aspects of annual leave.

Restrictions or Limitations

It's essential to note that, while the Holiday Act provides a framework, individual employment contracts or collective agreements may have additional stipulations or clarifications regarding leave usage. These could pertain to peak business periods, mandatory operational days, or other unique scenarios relevant to the nature of the job or industry.

Special Leave Conditions

Beyond the standard annual leave provided by Ferieloven, Denmark also acknowledges that life events and unforeseen circumstances can arise, necessitating additional time off. Consequently, the Danish labor system incorporates provisions for special leave conditions to cater to these unique situations.

Maternity/Paternity Leave

Denmark places a significant emphasis on family life and the importance of bonding during the early stages of a child's life. As such:

Maternity Leave: Expectant mothers are entitled to four weeks of leave before the expected childbirth and 14 weeks after childbirth.

Paternity Leave: Fathers or co-parents are entitled to two consecutive weeks off within the first 14 weeks following the child's birth.

Parental Leave: After the initial maternity and paternity leaves, parents have the right to an additional 32 weeks of shared leave. This can be extended under specific conditions.

Sick Leave

Illnesses are unpredictable, and Denmark's labor regulations account for this:

Notification: Employees are typically required to notify their employer on the first day of illness.

Duration and Compensation: While the first day (waiting day) might not always be compensated, subsequent days usually are. The specifics regarding the duration of sick leave and the compensation during this period can vary based on employment contracts and collective agreements.

Compassionate and Emergency Leave

Certain unexpected events, like the death of a close relative or emergency situations, may necessitate immediate time off. The provisions for compassionate or emergency leave depend largely on individual employment contracts, collective agreements, or company policies. However, it's customary in Denmark for employers to be understanding and accommodating in such situations.

Study Leave

Recognizing the importance of continuous learning and development, some employers in Denmark offer study leave. This allows employees to take time off for further education or professional courses.

The conditions, duration, and compensation for study leave typically depend on the nature of the study, its relevance to the job, and the stipulations in the employment contract or collective agreements.

Unpaid Leave

In some cases, employees might seek extended time off that goes beyond their accrued annual leave and any special leave conditions. In such scenarios, unpaid leave might be an option.

While not a statutory provision, unpaid leave is often granted based on a mutual agreement between the employer and the employee, with clear terms set regarding the duration and conditions for returning to work.

Annual Leave for Part-Time Workers

Part-time employment is increasingly common in the modern workforce, and Denmark's labor regulations ensure that part-time workers aren't at a disadvantage when it comes to annual leave. The Holiday Act and the broader labor rights framework recognize the need for equitable treatment regardless of employment type.

Equal Proportional Accrual

The principle guiding annual leave for part-time workers is straightforward: leave accrues based on the duration (in months) of employment, not the number of hours worked.

Standard Accrual: Similar to full-time employees, part-time workers accrue 2.08 days of annual leave for every month they are employed during the qualifying year. This means a part-time worker employed for the entire qualifying year would accrue the same 25 days of annual leave as their full-time counterpart.

Utilization of Leave Days

While the accrual rate remains the same, the actual utilization of the leave days for part-time workers is proportional to their typical working hours.

Example: If a part-time worker's standard working day is 4 hours (as opposed to the typical 8-hour day for a full-time worker), then a "day" of annual leave for this worker would translate to 4 hours off. Therefore, to take a full week off, they might need to use more "days" of their accrued leave compared to a full-time worker.

Flexibility in Leave Consumption

Often, part-time work schedules come with inherent flexibility, and this extends to the consumption of annual leave as well. Part-time workers can often negotiate with their employers on how they'd like to use their accrued leave, be it in hour-long increments, half-days, full days, or longer stretches, as long as it aligns with their standard working pattern and the operational needs of the employer.

Special Leave Conditions

For other types of leave, like maternity or sick leave, part-time workers are typically entitled to the same duration as full-time employees. However, compensation during these periods might be calculated based on the average earnings of the part-time worker, and this can vary depending on employment contracts and collective agreements.

Unpaid Leave

Part-time workers, like their full-time counterparts, may sometimes seek extended periods off beyond their accrued leave. The provisions and procedures for unpaid leave for part-time workers generally align with those of full-time employees, relying on mutual agreement between the employer and the employee.

