Salary and salary negotiations when you are employed in the public sector

As an employee in the public sector, the framework for your salary is set out in collective agreements. Your basic salary is fixed, but you can negotiate bonuses and employee benefits to get a bigger salary package. Here you can read about salary, pensions and salary negotiations as a public sector employee.

Disclaimer: This page has been automatically translated. It may contain grammatical inaccuracies, but the content is guaranteed to be correct.

What is your basic salary as a public sector employee?

As an academic and public sector employee, you will be placed on a basic salary scale agreed in either the national, regional or municipal collective agreement.

Your basic salary step depends on your education and how many years of academic work you have had after graduation, whether you have worked in the public sector or private sector, and you cannot, as a rule, negotiate it.

When you are recruited, you will be placed at step 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 or 8. Step 4 has a duration of 2 years, while the other steps have a duration of 1 year. There is no step 3 and step 7 very rarely includes IDA members. Most of them go directly from step 6 to 8.

  • As a recent graduate and bachelor of engineering, you start at step 4, where you are for 2 years before you increase.
  • As a recent BA, you will be placed at grade 1 and can rise to grade 5.
  •  As an academic employee, you will be placed on the basis of your experience as a fully qualified candidate. As a general rule and in the vast majority of cases, student jobs do not count towards your seniority. If you have more than 4 years of academic experience, you must be placed on the top basic salary step.

You can also be hired as a specialist or senior consultant if you are more experienced. If you are hired as a special or management consultant in a region or municipality, you will be placed in a fixed basic salary step.

If you are hired as a specialist or senior consultant in the state, you must negotiate where you will be placed within a range.

You can find the basic salary steps for your position and sector here:

IDA public salary tables (In Danish)

What allowances/supplements can you get as a public sector employee?

As a public sector employee, you cannot negotiate your basic salary step. However, you can and should have an individually negotiated allowance. Most often, this will be a qualification and/or functional allowance. In the public sector, these types of allowances exist:

  • Qualification Supplement
  • Functional allowance
  • One-off payment
  • Performance pay
  • Availability/obligation allowance (rådighedstillæg)

You can get allowances based on your experience, professional and personal qualifications, the content of the job and the salary level at your workplace. It is therefore not possible to determine exactly what you should get in allowances. The allowances are not fixed in the collective agreement, so you can get as much as you can negotiate.

A good way to assess how much you should get in allowances is to compare your salary with what others in your position earn.

  • Log in to access IDA salary statistics or find the information at your workplace if you have an open pay policy
  • Find the average salary level of others with your professional profile, seniority and position
  • Calculate the difference if you get a lower salary. This is the amount you should aim to get in addition
  • IDA recommends that you try to get a qualification allowance, as it is permanent, whereas a functional allowance may expire

Qualification supplement as a public sector employee

You can get a qualification supplement or a qualification increase if you have or acquire professional or personal skills that are of value to your workplace. In principle, a qualification supplement is a permanent addition to your basic salary and is pensionable. The size of a qualification supplement varies widely and there is no upper or lower limit to its amount.

You should talk to your manager about the possibility of getting a bonus, but as a rule you cannot negotiate and make agreements about the bonuses yourself. You can read more about this further down in the section; "Who negotiates your pay in the public sector?"

For example, you can get a qualification supplement for the following:

  • Special skills or knowledge from previous jobs
  • Taking further training or courses
  • If it is difficult for your employer to recruit employees
  • You are good at coming up with creative solutions in difficult negotiations or technical issues
  • That you have acquired experience over a longer period
  • If you have a lot of local knowledge and for example work as a building inspector
  • That you are good at making formal teaching/presentations or communicating difficult material to stakeholders
  • Negotiation and conflict resolution experience
  • Independence and commitment
  • You have a good ability to systematise and keep track of a broad range of tasks
  • You are efficient at your tasks compared to your colleagues

IDA recommends trying to negotiate a qualification allowance rather than a function allowance, as it is a permanent allowance.

Functional allowance as a public sector employee

You can get a function allowance and/or a function allowance increase if you perform a specific function or take on a specific responsibility at your workplace. The size of the allowances varies widely and there is no upper or lower limit to their amount.

Functional allowances are generally permanent, but may expire if you no longer perform the agreed role or function. However, the employer should give notice and reasons if the allowance is to lapse.

