Union density is high in Denmark, at around two-thirds of the workforce, although it has fallen in recent years. Most union members are in unions associated with the main confederations, the new FH (the result of a merger at the start of 2019) and Akademikerne, which are organised on occupational and educational lines. However, there are also trade unionists outside the two main confederations.
There are just over two million trade union members in Denmark and 1.86 million trade unionists who are employees. With 2.77 million employees this produces a union density of 67.3% in 2018. This compares with a study for the largest union confederation which estimated union density at 67% in 2010, and the ICTWSS database of union membership which put union density in Denmark at 67.1% in 2016. One reason for this high level of membership may be trade union involvement in the administration of unemployment funds. But this is certainly not the only one.
By far the largest trade union confederation in Denmark is FH Formed from a merger of what were previously Denmark’s two largest union confederations, LO and FTF, FH has 1.4 million members of whom 1.15 million are employees.
The creation of FH was agreed at conferences of the two merging organisations, LO and FTF, in April 2018 and was implemented on 1 January 2019. It is the culmination of a process which goes back at least to September 2014, when the two confederations produced a joint document "The opportunities for the trade union movement towards 2020", which specifically raised the prospect of setting up a new single union organisation. The merger brings together one million members organised in 18 LO unions and 450,000 members in 70 FTF unions into a single body. (These membership figures are for total membership, including the retired, students and the self-employed. If only employees are included, LO’s membership was 776,310 and FTF’s was 371,076 at the end of 2018.) LO unions organised both manual and non-manual workers in the private and public sectors, while FTF was largely made up of unions which organise public sector employees like civil servants, teachers and nurses, but it also included some private sector non-manual workers, particularly in banking and finance.
The second largest grouping is the Akademikerne, which organises graduate level employees in the public and private sectors. Its 25 affiliated unions have 393,000 members (246,759 if only employees are included).
There are also 468,596 members organised in union bodies outside these two main confederations. The largest is the Christian union Krifa, with 114,520 members, followed by LH (Lederne), which organises managers and executives and has 106,746 members. (These figures and those for the rest of this section are for employees only as at 31 December 2018.).
Both the FH and Akademikerne confederations are made up of a large number of separate unions.
A majority of the more than 80 FH unions are either relatively small craft unions (former LO affiliates) or specialist non-manual and technical unions (former FTF affiliates) but some have a wider and much larger membership. The four largest unions in FH are all former LO affiliates: 3F, which is a general workers’ union and has 226,271 members; HK, which organises shop and clerical workers and has 179,262 members; FOA, which organises public employees and has 153,985 members; and Dansk Metal, the metalworkers’ union, which has 72,399 members. The next four are former FTF affiliates: the nursing union with 62,770 members; the teachers’ union with 58,179; BUPL for staff in childcare institutions with 55,480 and the finance union FF, with 39,011. Overall the union structure is complex, particularly for the former LO unions, with a combination of craft, industry and general unions. There are attempts to limit competition for membership through demarcation agreements, but it still exists in some areas.
The largest Akademikerne affiliates are the society of engineers, with 74,099 members, the Association of Lawyers and Economists with 61,569 and the Dansk Magisterforening (DM), with 33,453 members, which organises employees with a higher degree.
The individual unions are independent but the central organisations, particularly LO in the past and FH in the future, play a critical role in negotiating the framework agreements which have shaped the Danish system.
The LO has historically been close to the Danish social democratic party and until 1995 the two bodies were represented on one another’s executive committee. However, it broke its final links with the social democrats at a special congress in February 2003 when it ended the practice of giving the party financial support. With FTF (like Akademikerne) insisting on complete independence from political parties, the issue of the political stance of the new FH confederation was important in the merger discussions between LO and FTF. A jointly agreed statement of political principles makes it clear that the new confederation will be independent in party political terms, but that it is willing to cooperate with parties and organisations that “can best promote the interests and influence of the trade union movement”.
Although remaining high relative to other countries, the proportion of employees organised in unions has fallen in recent years. The Statistics Denmark figures show that, over the period 2012 to 2018, the total number of union members who are employees at the end of the year actually increased – by 2.9%, but the total number of employees has increased by 8.8% (figures for December). On this basis, union density dropped from 71.2% to 67.3% over six years.
At the same time there has been a shift in membership between the main union confederations, in part reflecting the changes in the labour market. Akademikerne, which organise more highly skilled employees, has seen its membership rise by 23.9% over the period 2012 to 2018, and FTF experienced a 6.6% membership growth, while LO unions lost 13.2% of their membership.
There has also been a growth in the number of union members outside the three main union confederations. Excluding the managers’ union LH (Lederne), the membership of unions outside LO, FTF (now FH) and Akademikerne has grown by 31.8% between 2012 and 2018, from 274,514 to 361,850. These unions generally have lower subscription rates than the unions in the confederations. For example, one of largest, Det Faglige Hus, which has 50,824 members, up from 17,126 in 2012, describes itself as “Denmark’s cheapest union” and sells itself on the legal and other services it provides to members rather than its negotiating skills.
Unions, particularly former LO affiliates, are concerned about the loss of members and have organised campaigns to recruit new members, particularly among young people and migrant workers.
Overall there are slightly more women in Danish unions than men. Overall women make up 51.1% of trade unionists who are employees. This is higher than the proportion of all employees who are women, which is 48.2%. As more men than women work in Denmark, this means that the union density ret for women at 72.7% is well above that for men at 64.8%.
