Agreement on a future-proofed working environment and efforts against social dumping
Everyone in Denmark should have a safe and healthy working environment in a sustainable labour market. This is for the benefit of the individual employee, the workplace and society at large.
In Denmark, we have a long tradition of strongly focusing on working environment issues. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the working environment is safe and healthy, and it is in the collaboration between management and employees that the preventive work must be carried out so that we avoid employees being worn out, getting ill and having accidents. Among other things, this is done in the OHS (Occupational Health & Safety) organisation which plays a key role when it comes to addressing working environment issues at the workplaces. At the same time, the social partners and the authorities both individually and jointly contribute to creating a healthy and safe working environment in a labour market without social dumping.
However, there are still employees who get injured, worn out or sick because of their work. We also see gross violations of the Danish Working Environment Act, for example, when foreign workers work under deplorable conditions. This places increasing demands on the Danish efforts to combat social dumping, labour crimes and illegal labour. Everyone involved in this area has an important role to play.
There is a need for more work in a number of prioritised areas to further strengthen the efforts to ensure a good working environment and prevent social dumping.
The Danish Government (the Social Democrats, Liberal Party and the Moderates) together with the Green Left, Denmark Democrats, Liberal Alliance, the Conservative People’s Party, the Red-Green Alliance, the Danish Social Liberal Party, Danish People’s Party, The Alternative and the New Right have therefore agreed to future-proof the working environment efforts to ensure a strong effort against social dumping, labour crime and illegal labour - and to strengthen the efforts in certain areas.
A future-proofed working environment effort
The parties to the agreement agree that the working environment efforts and the working environment research need to be future-proofed. Therefore, a total of DKK 452.4 million has been allocated for the 2023-2026 period to continue and further develop the efforts. The Danish Working Environment Authority’s efforts must build on the areas laid down in the 2019 Working Environment Agreement, which was based on the thorough work of the Expert Committee on the Investigation of Working Environment Efforts.
Specifically, this means that the strengthened supervisory efforts and the high supervisory pressure are maintained and that the effective tools in the working environment efforts are maintained and further developed. The Danish Working Environment Authority’s supervision must continue to target the companies with the greatest risk of having health and safety problems. Therefore, the Danish Working Environment Authority must continuously work to develop and improve the risk models used to select companies for inspection.
With the new political agreement, the Danish Working Environment Authority will continue to focus on ensuring that initiatives are based on knowledge and facts. The Danish Working Environment Authority will therefore also focus on systematically collecting knowledge about supervisory efforts and evaluating new initiatives. This also applies as a follow-up to this agreement, where the Danish Working Environment Authority will, among other things, conduct an evaluation of the asbestos authorisation scheme two years after the scheme has entered into force. In addition, the Danish Working Environment Authority will conduct an impact analysis of inspections that can help shed light on the effect of the Danish Working Environment Authority’s inspections on the working environment in companies. A total framework of DKK 4 million is allocated for the 2023-2026 period, which will be financed through a reprioritisation from the Danish Working Environment Research Fund.
It is at the individual workplaces that the working environment is improved, and therefore it is also important that the Danish Working Environment Authority supports companies’ ability to take care of the working environment by offering proper guidance.
The parties to the agreement also agree on the following specific initiatives:
Efforts to strengthen the psychosocial working environment
Problems in the psychosocial working environment and work-related stress are major problems in the Danish labour market. With the 2019 Working Environment Agreement, history was made when Denmark got an executive order on the psychosocial working environment. Companies’ efforts to prevent problems in the psychosocial working environment must be strengthened. Therefore, the Danish Working Environment Authority must implement sector-specific communication initiatives in cooperation with the trade safety committees. In addition, the Danish Working Environment Authority must communicate about the work being done to improve psychosocial working environments targeted towards specific groups. The Danish Working Environment Authority will also continue to prioritise the competence development of the inspectors in terms of their ability to work with psychosocial working environment issues. In addition, the Danish Working Environment Authority must work on optimising the selection of companies so that it inspects the companies who are at the greatest risk of having challenges with the psychosocial working environment and can help them make improvements.