Financial Aspects of Annual Leave

While annual leave offers employees a much-needed break from their daily work routines, understanding the financial implications of this leave is crucial. In Denmark, the Holiday Act, along with other regulations and collective agreements, provides clarity on the financial aspects tied to annual leave, ensuring that employees can enjoy their time off without financial worries.

Holiday Pay

The core principle underpinning the financial aspect of annual leave in Denmark is the concept of 'holiday pay.' This pay is designed to compensate employees during their time off, ensuring they maintain a stable income.

Rate of Holiday Pay: Typically, employees receive holiday pay equivalent to their regular salary. This means that during their time off, they continue to earn as if they were working.

Payment Timing: Depending on the employer's policies and the terms of employment, holiday pay might be disbursed either at the start of the leave period or as part of the regular monthly salary.

Holiday Allowance for Hourly Workers

For those who work on an hourly basis or have varying incomes, the financial compensation during leave might be determined based on an average of their earnings.

Calculation: This 'holiday allowance' is typically calculated as a percentage (often around 12.5%) of the total earnings during the qualifying year. This ensures that the compensation reflects the actual earnings of the individual, rather than a flat or arbitrary rate.

Unused Leave and Financial Compensation

In cases where an employee doesn't utilize all their accrued annual leave, the following financial provisions apply:

Carry-Over: Some employers allow employees to carry over a portion of their unused leave to the next holiday year. In such cases, the associated holiday pay is also deferred to the period when the leave is eventually taken.

Payout: If carrying over is not an option or if there's still unused leave after the carry-over provisions are exhausted, employees might receive a financial payout. This payout is essentially the holiday pay for the unused leave days.

Special Leave and Compensation

For special leave conditions like maternity, paternity, or sick leave, the compensation structure might differ.

Statutory Payments: In some cases, like maternity leave, there are statutory payment rates set by the government. These might be lower than the regular salary but are designed to provide a basic financial safety net.

Employer Top-Up: Some employers choose to 'top up' the statutory payments, ensuring that their employees receive full pay (or close to it) during special leave periods. The specifics of this top-up can depend on employment contracts, company policies, or collective agreements.

Taxes and Deductions

It's important to note that holiday pay and other leave-related compensations are typically subject to the standard income tax and other statutory deductions applicable in Denmark.

Leaving a Job: What Happens to Your Leave?

Changing jobs or leaving an employment position brings with it several considerations, one of which is the status of accrued annual leave. In Denmark, the rights and obligations of both employees and employers in such scenarios are clearly outlined, ensuring a smooth transition without undue complications.

Unused Accrued Leave

Upon leaving a job, one of the primary concerns for many employees is the fate of their unused accrued leave. Here's how it's typically addressed:

Payout for Unused Leave: If an employee leaves a job without having used all of their accrued annual leave, they are usually entitled to a financial payout equivalent to the holiday pay for these unused days. This ensures that employees are compensated for the leave they've earned but haven't had the opportunity to utilize.

Notice Period and Leave

During the notice period (the period after resigning and before officially leaving the job), employees might wish to take some or all of their remaining annual leave. The norms around this are:

Taking Leave During the Notice Period: Depending on the terms of the employment contract and the operational needs of the employer, employees might be allowed to use their accrued leave during the notice period. It's advisable for employees to discuss this with their employer to ensure mutual understanding and agreement.

Restrictions: In certain scenarios, especially in roles critical to business operations, employers might request employees not to take extended leave during the notice period. However, this doesn't negate the employee's right to a financial payout for the unused leave days once their employment ends.

Leave Accrual During Notice Period

The period of notice is typically treated as regular employment time, meaning:

Accrual Continues: Employees continue to accrue annual leave during their notice period, just as they would during regular employment.

Special Conditions for Contractual or Seasonal Workers

For those on fixed-term contracts or those engaged in seasonal work, the provisions might vary slightly:

End-of-Contract Payout: At the end of their contract or work season, these workers typically receive a payout for any unused annual leave, much like regular employees leaving their jobs.

Contractual Stipulations: Some contracts might have specific clauses related to leave utilization towards the end of the contract period. It's crucial for both employers and employees to be aware of and adhere to these stipulations.