There are some differences between the confederations. In the unions comprising FH, 55.5% are women (48.9% in the former LO unions and 69.4% in the former FTF unions). In Akademikerne, women account for 49.4% of the membership, and in the managers union LH (Lederne) the figure is 29.7%.In the other unions outside the two main confederations 44.5% of the members are women. (All figures are for 31 December 2018.)
 See Statistics Denmark for the figure for employees and union websites for the figures for total membership for individual confederations
 Calculated on the basis of total union membership of 1,862,741 at 31 December 2018 and total employment of 2,767,426 in December 2018 – both figures from Statistics Denmark
 Udviklingen i den faglige organisering: årsager og konsekvenser for den danske model, by Jesper Due and Jørgen Steen Madsen. 2010, LO-dokumentation 1/2010.
 J. Visser, ICTWSS Database. version 6.0. Amsterdam: Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS), University of Amsterdam. June 2019
 Mulighederne for fagbevægelsen frem mod 2020, September 2014 https://www.lo.dk/Nyheder/Nyhedsarkiv/2014/09/~/media/LO/Aktuelt/Nyheder_2014/2108_Muligheder_2020.ashx (Accessed 16.04.2015)
 Medlemstal http://www.ac.dk/om-akademikerne/medlemstal.aspx (Accessed 12.12.18) and Statistics Denmark
 Statement of political principles, LO and FTF, 13 April 2018 https://www.ftf.dk/fileadmin/Bruger_filbibliotek/Om_FTF/nyHO_politisk-grundlag.pdf (Accessed 14.12.2018)
 For the purposes of this calculation and the that covering the grow in unions outside the confederations, the professional engineers union, which re-joined Akademikerne in 2013, has been included as an Akademikerne affiliate throughout the period,
 See Det Faglige Hus: member benefits https://www.detfagligehus.dk/medlemsfordele/ (Accessed 23.07.2019)
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2. Udviklingen i den faglige organisering: årsager og konsekvenser for den danske model, by Jesper Due and Jørgen Steen Madsen. 2010, LO-dokumentation 1/2010
Collective bargaining in Denmark operates within a clearly defined structure. At the highest level there are the framework agreements between the LO and the Danish employers' federation (DA), which set the rules for issues which in many other countries would be regulated by the law. The most important agreement at this level is the general agreement which covers the right to organise, rights on dismissal and industrial disputes. The cooperation agreement (see below), which has been revised several times since it initially came into force in 1947, was also signed at this level.
Agreements covering pay and conditions, which in the 1960s and 1970s were largely also signed at this national level, are now dealt with at the level of individual industries. In most cases, these industry level agreements leave substantial room for further negotiations at company level, particularly on pay.
In the private sector, agreements can be divided into two main groups. For one group, by far the largest, pay is set through local negotiations at company level. The industry-level agreements are limited to other conditions, and for some industries, although not all, these industry-level agreements will also set basic rates – a floor which applies in very few cases. The main manufacturing settlement, the retail and finance agreements all follow this pattern, and, in total, around 80% of employees in unions in the LO confederation (now part of the largest confederation FH) have their pay and conditions set in this way. For the remaining 20%, which include the transport sector and food, the industry level agreements set out all the main terms, including on pay, which are then followed locally.
In the public sector, in contrast , the central agreements between the unions and the three employers (central government, regional government and local government) are crucial in setting pay rates, although since the late 1990s a small part of the pay of public sector employees has also been determined through local bargaining.
Overall, the coverage of collective bargaining is high. A study, from the Danish employers’ federation DA, found that 74% of those employed in the private sector and 100% of those in the public sector were covered by collective bargaining in 2015. This produces an average level of coverage of 83%.
One other factor in the final outcome of negotiations is the frequent intervention of the official conciliator, appointed by the government, to resolve disputes.
Who negotiates and when?
At national level, the main parties for the framework agreements, which lay down the rights and obligations of the two sides, are the LO and the Danish employers' confederation DA. Collective agreements at industry level, dealing with pay and conditions, are reached between employers' associations and unions or "cartels" of unions grouped together to cover different industrial sectors, one for most manufacturing, one for printing and media and so on. There are also cartels of unions in the public sector. At company level, the negotiations are between the trade union representatives and company management.
There is also a fairly rigid calendar for negotiations on collective agreements, with the negotiations for the bulk of the manufacturing sector between the union cartel CO-industri and the employers’ association DI starting the process.
Agreements normally last for several years, typically either two or three. The most recent agreements in the private sector, reached in early 2017, run for three years to 2020. In the public sector, they were signed in 2018 and run until the end of March 2012.
Most private sector agreements begin in March with public sector agreements beginning in April.
The subject of the negotiations
As already noted, negotiations in Denmark cover a range of issues that elsewhere are often dealt with by legislation. And since the late 1980s, bargaining at industry level has covered issues such as pensions, increased flexibility in working time – by providing frameworks for local agreements – and collective funds for maternity leave and training. As already stated, for the overwhelming majority of the workforce in the private sector, only the minimum rates are determined by industry level negotiations and actual earnings depend on negotiations at company level. This is much less the case in the public sector, where the majority of the pay increase is typically determined in the central agreements.
There is no system for setting a single national minimum wage.