Preventing employees from being physically worn out
The prevention of musculoskeletal disorders can have positive impacts for both individual employees and the ambition to retain employees in the workforce. The Danish Working Environment Authority will gather knowledge about effective measures for the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders and measures that prevent employees from being worn out. The knowledge gathering process is to be discussed with the social partners and presented to the parties to the agreement at the end of 2024.
Simplification of the Danish Working Environment Authority’s types of reactions and tools
It must become easier for companies to understand the consequences of violating working environment regulations and what they as companies can do after an inspection. At the same time, the Danish Working Environment Authority must focus its inspection work on the companies that violate the rules. Therefore, the Danish Working Environment Authority’s types of reactions and tools must be simplified. The types of reactions that can be taken by the Danish Working Environment Authority is reduced from 11 to seven. The actions ‘prohibition notice', ‘immediate improvement notice with significant danger' and ‘immediate improvement notice without significant danger' are now all designated as ‘immediate improvement notice' so that there is only one clear action taken as a result of inspection where companies need to take immediate action. Competence enforcement notices and written guidelines are abolished. It must also be considered whether stricter supervision with a fee should be dropped as a tool of enforcement. The parties to the agreement will be presented with a proposal about this. Ruling without an obligation to act is renamed to reprimand. The simplification of the types of reactions will not result in a lower level of protection, and companies will still be obliged to rectify the state of affairs. Finally, the scheme with binding notification and certain reporting requirements, etc. related to chemicals will be abolished as this has little or no impact on the working environment.
In addition, the Danish Working Environment Authority will prepare a long-term plan for simplifying the rules governing working environments. The simplification plan will help ensure up-to-date and clear working environment rules that are easier for businesses to access and understand while maintaining the same level of protection. This makes it easier for businesses to understand what they need to do. The plan must be submitted to the parties to the agreement and discussed with the social partners before the end of 2024. The penalty increases agreed in the 2019 working environment agreement are to be evaluated after four years, i.e. in 2024. The evaluation will be discussed among the parties to the agreement.
Simplified and targeted contact with companies for inspections
Currently, in a number of cases, companies are given 1-12 months’ notice before an inspection. It is unclear to companies what they have to do when they have been notified that the Danish Working Environment Authority will be inspecting within 1-12 months. Therefore, there will no longer be notifications of inspections. The Danish Working Environment Authority will notify of inspections where, based on industry knowledge, it is evaluated that it will have the most impact on working environments. Moving forward, the Danish Working Environment Authority will carry out more inspections than it currently does.
Systematic knowledge gathering and analysis of the Danish Working Environment Authority’s tools and initiatives
The Danish Working Environment Authority’s efforts must be based on knowledge of effective tools so that inspection efforts contribute in the best possible way to a good working environment. Therefore, data from the national surveys of employees’ working environment and companies’ working environment efforts must be used systematically. In addition, ongoing knowledge gathering and analysis efforts must be strengthened. The analyses should, for example, focus on whether the Danish Working Environment Authority’s instruments work as intended, which instruments work best, or how a tool or initiative works in relation to different target groups. The work must be based on a mapping of existing knowledge about the Danish Working Environment Authority’s tools.
A healthy and safe working environment as part of the green transition
The working environment must be secured in the green transition. Therefore, the areas where technology development and the green transition may involve new risks to the working environment must be mapped. Based on the mapping, it must be assessed whether the supervisory competencies of the Danish Working Environment Authority should be strengthened and whether efforts to support companies’ occupational health and safety work in relation to the new risks should be increased.
Proactive communication towards companies
The Danish Working Environment Authority’s inspections are generally targeted at companies with the highest risk of having problems with the working environment. A large group of Danish companies are therefore only rarely in contact with the Danish Working Environment Authority. To support companies’ daily occupational health and safety work, regardless of whether they receive inspections or not, the Danish Working Environment Authority must implement a behavior-based communication programme. The communication the companies receive must be targeted to the specific situation the individual company is in. For example, when the company has reached a size where there are new requirements for establishing a health and safety organisation or when a company has reported an accident and must prevent similar accidents.
