What is “fagforening” or Danish trade unions

About 80 percent of Danes are members of one or another trade union. These organizations provide a wide range of services to their members, but their primary purpose is to protect and defend the interests of their clients in their relationship with the employer. If an employee loses his/her job, the trade union ensures that all the laws provided for in the dismissal process are respected, ensuring that redundancy payments, holiday pay, retirement money and all other rights and benefits of the redundant employees are guaranteed. When signing a new employment contract, you can get consultation on its compliance with the legal requirements and the employee’s interests.

If a trade union member is unemployed, he or she can be provided with the help and advice to find a job, also offered a qualification upgrading courses under the chosen program, or additional Danish language courses. A trade union member can also get qualified experts’ help to create quality CVs. The Unemployment Benefit (“A-kasse”) is also managed through the trade unions, but this type of benefit is paid only after the member has paid contributions to the fund for one full year. Another possibility to receive benefits from this fund is the completion of at least 2 years of study, graduating with a bachelor or master degree. In this case, it is not required to pay one year’s contribution.

Employers’ attitude towards trade unions

Employers’ attitudes depend very much on the company’s working conditions. It is no secret that a number of foreigners working in Denmark are employed by firms that prioritize cheap labor. Employers are looking for different ways of saving when trying to optimize their costs. Often, these savings are the result of paying salaries in cash, unpaid holiday and retirement money, no additional payments for overtime or night work, weekends or public holidays. This is the most common cause of conflict between employee and employer.

These rates and debts are easily calculated if you can document the time spent on payroll or personal notes that show the number of hours actually worked by the employee. If the employer is unable to deny the authenticity of the employees’ notes, it is sufficient for the trade union to demand reimbursement of the outstanding amount.

Trade unions have their own team of lawyers that work exclusively with this type of cases and have accumulated extensive experience in this field. When a trade union member provides all the necessary documents to calculate the unpaid amount, the employer is usually asked directly to clarify the situation and to come to a meeting with a lawyer team. Employers usually delay responding or do not respond to such an appeal, resulting the conflict being settled through the courts.

If a firm is small, the usual employer tactics are bankruptcy announcement, asset and client transfer to another company that has a similar name and performs the same business. However, if the firm is larger and the cost of bankruptcy is high, employers often choose to pay the missing amount to the employee with the hope that the matter can be quickly “extinguished” and that other employees do not know about the compensation paid and will not take similar action.

It should be noted that every employee, when signing an employment contract, agrees with the terms and conditions, therefore it is necessary to take a very good look at the contract points and consult with the experts, otherwise, in the event of a conflict with the employer, the trade unions’ ability to protect their client may be limited.

Company bankruptcy

In the case of company’s bankruptcy, Lønmodtagernes Garantifond (LG) has been created in Denmark. The function of this fund is to ensure that its employees still receive the money they earn after the company has declared bankruptcy. The compensation process takes place under certain rules and conditions, for example the amount of compensation may not exceed 160,000 kr. This fund also compensates for unpaid holidays in bankruptcy. LG works on a case-by-case basis, so it can take up to 35 days to get in touch with the fund. After the decision is made, the payments are executed within 3 – 5 days to the personal Nemkonto account or directly to the trade union if it is authorized to handle the employee’s matters.

How to choose the right union?

First of all, attention should be paid to the price for being a member and the size of the union. Denmark has niche trade unions that work with specific sectors, but it is better to choose one of the larger trade unions because they have a much larger network of customer service offices, more experience working with foreigners and their specific problems. The big trade unions are also competing with each other to offer the most attractive price/quality ratio. Additionally, different packages are available, where the most expensive ones are provided with free consultations with lawyers, free courses and trainings, the opportunity to get discounts on other products and services, etc. It is recommended to invest some time and look at the current offers. It is also worth noting that membership of the union and the A-kasse are subject to a tax credit (fradrag), which means that the tax-free minimum is automatically increased to the amount of all annual contributions (up to 6,000dkk per year). When filling out your annual tax return, please note that this amount is entered in field 429 or 458.