 Hovedforhandlingsområder og -forhandlere i den private sektor 2017, FAOS, 1 December 2016 https://faos.ku.dk/temasider/ok-forhandlinger/2017/fakta/Hovedforhandlingsomr_der_2017.pdf
 I Danmark er de fleste dækket af overenskomst https://www.da.dk/politik-og-analyser/overenskomst-og-arbejdsret/2018/hoej-overenskomstdaekning-i-danmark/
Unions are central to workplace representation in Denmark. Local union representatives take up employees’ concerns with management and are often also members of the main information and consultation body – the cooperation committee.
The trade unions, with their high membership levels, provide the main basis of workplace representation in Denmark. The trade union representative (tillidsrepræsentant) takes up workers' day-to-day concerns with the employer and usually has a mandate to bargain locally on pay, working time arrangements and other issues. Trade union representatives also have priority with regard to the representation of employees on the Danish equivalent of the works council, the cooperation committee. (They are also sometimes elected as safety representatives and as members of the separate health and safety committees, although this is not the normal situation.)
This representation has a legal basis in the binding collective agreements reached between the employers' federation and the unions. Trade union representatives' rights are set out in broad terms in a national agreement, with the detailed position for each industry set out in the industry agreements.
There are also cooperation committees, the equivalent of works councils, in Danish workplaces. Their rights and duties are set out in a national agreement covering most of the private sector, between the LO and DA (the main union and employer bodies, although LO is now part of the FH union confederation). This agreement was initially signed in 1986 and most recently revised in 2006. There are separate agreements for agriculture and finance, and in the public sector there are separate agreements for central government, and for local government and regional government.
Figures from Eurofound’s 2013 European Company Survey show that 79% of establishments with at least 10 employees have some form of official employee representation, which may be either a union or a cooperation committee. This is the highest proportion in the EU28, and well above the average of 32%. As elsewhere in Europe, larger organisations are more likely to have such a structure than smaller ones. Among establishments with more than 250 employees, 99% have some form of employee representation.
These are broadly in line with the results of an earlier study by the employment relations research centre at the University of Copenhagen FAOS. It found that 52% of all workplaces with five or more employees (a lower threshold than the Eurofound survey) had a union representative, and in those with 50 or more employees, the figure was at least 83%. However, there was a sharp divide between the public sector, where 91% of workplaces with five or more employees had a union representative, and the private sector, where only 33% had a union representative. In larger workplaces, those with 50 or more employees, all of the public sector workplaces had a union representative, but in the private sector the figures were 65% for those with between 50 and 99 employees, 81% for those with between 100 and 249 employees, and 91% for those with 250 employees or more.
Numbers and structure
The number of trade union representatives elected at each workplace will depend on the number of employees, as well as the precise details of the collective agreement covering the industry. Typically there will be one trade union representative for every 50 or so employees, and in most agreements the right to elect a trade union representative starts once there are more than five employees in the workplace. Because of the structure of Danish unions there will often be several unions in a single workplace, and accordingly there will also be several representatives. In larger workplaces, the representatives will often elect a joint trade union representative.
Cooperation committees, to which trade union representatives belong, are joint bodies consisting of equal numbers of employee and management representatives. They should be set up in all companies with 35 or more employees where this is requested by the employer or a majority of employees. The basis on which this number is calculated is not set out in the LO-DA cooperation agreement. It states only that cooperation committees should be set up “in enterprises employing 35 persons or more within the same geographical area”.
In practice, the main employers’ association DA estimates that 70% of companies which could potentially have a cooperation committee in fact have one.
The membership of the cooperation committee, as set out in the LO-DA agreement, is as follows:
Number of employee representatives
Above 1,000 the numbers may be increased by agreement.
The employee representatives consist of trade union representatives from the workplace, combined in some cases with other elected employees. In February 2004, the LO and the main employers’ association DA agreed to revise the agreement on cooperation committees to take account of the EU directive on information and consultation (2002/14/EC). The change allows employee groups outside the LO to be represented in the cooperation committee.
The management representatives, who also include supervisory staff, are partly appointed by management and partly selected by the supervisory staff (where one of the supervisory unions have members in a workplace, at least one is included among the management representatives – see section on election).
The cooperation committee is chaired by the senior representative of management with the deputy chair coming from the employee representatives. (Where the unions have elected a joint representative, he or she is automatically the deputy chair.) The secretary is jointly elected by the two groups.
The cooperation committee should meet at least six times a year, and extraordinary meetings can be held whenever either side has a specific issue which it wants to be dealt with before the next regular meeting. The cooperation committee can also set up subcommittees, which may be either temporary or permanent.
Tasks and rights
The role of trade union representatives includes: ensuring that the existing collective agreements are properly applied; taking up individual issues with the employer; acting as a focal point for union activity, such as campaigns and recruitment; and, increasingly, being involved in workplace level negotiations.
In larger workplaces the union members may come together as a workplace grouping, a "club", with a joint club if there is more than one union. Part of the work of the trade union representatives will be to play a leading role in these groupings.
In addition to these tasks, trade union representatives are under an obligation to try to "maintain and promote cooperation between the employer and the employees at the workplace".
The main task of the cooperation committee, as defined in the agreement under which they are set up, is "to promote cooperation throughout the enterprise, for the benefit of the enterprise as such and the individual employee".
In practice the cooperation committee has information and consultation rights. It is also the forum through which the two sides attempt to reach agreement on a range of issues. But it does not have the effective veto powers which works councils in some other countries possess.