Research in work environments involving the use of chemicals
Knowledge about hazardous chemicals at the workplace can reduce the risk of being exposed to harmful chemical agents. NFA's research programme ‘A stronger focus on research in working environment where chemicals are used' has contributed valuable knowledge about hazardous chemicals in the workplace to authorities, working environment professionals and workplaces that work with hazardous chemicals on a daily basis. The programme must therefore be continued in the period 2023-2026 to maintain a solid research effort about chemicals.
Trial with extended opening hours in the Call Centre
The Danish Working Environment Authority will conduct a trial with extended opening hours in the Call Centre.
The parties to the agreement agree that the occupational health and safety organisation (OHS) has a central role in occupational health and safety work in the workplace. In 2022, the temporary OHS committee with members from the social partners, experts and the Danish Ministry of Employment made recommendations for an improved OHS system. The parties to the agreement note that in continuation of the recommendations, a new executive order will be issued that brings together the relevant rules for the area and, among other things, clarifies the roles and tasks of the OHS, including the role of the occupational health and safety representative, in order to promote good cooperation on occupational health and safety issues at companies. The Danish Working Environment Authority is to support the implementation of the rules and the other recommendations from the temporary OHS committee.
Strong action against social dumping
The parties to the agreement agree that there should be strong action taken against social dumping and illegal labour. Therefore, in the 2023-2026 period, there will be allocated DKK 673.2 million to continue and further develop the efforts. Since 2012, the Danish Working Environment Authority, the Danish Tax Agency and the Danish police have been working together to ensure orderly conditions at Danish workplaces. The regulatory efforts have, among other things, strengthened controls to ensure that work in Denmark is carried out in accordance with Danish rules. The parties to the agreement agree that the joint regulatory effort must be continued. The parties to the agreement also agree that the Danish Working Environment Authority’s stricter supervision of large construction projects will be continued and that the Danish Working Environment Authority will maintain its focus on social dumping in its other efforts, for example, through the supervision of foreign companies in the Register of Foreign Service Providers (RUT). Finally, the parties to the agreement agree that the evaluation of the pilot project on ID cards at four state building sites will be discussed among the parties to the agreement when it is available.
The parties to the agreement have also agreed on the following specific initiatives:
Blacklisting companies from public tenders
Companies found guilty of using illegal labour are blacklisted from participating in public tenders. It is proposed that public contracting authorities will automatically know via the service certificate whether a company has been sanctioned for employing illegal workers under particularly aggravating circumstances. This will make it more transparent for the contracting authorities to see if there are issues that may justify excluding companies from a tender process.
Proposal on the publication of inspections and decisions on foreign companies
There must be transparency about the working environments in companies. Therefore, the Danish Working Environment Authority must expand the upcoming viewing system that publishes data on the inspections and decisions Danish companies have received from the Danish Working Environment Authority. The purpose of the viewing scheme is to create greater transparency about companies’ working environment conditions and to support efforts to improve working environments. The viewing scheme must also contain data on inspections and decisions related to foreign companies.
Strengthened efforts to ensure good working environments
In addition to further developing and future-proofing the current working environment efforts and the fight against social dumping, the parties to the agreement will strengthen efforts in a number of areas. The parties to the agreement agree on the following new initiatives:
Strengthened cross-cutting efforts against social dumping and labour crimes
There are examples of companies that repeatedly violate working environment legislation, cheat on their VAT and taxes and use illegal labour. Therefore, the joint public authority efforts must be strengthened with a cross-cutting response team to ensure that efforts by public authorities focus more on the serious and complicated cases. The cross-cutting response team will strengthen cooperation on identifying new control and supervision subjects across the country and it will systematically coordinate and follow up on joint control actions and use knowledge about the developments in labour crime, social dumping and the use of illegal labour. In addition, a national strategy and action plan must be prepared for the Danish efforts against social dumping and labour crimes. The social partners are involved via dialogue meetings on an ongoing basis. In addition, an analysis of social dumping and labour crime in Denmark will be initiated. The parties to the agreement agree to allocate DKK 36.0 million in the 2023-2026 period for a strengthened cross-cutting effort against social dumping and labour crime.
