Legal advice

Leave of absence in Denmark: What you need to know about taking a leave from work

Are you thinking about taking leave from your job for an extended period of time? Here you can learn about the Danish rules and your options so you can plan your leave well in advance and make a thorough leave agreement with your manager.

As an employee in the Danish labour market, you have many options for taking leave - you can take parental leave, bereavement leave or childcare leave, for example.

But if you want to take leave because you want a break from work, there is no general legislation in the Danish labour market that entitles you to do so.

However, you may be entitled to leave based on your collective agreement or employment contract, or you may be able to make an individual agreement with your employer.

Taking leave as a Danish public sector employee

In public sector collective agreements, the term 'tjenestefrihed' is used instead of 'orlov' (leave), but it means the same thing.

As a public employee, you are entitled to unpaid leave if you:

  • are posted abroad as part of Denmark's official development programmes with developing countries.
  • are sent abroad to serve in international organisations that Denmark participates in or cooperates with
  • are employed by the Government of Greenland.

You are also entitled to unpaid leave if you accompany your spouse/cohabiting partner who

  • is posted to serve abroad for the Danish government authorities
  • is posted abroad to serve in international organisations that Denmark participates in or cooperates with
  • is employed by the Greenland Home Rule Government
  • posted abroad as part of Denmark's official development programmes with developing countries.

If you are not covered by the right to unpaid leave, you can enter into an individual agreement with your employer about unpaid leave if it is not contrary to your employer's interests. You do this on the basis of a written application, and if your employer cannot grant you leave, she is obliged to give a reasoned refusal of your application.

Taking leave when you are employed in the private sector

Generally, private sector employees have no right to unpaid leave unless they are covered by a collective agreement that gives them the right to unpaid leave. In most cases, you must therefore enter into an individual agreement on leave.

What do I need to remember when making a leave agreement?

When making a written agreement about leave with your employer, IDA recommends that these points are written into the agreement:

  • The leave period - start and end time.
  • Is the leave with or without pay?
  • Should your leave period count towards your seniority at the workplace? If so, this must be stated in the agreement.
  • If there are any special conditions that you want to return to, such as specific tasks or responsibilities, it's important to include this in the agreement.

It is the employer's responsibility to ensure that there is a vacancy for you when you return from your leave.

You are therefore entitled to return to a position similar to the one you held before your leave, but not necessarily to the same office or position, unless you have agreed this with your manager.

Can I be dismissed while on leave?

As an employee on leave, you can be dismissed to the same extent as other employees in the company.

You should be aware that if you are dismissed, the notice period runs from the date of termination, even if it coincides with your unpaid leave.

It is therefore a good idea to have it written into your leave agreement that in the event of termination, you will receive full pay for the entire notice period or that you have the option to return to work for the entire notice period.

Do I accrue holiday during my leave?

You only accrue holiday during your leave if you receive full or partial pay during your leave.  

Read more about the rules for holiday

Is there anything I'm not allowed to do while I'm on leave?

You are still employed when you are on leave, so the same conditions apply as if you were at work. For instance, if your contract prohibits you from taking up non-competing work, you cannot do so during your leave.

A more detailed answer will always depend on a specific legal assessment. Therefore, IDA recommends that you contact IDA if you are considering different types of work-related activities during your leave.

Log in and write to IDA's legal advisers about leave

Other types of leave

You can also apply for leave for other reasons - read more about your rights here:

Leave to care for a sick child
Care leave for a sick relative (in Danish)
Parental leave
Adoption leave (in Danish)
Bereavement leave for a lost child
Leave for caring for the sick and dying at