The cooperation committee should be informed by management on the financial position of the business and its future prospects, including likely future sales and production issues. It should get information on the employment outlook and any major changes or reorganisation planned, such as the introduction of new technology. The cooperation committee is also required to assess the impact of new technology when its introduction is planned on a large scale. It should also, as a result of a 1991 supplement to the LO-DA agreement, be informed about developments in the area of equal treatment between men and women.
In order to ensure that employee views can be taken into consideration by management, information should be provided "sufficiently early to allow employees to put forward viewpoints, ideas and proposals ... before any decision is made".
Unusually, the employee representatives are also expected to provide information: they should keep the cooperation committee informed about working conditions.
The cooperation committee is also the body through which employer and employee representatives attempt to reach agreement on a series of policy principles. These include: the human relations and personnel policy of the company, including its policy on equal treatment between men and women; training and retraining linked to new technology; the use of personal data; and production methods and major changes to the business. However, the cooperation committee is deliberately excluded from any role in negotiating collective agreements on pay or other issues dealt with between the employers and union representatives.
Where agreement is not possible either side can consult the Cooperation Board - a national joint union/employer body charged with promoting cooperation - in an attempt to reach a settlement. However, the final decision rests with management.
The cooperation committee should not operate in isolation from the rest of the workforce. One of its key roles is to pass information on to employees.
Election and term of office
Trade union delegates are elected by the trade unionists in the workplace, although in manufacturing industry, under the terms of the collective agreement, they are elected by both union and non-union members in the area of the workplace they represent. The precise details of the election procedures and the length of time that delegates serve are fixed by the rules of the union and the collective agreement in the industry.
Trade union representatives have priority membership of the cooperation committee. If there are more trade union representatives than seats on the committee, the union representatives choose from among themselves who should take the seats.
If there are some groups of employees who are not represented by the unions, or, in the case of the LO-DA agreement, they are represented by unions that do not belong to LO, the existing union representatives can be supplemented by representatives of these groups. In choosing members, the agreement states that an attempt should be made to ensure that all employees are represented in terms of “staff groups, sections and professional qualifications”.
The term of office is two years.
As well as union members on the employees’ side there must also be at least one member of the managers’ union LH on the management side, if LH has members in the company. This is set out in a separate agreement between DA and LH, signed in 1998. The choice of individual is agreed with the LH members in the company or with their representative, if there is one.
Protection against dismissal
Trade union representatives can only be dismissed after the union has been informed and after any arbitration proceedings over the dismissal have ended. This automatically covers most members of the cooperation committee. Those who are not trade union representatives are entitled to an additional six weeks’ notice beyond that generally provided.
Time off and other resources
Trade union representatives typically will have paid time off for their duties.
Employee members of the cooperation committee are entitled to paid time off to attend cooperation committee meetings. In addition the deputy chair, the senior employee representative, is entitled to time off to carry out the tasks linked with the cooperation committee. Office facilities may also be provided to the deputy chair, where these are necessary.
The cooperation committee can call in outside experts, although these will normally be agreed by both sides. Where two sides cannot agree on the involvement of external experts, they can ask for the intervention of the national joint union/employer body, the Cooperation Board, to help them reach agreement.
Trade union representatives will normally be entitled to paid leave to take part in union-organised courses. The details depend on the specific collective agreement for the industry. Since 2007 several collective agreements, including the agreement for manufacturing industry, which covers a large number of employees, have provided for newly elected trade union representatives to be entitled to four days’ paid time off for training. The training itself is normally financed by a fund set up by both sides.
There are no specific training rights for members of cooperation committees.
Representation at group level
In larger groups the trade union representatives from different workplaces will frequently come together in a joint committee, or meet more informally.
For cooperation committees the structure recommended in the LO-DA agreement, is that a group committee should be set up, composed of representatives from the subsidiaries' cooperation committees.
 Eurofound (2015), Third European Company Survey – Overview report: Workplace practices – Patterns, performance and well-being, Figures for Table 44
 Tillidsrepræsentantundersøgelsen 2010 Rapport I Tillidsrepræsentanten og arbejdspladsen by Trine P. Larsen, Steen E. Navrbjerg and Mikkel Møller Johansen, 2010
Employee representation at board level starts in companies with 35 employees and these representatives have one third of the seats.
Under Chapter 8 of the Danish Companies Act, employees in Danish companies, both public limited companies (A/S) and limited companies (ApS) employing 35 employees or more, are entitled to elect a number of representatives to the board of directors. However, a majority of employees must vote in favour of having employee representatives before this right can be exercised.
The number elected by employees should correspond to half the number elected by those who own the company at the general meeting, and should be at least two (or at least three on the board of the parent company of a group). In effect, this is equivalent to one third of the members of the board of directors. However, on small boards, or if the owners choose an uneven number of board members, the proportion of board members representing the employees may be slightly higher than a third. For example, on an eight-person board of a parent company, with five shareholder representatives, there will be three board members representing the employees.
Employees should also elect the same number of alternate members to stand in for the full members if necessary.
There is a two-tier system for public limited companies and a choice between a one-tier or two-tier system for private limited companies. In smaller companies the board of directors is directly responsible for the management of the business. But in larger companies, this is carried out by executives, with the board taking a supervisory role.
The employee representatives, who are elected by the whole workforce, have the same rights and responsibilities as other board members, although they cannot be involved in decisions on industrial disputes, as this would be seen as involving a conflict of interest. Their term of office is also the same as that for other board members, and it expires with the closing of the annual general meeting held no later than four years after their election. Employee board members have the same protection against dismissal as union representatives.
