Denmark: Indefinite Sick Leave Benefits Extended to Seriously Ill

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By Marcus Hoy

Denmark will make permanent an existing rule under which employees who fall seriously ill continue to receive sickness benefits after their state-sponsored insurance payments would normally expire. On Sept. 11, the nation's Employment Ministry announced that a parliamentary majority favored extending a temporary rule that has been effective since April 2015. A new law codifying the change is due to take effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Prior to the 2015 rule change, only terminally ill employees had the right to receive full sickness benefits indefinitely. Like those suffering from less serious ailments, chronically sick employees were entitled to full sickness benefits for a period of 22 weeks, after which a work ability assessment would take place and a lower benefit entitlement would generally apply. Following the change, chronically ill employees are now treated in the same way as those who are terminally ill.

On Sept. 16, Christian Solyst, labor market adviser at the Confederation of Danish Trade Unions, told Bloomberg BNA that the previous system had been widely viewed as unfair to seriously ill employees who had little prospect of returning to work. An Employment Ministry spokesman told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 16 that the new law's enactment would have little practical effect on employers since the practice it legislates is already in place.

Under existing Danish rules, employers are required to pay sickness benefits for the first 30 days of an employee's illness, provided the employee has been employed by the company for more than eight weeks. Prior to the 2015 change, this rule did not apply to those with a terminal illness, meaning employers were entitled to a refund from the state of any salary paid during the sickness-related absence. Following the change, this practice also applied to chronically sick employees.

The temporary arrangement expires Dec. 31, 2017, after which the new law takes effect. A draft legal proposal is open for comment until Oct. 9, 2017.

To contact the reporter on this story: Marcus Hoy in Copenhagen at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at

For More Information

The draft law is available in Danish here.

For more information on Danish HR law and regulation, see the Denmark primer.

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