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Employers Associations and Trade Unions in Denmark

1. Brief Description of Employees’ and Employers’ Organizations

Denmark enjoys relative stability in labour relations with most conflicts being resolved amicably. The origin of the current system is the 1899 “September Settlement” between the Danish Employer’s Confederation (DA) and the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO). The organizations were founded in 1896 and 1898 respectively, but did not recognize each other’s right to exist until 1899, when a major industrial dispute ended with the September Settlement.

The settlement provides a set of basic rights and obligations to be respected by the parties, including: (i) the employees’ right to form trade unions; (ii) the employer’s right to manage and control the work; (iii) the right to take industrial action, e.g. strikes and lockouts; and (iv) the peace obligation.

The Confederation of Danish Employers (DA) and the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) are the major umbrella bodies for employers and employees respectively; however, other umbrella bodies exist on the Danish labour market.

2. Rights and Importance of Trade Unions

Danish trade unions’ rights are solely based on collective bargaining agreements with employers or employees’ associations. The Danish trade unions are considered important to the labour market.

3. Types of Representation

Danish employees are, under certain rules, entitled to representation in the following fora:

  • Works Council
  • Board of Directors
  • Security at work and health protection committee
  • Collective dismissals
  • Transfer of undertakings

4. Appointment of Representatives

The number of representatives, the appointment of representatives and their tasks and obligations depend on the forum in question, the size of the business and/or the number of employees employed. However, such employee representatives enjoy special protection against dismissal at the same level as apply to a shop steward.

5. Employees’ Representation in Management

According to the Danish Company Act, in Danish companies, who have for a period of at least three years employed 35 or more employees, the employees can request that an election be established to decide whether the employees will claim representation in the board of directors. If the election leads to the conclusion that the employees are entitled to representation in the board of directors, such employee-elected board members will carry out their duties on the same terms as the board members elected by the shareholders.

The members of employee-elected board members cannot exceed the number of board members elected by the shareholders.

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