Unusually the Danish Companies Act (§141) extends the votes to employees in one or more foreign subsidiaries, where employee representatives are to be elected to the board of a parent company. However, the decision to do so is in the hands of the general meeting, that is the shareholders. There is no absolute right for foreign employees to participate. Danish employees are also guaranteed a minimum level of representation. If there are any Danish employees, they get at least one representative on the board, if they make up at least 10% of the total, they get two seats.
The details of the voting procedure and other issues are regulated in separate implementation provisions, and the latest version came into force in April 2012. These define employees as someone over the age of 15 performing work as an employee either in Denmark or working in an EU/EEA country. The request to have an initial vote on whether there is to be employee representation can be made by: the union in the company – provided it represents:
- at least 10% of the employees;
- a majority of the employee-side members of the cooperation committee; or
- 10% of the employees.
The voting can be in writing or by email, but it must be secret, and all employees can vote. The elections are run by an electoral committee made up of representatives of management and the employees, who are chosen by the employee members of the cooperation committee.
Candidates to be employee representatives at board level must have 12 months’ service, and, once elected, they serve for four years.
There are no quotas for women on Danish boards.
A majority of employees (55%) in companies with a board have an employee representative on that board (figures from 2011). However, employee board members are much more likely to be found in larger companies. There are employee representatives on the boards of 13% of companies with fewer than 100 employees, 32% of companies with between 100 and 200 employees, 54% of companies with between 200 and 500 employees, and 65% of companies with more than 500 employees.
Relations between employee and owner representatives are usually characterised by consensus and mutual trust, based on a shared interest in the survival and development of the company. However, a study found that employee representatives – when comparing their attitudes with those of the representatives of the owners – are more likely to take broader stakeholder interests into account, and not just employee interests, but also environment and local community interests.
 Bekendtgørelse om medarbejderrepræsentation i aktie- og anpartsselskaber 2012
 . Håndbog for medarbejderrepræsentanter, by Martin Lavesen & Jesper Kragh-Stetting, Erhvervsskolernes Forlag 2011
 Medarbejdervalgte bestyrelsesmedlemmer I danske virksomheder, by Caspar Rose in Tidsskrift for Arbejdsliv, 7, 3, 34-50, 2005
The cooperation committee chooses most employee representatives for European level bodies. The one exception relates to board level representatives in a European Company – they must be elected by the workforce.
European Works Councils
Members of the special negotiating body (SNB) for the EWC are appointed by the cooperation committee, or if that does not exist, by the trade union representatives or by a ballot of all employees. Only employees may be members.
The situation is the same for members of the fallback EWC, as set up under the annex to the directive.
Members of the special negotiating body (SNB) for the European Company are appointed by the cooperation committee, or if that does not exist, by the trade union representatives or by a ballot of all employees. Only employees may be members.
The situation is the same for members of the SE representative body (works council), as set up under the annex to the directive.
However, Danish employee representatives at board level in a European Company based in Denmark are elected by all employees, in accordance with the rules on board-level representation in Danish company legislation. The election is organised by an electoral committee consisting of both employee and management representatives.
Further information on the national SE legislation can be found here.
All health and safety representation in Denmark is through joint employer/employee bodies. In larger companies, there is a two-tier structure, with the higher body dealing with strategic issues and the lower body with issues on a day-to-day basis. However, in companies with fewer than 35 employees a single body deals with both. The lower level body can interrupt work if it considers that there is an imminent and substantial threat to health and safety.
Basic approach at workplace level
While the employer is ultimately responsible for health and safety at work, health and safety issues should be dealt with through cooperation between employers and employee representatives.
Employee health and safety bodies
In smaller companies, health and safety is dealt with through a single-tier body, a work environment organisation (arbejdsmiljøorganisation), and in larger companies, there is a two-tier structure, with lower level safety working groups and higher level health and safety committees. These are all joint bodies. There are specific rules on their composition and operation. However, unions and employers can agree different arrangements, if they wish (see below).
Numbers and structure
In the smallest companies, those with nine employees or fewer, health and safety issues should be dealt with by regular direct contact between the employer and employees.
In companies with 10 to 34 employees a health and safety body (work environment organisation) should be set up. This consists of one or more elected employee representatives and one or more supervisors, plus the employer, or a representative of the employer, who chairs it. It deals with both day-to-day tasks relating to health and safety and broader strategic issues. Where workers are employed at a temporary or mobile workplace, largely the building industry, the threshold for setting up a health and safety body falls to five employees.
In companies with 35 or more employees, there is a two-tier structure.
At the lower level there are two-person health and safety groups dealing with day-to-day health and safety issues. These are made up of an elected employee representative and a designated supervisor, who should be aware of the company’s production processes. The employer, in consultation with supervisors and employees, decides how many health and safety groups should be set up. However, there should be sufficient to ensure that employees have access to the group during their working hours, taking account of issues such as employees’ geographical location and working patterns, like shift working – the so-called “proximity principle”.
At the higher level, a separate health and safety committee deals with strategic health and safety issues. This is made up of some or all of the members of the lower level health and safety groups plus a chair, who is the employer, or a representative of the employer. If there are only one or two lower level groups, the health and safety committee includes them all – a total of three people, if there is only one lower level group, or five if there are two lower level groups. In organisations with more than two lower level safety groups, an employee representative plus a deputy are elected from among the employee members of the lower level groups. This means that the health and safety committee in these organisations also has five members: two supervisors and two employee representatives plus the employer.
