While many a-kasse are open to all employed people in Denmark (including the self-employed), some are open only to certain professions; for example, academics, electricians, and social workers and caregivers. You should ask your employer and fellow employees which a-kasse/s are most relevant to your profession or which they generally recommend.
In 2015, annual a-kasse membership dues range from 4,884 kr. to 6,576 kr. for those with full-time work (naturally less for part-time workers). The amount of your dues that goes toward actual unemployment insurance is fixed by the government and does not differ among a-kasse. However, your dues also include an administrative fee and it is this fee that differentiates the cost of memberships.
Understanding a-kasse is relatively simple but it’s important to know the primary rules and how they pertain to you as a non-Dane.
Joining an a-kasse only makes sense if you are Danish, from an EU/EEA country/Switzerland or your right to reside in Denmark extends beyond your job contract. If you come from a non-EU/EEA country and your residency in Denmark is tied strictly to your work permit, it makes no sense to pay into an a-kasse as you will forfeit any rights to collect unemployment benefits if you have to leave the country right after losing your job. Please note, however, that some work permits allow you to stay 3-6 months after losing your job in order to look for another and you will, therefore, be able to collect benefits for that time period. If you come from a non-EU/EEA country, you need to be sure what your work permit states before you begin to invest in unemployment insurance. A green card or other residence permit may also allow you to stay in the country after losing a job – check and make sure!
You must have worked for at least 52 weeks of the previous three years and paid into the system for at least 12 months prior to losing your job in order to qualify for unemployment benefits. Since you don’t necessarily know when your job will end, a safe option is to join as soon as you start your job. If you lose your job, the a-kasse have rules you must follow in order to collect benefits. These rules include the requirement:
- to register with your local Jobcenter within a certain number of days of your job ending
- informing the a-kasse that you have lost your job
- posting your CV to the Jobcenter.dk site
- signing into the Jobcenter.dk site at least once every seven days
- sending in monthly benefits card to the a-kasse
- attending advice meetings at the a-kasse office, etc.
Students can benefit from joining an a-kasse. In fact, membership dues (and joining fees) are generally waived for students and trainees. If you have not secured employment by the time you graduate, you then follow steps similar to those who have lost a job, including registering with your local Jobcenter, contacting the a-kasse, etc. You must have been a member of the a-kasse for at least one year before graduation in order to claim benefits (‘dagpenge’) or you may be subject to a ‘quarantine period,’ which is a period of time you will receive no benefits.
If you fail to register with an a-kasse before you graduate, you will be ineligible for unemployment benefit (‘dagpenge’) according to the rules for students. However, precise rules for when students must join differ from a-kasse to a-kasse. It is a good idea to talk with your university or institutional administrators or fellow students for advice. Please note: if you are a student from outside the EU/EEA area and you wish to stay on in Denmark to work, you must ensure that your permission to reside in Denmark extends past graduation.
It depends on whether you were employed full-time or part-time and are a recent graduate or not. The amount you receive once you’ve taken all the required steps after losing your job will not exceed 90% of your previous wage or salary, but there is also a minimum rate.
The amount of dagpenge you receive is also reduced if you pick up any freelance or other type of part-time employment – even volunteer work – while unemployed. You must check your a-kasse’s rules to find out these particular details.
Please note: No matter which a-kasse you join, you can receive unemployment benefits for a maximum of two years.
In case you become unemployed and are not a member of an a-kasse, you may be entitled to receive social welfare (‘kontanthjælp’). This is administered by the municipalities. Therefore, if you want to receive social welfare you must contact your local municipality office. The amount one receives in benefits through the system depends on whether one has dependents and, in any case, is lower than dagpenge. You are only entitled to such benefits if your partner cannot support you; if you own nothing, i.e. car, property, etc.; if you have no more than a certain amount of money in the bank; and so forth.
The Danish model is where the partners of the Danish labour market, collectively negotiate agreements on pay and working conditions for their employees. This means that, when you are employed in a company that has an agreement with a trade union, you can be sure that the conditions agreed between the partners of the labour market also apply to you. This includes things such as pay, holidays, as well as health and safety regulations.
In the links below, you can find basic information about the Danish labour market, as well as the trade unions.
A-kasse are ‘organised for the sole purpose of ensuring economic support in the event of unemployment’, while unions ‘work with representing the members interest towards the employers, and with securing them reasonable payment and terms of working’. Many a-kasse, however, are part of workers’ unions, which are ubiquitous in Denmark. According to the Ministry of Employment and the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), between 75 and 80% of all employed people in Denmark are members of unions, which is a high rate of membership compared to other European countries.