You should talk to your manager about the possibility of getting a bonus, but as a rule you cannot negotiate and agree the bonuses yourself. You can read more about this further down in this section; Who negotiates your pay in the public sector?

You can get a function allowance for the following:

  • Project Management
  • Group or team management
  • Section management
  • Participation in a task group
  • Working as an Employee Representative
  • Teaching in geographically separated locations
  • Width of task composition
  • Super user function
  • Budget responsibility and management
  • Operation of the plant
  • Database administration
  • Responsibility for training and education tasks
  • Coordination tasks
  • Work involving absence from the place of employment

One-off and performance-related pay as a public sector employee

You may be eligible for performance-related or one-off payments, which are typically paid as a lump sum and are therefore not permanent. Lump sums and performance-related pay are very similar, but differ in some respects:

One-off payments are often given in return for a particular effort or achievement, and they are often given on an ongoing basis in an employment relationship if the employee has made a particular effort. This could be for working extra hours or at odd times, for example. It can also be when you have delivered a task ahead of schedule or with a much better result than expected.

Performance pay, on the other hand, is more like a bonus from the private labour market and is triggered if some predetermined qualitative or quantitative targets are met. Performance pay is most often given to managers or employees with clearly defined and measurable tasks.

For example:

  •  That a budget must be met or improved
  • That a new product has to be developed within a certain timeframe, which you have influence on as a manager or specialist
  • That you as a manager should help to improve well-being and reduce sickness absence

However, both one-off and performance-related pay can be awarded for a wide variety of efforts, which there is not enough space to list here.

Depending on what you agree, the lump sum or performance-related pay may be paid as a lump sum or as temporary allowances, and you also agree whether it should be pensionable.

Before your salary negotiation, you should consider whether it is advantageous for you to negotiate a one-off payment or a performance-related salary, or whether it is more advantageous for you to receive a fixed allowance, for example. You can read more about this here.

Read more about what to consider before accepting performance pay

Availability allowance as a public sector employee

The availability allowance is not in fact a negotiated allowance, like the qualification and function allowance. You must be paid the allowance if you are employed to carry out administrative tasks as a generalist or administrator. It is therefore your duties, not your title or training, that determine whether you can get an allowance.

When assessing whether a general administrative post qualifies for the availability allowance, you can look at:

  • Whether the post can be filled by candidates with different educational backgrounds
  • Whether there are other employees in similar positions who receive an availability allowance
  • Whether you will be doing any of the following: serving committees and politicians, coordinating management and projects, drafting papers and memos, preparing communication strategies, development tasks, analysis work, serving the authorities or case management.

The availability allowance is a seniority allowance which increases at fixed intervals. You can find the intervals here:

IDA public pay tables (In Danish)

When you get an availability allowance, you are in turn obligated to be at the disposal of your employer.

If you are employed by a municipality or region, you have 35 hours of obligatory overtime per quarter of the year,

If you are employed by the state, you have 20 hours of obligatory overtime per quarter.

However, the obligation to work overtime does not mean that your working time can be extended by the 35 or 20 hours permanently, and if your employer tries to use the overtime obligation constantly, it is in breach of the collective agreement.

Your salary as a researcher or teaching staff

If you are employed as a researcher or teacher, your salary will consist of a fixed basic salary, centrally determined allowances for your job type and any negotiated individual qualification and function allowances, as well as a one-off bonus or performance-related pay. In the IDA public salary tables you can find detailed information on your basic salary and centrally agreed allowances for your job type and pension, if you are:

  • Employed at a vocational school (HTX, EUX, HHX)
  • Employed at a secondary school (STX, HF)
  • Employed at a vocational academy, a university of applied sciences or at the Danish School of Journalism
  • Employed at an engineering college
  • Employed by a sectoral research institute
  • Employed by a university

Find more information about employment conditions on our Danish website

Pension as a public sector employee

As a public sector employee, you receive a pension in addition to your salary. Keep this in mind when comparing your salary with others in the private sector, where most people have to make their own pension contributions.

The pension is fixed in advance and is paid out of all the fixed elements of your salary. If you wish, you can have part of your pension paid out as salary instead of as a contribution to your pension scheme.

You can see the different pension percentages for state, regional and local government employees, as well as how much you can get out of your pension contribution here:

IDA public pay tables (In Danish)

Can I join a gross pay scheme as a public sector employee?