It is possible for employers and unions to agree health and safety arrangements which diverge from this structure. However, this requires a two-stage negotiation and two levels of agreement. First, there must be a framework agreement between the union or unions and the employers’ association or a single employer, which sets out the broad lines of the health and safety structure to be adopted. Once this has been signed it is possible to reach a company agreement, which sets out the detailed health and safety rules for the business, including how all the required health and safety tasks are to be carried out, how the agreement is to be implemented and monitored, and how the agreement may be amended or terminated.
Research by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in 2014 found that 62% of workplaces in Denmark had health and safety representatives and 50% had a health and safety committee. The figure for safety representatives is slightly above the EU-28 average, which is 58%, but the Danish figure for health and safety committees is the highest in the EU-28 and well above the average of 21%. (The figures are for workplaces with five or more employees.)
Tasks and rights
Health and safety tasks are divided into two groups, strategic or general tasks, undertaken by the health and safety committee, where one exists, and by the single-tier health and safety body in smaller companies, and day-to-day or operational tasks, undertaken by the health and safety group in larger companies and the single-tier body in smaller ones.
The main strategic tasks are:
- to develop a health and safety risk assessment
- to plan, direct and coordinate cooperation on health and safety; to undertake an annual discussion on health and safety (see below);
- to check on work health and safety and ensure that the lower level safety groups, where these exist, are properly informed;
- to monitor compliance with the regulations governing employment and the extent of sick leave;
- to participate on decisions on how many lower level safety groups should be established;
- to advise the employer on the solution of health and safety problems and how these can be integrated into company’s strategic direction and day-to-day activities;
- to ensure that the causes of accidents or work-related illness are investigated, in order to prevent recurrence, and to prepare an annual summary of such incidents;
- to keep up-to-date on new health and safety legislation;
- to establish rues for appropriate health and safety training and ensure that these are observed;
- to advise on whether the necessary health and safety expertise is present in the company;
- to arrange for the preparation of a work organisation structure; and
- to contribute to the coordination of health and safety activities with other companies, when they are present at the same location.
An important element in these strategic tasks is the annual discussion on health and safety. This should even take place in companies without a health and safety structure, in other words those with fewer than 10 employees or five in mobile workplaces like construction, although the requirements for these small organisations are slightly different. The annual discussion should look at how health and safety cooperation is to be organised in the coming year, establish how this should happen, including meeting intervals, review whether the previous year’s goals were achieved and set targets for the future. In companies without a health and safety organisation it should also examine whether the necessary health and safety expertise is present in the company. In all cases the employer must confirm in writing to the health and safety authority (Working Environment Authority) that this annual discussion has been held.
The day-to-day operational tasks related to health and safety are:
- to undertake and participate in activities to protect employees and prevent risks;
- to participate in the planning of health and safety work and the development of workplace assessment, including sick leave, taking account the principle of prevention and the need to comply with employment regulations;
- to ensure that working conditions are safe;
- to ensure that there is effective training appropriate to the needs of all employees, participate in the investigation of accidents and work-related illness, as well as the risk of such accidents and illness, and to notify them to the employer;
- to encourage behaviour among employees that promotes health and safety, both for themselves and others;
- to act as liaison between employees and the higher level health and safety committee, where this exists; and
- to pass on to the health and safety committee problems that the health and safety group cannot solve, or that have company-wide application.
Where health and safety groups consider that there is an imminent substantial threat to workers’ health and safety that it cannot avert, and there is no time to inform the chair of the health and safety committee or the management, it can require work to be stopped to the extent that is required to avoid the danger. It must, however, promptly inform management of its actions and explain why the work stoppage was necessary. In addition, if only one member of the health and safety group is present, either the employee representative or the supervisor, he or she can act alone, communicating the decision later.
The health and safety committee, the single-tier health and safety body and the appropriate health and safety group must all be given details of reports of accidents at work submitted to the labour inspectorate. They must be told about decisions taken by the labour inspectorate and the Working Environment Authority, and they must also be consulted before the employer asks for expert assistance in the area of health and safety.
Where the health and safety committee has made a proposal to the employer which has not been take accepted, the employer must set out the reasons for not following the proposal within three weeks.
Frequency of meetings
The number of times the various health and safety bodies should meet is not regulated in the legislation. However, it should be considered in the annual health and safety discussion.
Election and term of office
Employee health and safety representatives are elected by all employees with the exception of supervisors or those with managerial responsibilities, with the election taking place at the level of the whole company, or the part covered by a particular health and safety group as appropriate. The term of office is two years, although this can be extended through agreement with the employer, although not for more than four years.
Resources, time off and training
The employer must ensure that there are sufficient funds to allow cooperation on health and safety to operate effectively. This includes providing employee safety representatives with sufficient paid time off for them to carry out their functions.
Employee safety representatives must complete three days of training within the first three months of their election. The employer should offer an additional two days of training in the first year, and one and a half days of training thereafter. The cost of training and all associated expenses, including loss of earnings, should be borne by the employer.
Protection against dismissal
Employee health and safety representatives are protected against dismissal or other detrimental treatment in the same way as union representatives, in other words, they may not be dismissed until after the union has been informed and after any arbitration proceedings over the dismissal have ended. They should also not suffer any disadvantage because of their activities as safety representatives.
Other elements of workplace health and safety
The legislation provides that if the employer does not have the necessary expertise to comply with the organisation’s health and safety obligations, he or she must obtain external expert assistance in order to ensure a healthy and safe working environment.