Transfer of Leave Between Jobs

When moving to a new job, employees often wonder if their accrued leave can be transferred:

No Direct Transfer: In Denmark, accrued annual leave from one job doesn't get directly transferred to a new employer. Instead, employees receive a payout from their former employer for unused leave, and they start fresh with their new employer.

QuestionBrief Answer
How does the qualifying year differ from the holiday year?Accrual happens in the qualifying year; usage in the holiday year.
Can I take annual leave during my probation period?Yes, but discuss timing with the employer.
What happens if I fall sick during my annual leave?You can convert those days into sick leave with proper notification.
How does annual leave work if I have multiple jobs?You accrue leave separately for each position.
Can my employer deny my leave request?They can request adjustments, but can't deny entirely.
Is there a deadline to use my accrued annual leave?Typically during the subsequent holiday year.
Do public holidays count against my annual leave?No, they are separate.
If I work overtime, does it impact my leave accrual?No, accrual is based on duration, not hours worked.
Difference between holiday pay and holiday allowance?Holiday pay is regular salary during leave; allowance is a percentage of earnings for varying incomes.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the qualifying year differ from the holiday year?

The qualifying year (from January to December) is the period in which you accrue annual leave days. The subsequent holiday year (spanning from September of the current year to August of the following year) is when you can utilize the leave accrued during the qualifying year.

Can I take annual leave during my probation period?

Yes, you can. Even if you're in a probationary period, you're entitled to the leave you accrue. However, it's advisable to discuss the timing with your employer to ensure it doesn't conflict with onboarding or training schedules.

What happens if I fall sick during my annual leave?

If you fall sick during your annual leave, it's typically possible to pause your leave and convert those days into sick leave. However, you'll need to inform your employer promptly and may be required to provide a medical certificate.

How does annual leave work if I have multiple jobs?

If you have multiple jobs, you accrue annual leave separately for each position based on the work duration in each role. When taking leave, you'll need to coordinate with each employer individually, keeping in mind your obligations and accrued leave for each job.

Can my employer deny my leave request?

Employers have the right to ensure business continuity, and in certain scenarios, they might request employees to adjust their leave dates. However, employers cannot deny leave entirely, and alternative dates should be discussed to reach a mutual agreement.

Is there a deadline by which I need to use my accrued annual leave?

Annual leave accrued in a qualifying year should typically be used during the subsequent holiday year (from September to August). If not used within this period, provisions related to carrying over or receiving a payout for unused leave come into play, depending on your employment contract and company policies.

Do public holidays count against my annual leave?

No, public holidays are separate from annual leave. If a public holiday falls during your annual leave, it doesn't count against your leave balance.

If I work overtime, does it impact my annual leave accrual?

No, annual leave accrual is based on the duration of employment (in months) rather than the number of hours worked. Overtime doesn't increase the rate at which you accrue annual leave.

What's the difference between holiday pay and holiday allowance?

Holiday pay is the regular salary you receive during your annual leave, ensuring a continuous income. Holiday allowance, on the other hand, is a financial compensation calculated as a percentage of total earnings, typically relevant for hourly workers or those with varying incomes.

Resources and Further Reading

The Holiday Act (Ferieloven): The cornerstone of Denmark's annual leave regulations, this document provides an in-depth look at the rules and guidelines governing leave. Available on the official Danish legislative website.

The Danish Working Environment Authority (Arbejdstilsynet): This institution oversees working conditions in Denmark and offers detailed information on various labor rights, including annual leave. Their website contains both regulations and guides.

Ministry of Employment: For overarching labor policies and the latest amendments or updates related to employment regulations, the Ministry's official portal serves as a comprehensive resource.

The Confederation of Danish Employers (Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening): This organization represents employers across Denmark and offers resources, insights, and guides related to various employment aspects, including annual leave.

Danish Trade Union Confederation (FH): Representing workers from various sectors, FH offers resources on workers' rights and collective agreements, shedding light on annual leave provisions specific to different industries.



Peter Simonsen helps foreigners looking to explore life in Denmark. With a wealth of knowledge about the Danish culture and way of life, Peter helps newcomers adjust and thrive in their new environment.

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