If you are employed by a municipality or region, you may be able to enter into an agreement on a "gross salary scheme" - also called flexi-salary or flexible salary packages. This means that you reduce your cash salary in order to receive employee benefits such as an extra pension or holiday allowance instead.

A gross salary scheme makes sense if there is a tax advantage in receiving a larger part of your salary as employee benefits than as cash salary. To be part of a gross pay scheme, your employer and union representative must agree.

You can read more about gross pay schemes here

Employee benefits as a public employee

It's a good idea to consider what employee benefits might be of interest to you as part of a gross salary package, or if you can't get a pay rise. Employee or fringe benefits can either be material things, more free time or training that gives you better career opportunities. Typical examples of employee benefits are:

  • Free mobile
  • Home computer and paid internet
  • Paid membership of networks or trade unions.
  • Courses and training
  • Reduced working hours or more days off

You can read much more about employee benefits here

 When can you negotiate salary in the public sector?

The public sector agreements leave it up to the individual place of employment when and how salaries are negotiated. In principle, salaries can be negotiated throughout the year, as long as your manager is on board. In most places, however, there is a fixed practice and perhaps also written guidelines (wage policy) for how and when to negotiate wages.

However, public agreements lay down minimum rules on when salary interviews should be held:

  • Both employers and employees can demand annual salary negotiations
  • Salary must be negotiated for new hires
  •  Wage earners can demand salary negotiation in case of significant changes in the content of a position
  • In municipalities and regions, salary negotiations may be required on return from maternity leave

Annual salary negotiations

 You are entitled to one annual salary negotiation in the public sector collective agreements, but it varies between the places of employment, whether it is the employees or the management who demand the negotiations.

Some workplaces have established a fixed annual scheme where employees can find all relevant information about the negotiations, such as:

  • When the management meets to hold the initial discussions
  • When to send the salary recommendations
  • When the salary interviews take place
  • How much money is set aside for the annual salary negotiations

In other workplaces, annual salary negotiations are less systematic and transparent. In some years, pay talks are forgotten and it can be difficult for employees to get information about the size of pools, distribution key, criteria for awarding bonuses and the like.

It is therefore difficult to say anything definite about how annual pay negotiations are conducted at your workplace, but if you want to know more, you can ask your union representative or the HR department at your workplace.

Salary negotiation for new hires and in case of significant changes in the position

It is IDA's view that functional and/or qualification allowances should always be negotiated for new employees and in case of significant changes to a position, and that negotiations should be concluded before you accept the new post. Therefore, if you are offered a job, you should say that you are interested but that you will not accept or sign the contract of employment and resign from your current position until negotiations on allowances have been concluded with your union representative or IDA, so that you have an overview of the total salary.

It varies from workplace to workplace whether you are asked about your salary expectations at the interview. Some employers ask to make sure you are not far apart. Other employers won't talk about pay, as it has to be agreed with the workplace union representative or IDA anyway. 

If the employer asks you about your salary expectations, you can choose whether to talk about them or whether you prefer to refer to the fact that your salary should be agreed with the union representative or IDA.

Who negotiates your salary in the public sector?

In the public sector, it is usually your union representative who negotiates for you. If you are unsure whether you are covered by a union representative, you can ask the HR department at your workplace, as they usually have a full overview of union representatives at the place of employment. If you are not covered by a union representative, it will be an IDA employee who negotiates and agrees your pay.

It's always a good idea to contact your union representative when you go to negotiate your pay. The union representative is himself or herself employed at your workplace and can often have good knowledge of local pay levels and the possibilities for you to negotiate a supplement.

Whether it is your union representative or IDA who negotiates your pay, you need to prepare your arguments for why you should get a bonus so that your union representative or IDA can make a convincing case. You can prepare by:

  • Finding a realistic salary level using IDA's salary tools and possibly salary information from your workplace.
  • To note your work tasks and successes during the year and make it clear how your efforts/competencies help or can help your employer to reach its goals.
  • Thinking about alternatives to a bonus, such as relevant employee benefits, and making sure you clarify how you might be in line for a bonus in the future if you don't succeed this time.

Individual salary negotiations must be agreed locally

In the public sector, it is usually your union representative who negotiates your salary for you, but the three collective agreements for the state, regions and municipalities do allow for individual salary negotiations at each workplace.
However, if you are to negotiate individually, this must be agreed as an option between management and IDA. In reality, very few public sector workplaces allow individual bargaining, but you can ask your union representative or HR department if your workplace has a local agreement that allows it.