The ministry responsible for health and safety at work is the Ministry of Employment (Beskæftigelsesministeriet). The body responsible for monitoring compliance with health and safety laws and regulations, and which has an overall responsibility for health and safety is the Working Environment Authority (Arbejdstilsynet). There are also specialist enforcement bodies for shipping, aviation and offshore installations.
Trade unions and employers are able to influence health and safety policy through their participation in the Working Environment Council (Arbejdsmiljørådet). This is a body made up of representatives of both unions and the employers, whose duty, to make proposals to improve occupational health and safety in Denmark, is set out in legislation.
In 2013, the main health and safety legislation, the Working Environment Act, was amended to state that it “shall cover the physical and psychological working environment” and in 2015 it was extended to cover “work-related violence, threats or other offensive behaviour”, even if they occur outside the workplace.
Working Environment Act: Ministry of Employment Act no 1072 of 7 September 2010
Bekendtgørelse af lov om arbejdsmiljø: Beskæftigelsesministeriets lovbekendtgørelse nr. 1072 af 7. september 2010
 Second European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2016
 For more information on the national context see OSH system at national level – Denmark by Lothar Lißner, OSH Wiki https://oshwiki.eu/wiki/OSH_system_at_national_level_-_Denmark
The issue of employee financial participation has bee debated in Denmark since the 1960s. Participation schemes in Denmark are widespread in comparison with other European countries.
From the mid-1960s into the 1970s there was a public debate in Denmark on investment funds as a company-wide form of employee financial participation. The discussion was originally sparked by the trade unions and taken up by the government. However, the proposed initiatives were not implemented. In 1979 there was an attempt to introduce binding h participation in company profits. However, this effort came to nothing. Instead, in the 1980s voluntary profit-sharing schemes gained in importance.
The first legislation in Denmark on employee share ownership and profit-sharing was adopted in 1958. Up to 1 January 2012 it was possible to issue bonds to employees free-of-charge and exempt of tax. In January 2012, many tax incentives for workers’ participation were abolished.1 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '1
1. Deloitte Denmark (2012): Employee shares and individual share-based remuneration.
Compared with other European countries, in Denmark employee financial participation traditionally plays a more important role, especially employee share ownership schemes. Since 2010/2011, however, the significance of workers’ participation has receded somewhat.
The findings of the European Working Conditions Survey (2005) show a profit-sharing incidence of 11.5%.1 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '1
1. European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (2012): Fifth European Working Conditions Survey, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.
In Denmark up to the end of 2011 there were tax incentives for different kinds of employee financial participation. These regulations were largely abolished on 1 January 2012.
In accordance with §7A of the taxation law, up to 2012, it was possible to deposit preference shares in trust with a bank for five years. The value of the shares was not permitted to exceed 10% of an employee’s annual wages or salary. No tax was due when the employee actually received the shares, though any profit deriving from their sale after the holding period is taxable. The company itself was able to subtract its costs for the shares issued to its employees from its corporation tax base.
On 1 January 2012 these regulations were largely abolished. Since then share options and shareholding schemes have been taxed from the day of issue. Profits from exercising share options is taxed as income with a maximum tax rate of 56%.1 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '1
1. Deloitte Denmark (2012): Employee shares and individual share-based remuneration.
In the 1960s and 1970s trade unions were active in the political debate pushing for investment funds, which would have been controlled by workers’ representatives and used for investments in business activities. The proposed funds were however not implemented and the political debate of employee financial participation died down in the 1980’s. Trade unions currently take an indifferent attitude towards employee financial participation.
Whereas there was little focus on employee financial participation by politicians or social partners in the 1990’s, this changed at the turn of the century, with the state giving considerable support to employee participation for about a decade. Trade unions support these political initiatives to a certain extent, though in certain areas their traditional reticence towards participation models remains. Employers’ organisations in Denmark are also sceptical towards employee financial participation.1 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '1
1. Coops Olsen, N. O. (2006): Danish Experiences with Financial Participation and Pension Funds. In: Association of Employers of Slovenia ZDS: Financial Participation of Workers in CEE. Recommendations and Prospects. Reference Book. Ljubljana, S. 26-29; see also Lowitzsch, J. et al. (2012): Employee Financial Participation in Companies`Proceeds. Study requested by the European Parliament`s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs.
- European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (2007): Financial participation of employees in the European Union: Much ado about nothing? Background Paper.
- Commission of the European communities (2004): Report of the High Level Group of independent experts on cross-border obstacles to financial participation of employees for companies having a transnational dimension.
- European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (2001): Employee share ownership and profit sharing in the European Union.
- Lowitzsch, J., Hashi, I. & Woodward, R. (2009): The PEPPER IV Report: Benchmarking of Employee Participation in Profits and Enterprise Results in the Member and Candidate Countries of the European Union. Country Profile “Denmark”.
- European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (2010) : European Company Survey 2009. Overview. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
- Deloitte Denmark (2012): Danish Financial Act for 2012
- Deloitte Denmark (2012): Employee shares and individual share-based remuneration
- Hededalm T., Vinding, N. (2012): Employee share plans in Denmark: regulatory overview. A Q&A guide to employee share plans law in Denmark.
- Website des dänischen Arbeitsministeriums mit der englischsprachigen Übersetzung der wichtigsten Arbeitsgesetze in Dänemark
- European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (2012): Fifth European Working Conditions Survey, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.
