The Danish government proposes legislation on the abolition of Great Prayer Day Holiday

On 2 February 2023, the Danish Parliament gave its first consideration to the proposed legislation for the abolition of the Great Prayer Day holiday. The proposed bill, if passed, will mean that from 2024 the Great Prayer Day will be considered a normal working day on which normal terms and condition for a working day will apply. The government has a majority in favor of the proposal with its own mandates.

If the bill on the abolition of the Great Prayer Day is adopted, it will mean, among other things, that conditions on pay and other special terms of employment on public holidays, which are found in other legislation, collective agreements, individual agreements etc., will not apply as far as the Great Prayer Day is concerned from 2024.

Employees who receive a fixed monthly salary or a fixed salary for another period, and whose working hours are increased due to the abolition of the Great Prayer Day, are compensated according to § 3 of the bill, with 0.45% of the annual salary for the increased working hours. The salary supplement is paid continuously together with the salary, or twice a year together with the salary for May and August. The principle of the twice-yearly payment is similar to the payment of holiday allowance in accordance with the Holiday Act.

According to the bill, hourly workers will receive the agreed hourly wage, which applies to ordinary working days, when working on the Great Prayer Holiday, possibly with a supplement for overtime or other work.

It is unusual for the legislature to intervene in terms laid down in collective agreements and individual agreements, including for the legislature to directly regulate wages for work on the Great Prayer Day, as there is no tradition in Denmark for wage terms to be regulated in legislation.

Notwithstanding the fact that the government has a majority in favor of the abolition of the Great Prayer Day, there is a theoretical possibility that a minority of the Danish Parliament could push for a referendum on the legislative proposal, pursuant to the Danish Constitutional Act, section 42, subsection 1. The provision on such a referendum can be applied if at least one-third of the members of the Parliament (corresponding to 60 mandates), request a referendum on the bill within three days of the proposal’s final adoption.

There is, however, an exception to the referendum provision pursuant to the Danish Constitutional Act, (section 42, subsection 6,) which specifically provides that a referendum on “wage laws” cannot be requested. The element of the bill relating to remuneration for work on the Great Prayer Day could be described as a wage law, in which the provisions of determination of an issue by a referendum cannot be enforced by a minority in the Parliament.

In any event, as things currently stand it is unlikely that a sufficient minority will be established for a referendum, as only Nye Borgerlige, Dansk Folkeparti, Enhedslisten, Alternativet and independent Mette Thiesen, want a referendum and together they only have 27 mandates.

The bill was first read on 2 February 2023 and, according to the schedule, will be given a third reading on 28 February 2023.

We are following the bill closely and will keep you updated on its progress.

This article was first published on 7 February 2023 by our Danish member firm Mette Klingsten Law Firm. Should you have any questions, or to know more about our member, browse through their website or contact our representative Mette Klingsten.