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Working Hours and Overtime Regulations

Understand the laws governing work hours and overtime in Denmark

Standard working hours

Denmark is recognized for its healthy work-life balance, which is reflected in its working hours regulations. Unlike some countries, there's no single law dictating a standard workweek in Denmark. Instead, working hours are primarily determined through agreements between employers and employees.

Standard working hours in Denmark are established in the following ways:

Collective Agreements

  • A majority of Danish workplaces operate under collective agreements negotiated between employer organizations and trade unions. These agreements typically set the standard working hours for a particular sector or industry.
  • In most sectors, the standard workweek established through collective agreements is 37 hours. This has become the general norm even for workplaces without formal collective agreements.

Employment Contracts

  • In the absence of a relevant collective agreement, the standard working hours are specified in the individual employment contract between the employer and employee.
  • The contract should clearly outline the weekly working hours, along with the daily working schedule.

Legal Maximums

  • While there's no legal minimum on working hours, the European Working Time Directive sets a maximum average working time of 48 hours per week over a four-month period. This allows for some flexibility in scheduling working hours within this limit.


In Denmark, there's a significant emphasis on maintaining a healthy work-life balance, which is reflected in the regulations surrounding overtime work. The average working week shouldn't exceed 48 hours over a four-month period, as stipulated by the Danish Working Environment Authority. This is an average, so some weeks may involve more hours than others, as long as the four-month average stays below 48 hours.

There's no mandating overtime pay in Denmark. However, compensation for overtime work is usually outlined in individual employment contracts or collective bargaining agreements. These agreements will specify overtime rates and the option for time off in lieu. Overtime rates vary depending on the agreement, but typically follow a structure like 50% extra pay for the first 3 hours of overtime and 100% extra pay for subsequent overtime hours. In some cases, employees can opt for compensatory time off instead of receiving overtime pay. Sundays and public holidays generally have higher compensation rates than regular weekdays.

Rest periods and breaks

In Denmark, the working culture highly values employee well-being, which is evident in the regulations around rest periods and breaks.

Employees are entitled to a minimum uninterrupted rest period of at least 11 hours within every 24 hours. This rule, as per the Working Environment Act, ensures sufficient time for rest and recuperation between workdays.

Moreover, employees are entitled to at least one full day of rest per week, according to the same Act. This rest day should ideally follow a daily rest period for optimal recovery.

While there's no legal requirement for a specific break duration in Denmark, the Working Environment Authority recommends breaks for employees working more than six hours a day. The break length should be appropriate for the workload and allow for proper refreshment. It's worth noting that collective bargaining agreements may specify mandatory break durations within specific sectors.

Additional considerations include the rule that no more than six workdays can occur between two rest days, ensuring a regular break cycle.

Night shift and weekend regulations

In Denmark, the potential strain of night and weekend work on employees is recognized and there are key regulations in place to protect workers.

Night work is defined by the Working Environment Act as working hours that primarily fall between midnight and 7:00 am. There are specific regulations to protect the health and safety of night workers:

  • Night workers have a reduced average maximum working time of 48 hours over a four-month period. This ensures they receive sufficient rest despite disrupted sleep patterns.
  • Employers must offer night workers regular health assessments to monitor their well-being.
  • A thorough workplace risk assessment must be conducted to identify and mitigate potential risks associated with night work.

While Denmark prioritizes a healthy work-life balance, weekend work isn't entirely prohibited. However, regulations are in place to minimize its impact:

  • Employees are entitled to at least one full day of rest per week, according to the Working Environment Act. This rest day should ideally coincide with a weekend day to allow for a longer break.
  • Weekend work often qualifies for additional compensation. Specific compensation rates are typically defined in individual employment contracts or collective bargaining agreements.
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