- Poutsma, E., Lighard, P. (2011): Compensation and Benefits, in: Cranet Survey on Comparative Human Resource Management – International Executive Report.
- Clifford Chance (2010): Employee Share Plans in Europe and the USA.
AC and Affiliates
- AC - Confederation of Professional Associations (En)
- BF - Union of Danish Librarians (En)
- DDD - Association of Danish Veterinarians and Food Scientists (En)
- Den danske Landinspektørforening - Danish Association of Chartered Surveyors
- DJØF - Association of Danish Lawyers and Economists (En)
- DM - Danish Association of Masters and PhDs
- DOKS - Federation of Associations of Graduates at Academies of Music
- DP - Danish Psychologists' Association
- ESF - Danish Association of Business Language Graduates
- GL - Danish National Union of Danish Upper Secondary School Teachers (En)
- HOD - Association of Danish Officers
- IDA - Society of Danish Engineers
- JaF - Danish Federation of Graduates in Agriculturel Science and Economics, Forestry, Horticulture and Landscape Architecture
- Lægeforeningen - Danish Medical Association (En)
- PF - Association of Ministers in the Danish Church
- TNL - Danish Dental Association
FTF and Affiliates
- FTF - Salaried Employees' and Civil Servants' Confederation (En)
- BUPL - Danish Federation of Early Childhood Teachers and Youth Educators
- CO II - Central Organisation of Civil Servants
- CS - Central Association of Permanent Defence Personnel
- DANA - navigators' union
- Dansk Socialrådgiverforening - Danish Association of Social Workers (En)
- DAP - relaxation teachers' union
- DFL - insurance workers' union
- DLF - Danish Union of Teachers (En)
- DM - market economists' union
- DMF - Danish Musicians' Union
- DSL - Association of Danish Forest and Landscape Engineers (En)
- DNO - Danish Nurses' Organisation (En)
- DSRF - catering workers' union
- Uddannelsesforbundet - technical teachers' union
- Efterskolernes Lærerforening - early education teachers' union
- Farmakonomforeningen - pharmacists' union
- FSL - primary school teachers' union
- Finansforbundet - Financial Services Union (En)
- FRD - Radiographers' Union (En)
- JiD - agricultural technicians' union
- KC - union for senior managers in local authorities
- KF - building professionals' union
- LFF - air transport workers' union
- OKS - seafarers' union
- Politiforbundet - police union
- PROSA - Association of Computer Professionals
- SAFU - civil servants' union
- Turistførerforeningen - Association of Authorised Guides (En)
- Kost & Ernæringsforbundet
- AMS - Labour Market Agency (En)
- NFA - National Research Centre for the Working Environment
- Statistics Denmark (En)
- Arbejdsmiljøfondet - Danish Working Environment Fund
LO and Affiliates/Cartels
- LO - Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (En)
- Dansk Artist Forbund - Danish Artists Union
- Blik- og Rørarbejderforbundet i Danmark - Union of Plumbers and Allied Workers
- Dansk El-Forbund - National Union of Electricians
- Serviceforbundet - National Union of Workers in Service Trades
- Dansk Metalarbejderforbund - National Union of Metalworkers
- DFKF - Hairdressers and Beauticians' Union
- DJF - Danish Union of Railway Workers
- FOA - Union of Public Employees
- HK - National Union of Commercial and Clerical Employees (En)
- HKKF - Union of Enlisted Privates and Corporals in Danish Army
- 3F - United Federation of Danish Workers
- Malerforbundet i Danmark - National Union of Painters
- Fødevareforbundet - National Union of Food and Allied Workers
- SL - Union of Socio-Educational Workers
- TL - National Union of Technicians
- BAT - Federation of Building, Construction and Woodworkers' Unions
- CO-industri - Central Organisation of Industrial Employees (En)
- GIMK -Confederation of Unions in the Graphical Industry and Media Sector
- Handelskartellet - Confederation of Employees in Trade
- OAO - Organisations of Public Employees
- STK - Association of Danish State Employee Organisations
Other Union Organisations
- KTO - Association of Local Government Employees' Organisations (En) (LO/FTF/AC negotiating body)
- CFU - central bargaining body for public sector employees
- Dansk Journalistforbund - Danish Union of Journalists (En)
- Ledernes Hovedorganisation - executives' union
- DFF - Denmark's Free Trade Union (En)
- DKF - Danish Christian Trade Union (En)
- Lærernes Landsforbunds - independent teachers' union (En)
DA and affiliates
- DA - Danish Employers' Federation (En)
- Dansk Byggeri
- EOF - Danish Oil Industry Association (EOF)
- Pressens Hus - newspaper publishing employers
- Dansk Erhverv - Danish Chamber of Commerce
- DI - Confederation of Danish Industries (En)
- DR - Danish Shipowners' Association (En)
- GA - graphical employers
- HORESTA - hotel, restaurant and tourism employers
- Bryggeriforeningen - Danish Brewers' Association (En)
- DIB - insulation employers
- Emballageindustrien - Danish Packaging Industry (En)
- MAF- motor manufacturing employers
- Plastindustrien - Danish Plastics Federation (En)
- TMI - Træ- og Møbelindustrien - Association of Danish Woodworking Industries
- Danske Maritime - Association of Danish Shipbuilders (En)
Other Employer Organisations
- KL - Association of Local Authorities
- Kooperationen - cooperative employers
- FA - Danish Employers' Association for the Financial Sector (En)