Health-oriented effort against occupational accidents
Occupational accidents have major human, financial and societal consequences. The parties to the agreement have therefore agreed to launch a holistic effort against occupational accidents to reduce the risk of occupational accidents occurring, including fatal accidents. The parties to the agreement note that the Danish Working Environment Council has issued recommendations for reducing fatal accidents. The parties to the agreement have agreed to allocate DKK 31.2 million for a holistic effort against occupational accidents in the 2023-2026 period, including following up on the recommendations of the Danish Working Environment Council. The parties to the agreement will be presented with a plan for implementation in mid-2023.
Strengthened efforts regarding hazardous chemicals
Around 3,000 people report a chemical-related occupational illness each year, of which around 450 are cancer cases. The parties to the agreement have therefore agreed to launch a special effort for working environments where chemicals are used. The efforts will include gaining more knowledge and increasing supervision of the flow of information between manufacturers and companies about chemicals in the workplace, strengthening work on revising the Danish limit values and strengthening Danish influence on the chemicals area in the EU. The parties to the agreement have agreed to allocate DKK 21.6 million to strengthen efforts in relation to hazardous chemicals in the 2023-2026 period.
Fewer people are to be exposed to asbestos
There are strict regulations on the handling of asbestos and its use has been banned since the 1980s. However, there are still examples of companies not following asbestos regulations. Therefore, an increased supervisory effort, a strengthened communication effort and an authorisation scheme for asbestos work are being implemented. It is expected that a proposed bill will be presented in the parliamentary year 2023/24 and that the bill and the subsequent necessary changes to the executive order can be adopted before the summer vacation period of 2024. After a transition period wherein companies are given sufficient time to get authorised, it is expected that the authorisation scheme will enter into force on January 1, 2025. The social partners and relevant authorities are involved in the development of the scheme. The parties also agree that the possibilities of equalising the rules and practices regarding interior and exterior asbestos work should be investigated and then discussed with the social partners. Finally, the parties agree that the Danish Working Environment Authority should have the right to issue administrative fines for failure to report asbestos work for which notification is required. The parties to the agreement have agreed to allocate DKK 20 million in the 2023-2026 period for initiatives to help reduce exposure to asbestos.
Strengthened efforts against work-related stress and focus on the role of managers in the psychosocial working environment
Work-related stress remains a problem, and many people experience an imbalance between high demands and low influence at their workplaces. In some sectors, for example, violence and threats are a big problem. The parties to the agreement therefore agree that the Danish Working Environment Authority must initiate a multi-pronged effort aimed at preventing work-related stress. There is to be developed a knowledge base about psychosocial working environments and work-related stress. In addition, online theme meetings targeted at selected sectors will be conducted and the Danish Working Environment Authority’s Call Centre will be expanded so that more people can get help and guidance on preventing work-related stress. The parties to the agreement have also agreed to establish a new hotline at the Danish Working Environment Authority where managers can get help and guidance on the psychosocial working environment. In addition, the Danish Working Environment Authority must carry out communication activities and hold online theme meetings for managers. On top of this, the drivers and barriers to the use of existing offers of management training in psychosocial working environment issues will be investigated. The parties to the agreement agree that the Danish Working Environment Authority and the social supervisory authorities must strengthen cooperation on initiatives that contribute to a more coherent effort to support the prevention of violence in shelters and housing units for the psychologically vulnerable.
The parties to the agreement agree to allocate DKK 16 million to strengthen efforts to combat work-related stress, etc. in the 2023-26 period.
Strengthened basic grant for working environment research
Working environment research is important to ensure the necessary knowledge about occupational health and safety problems and potential effective health and safety measures. The National Research Centre for the Working Environment plays a central role here. Therefore, the parties to the agreement agree that the National Research Centre for the Working Environment must be strengthened in order to support a sustained high quality in working environment research and its ability to disseminate valuable knowledge about the working environment to companies and society at large. The parties to the agreement agree to allocate DKK 20.8 million for a strengthened basic grant for working environment research in the 2023-2026 period.
In order to fulfil the agreement, the parties have agreed to provide the Danish Working Environment Authority, the National Research Centre for the Working Environment, the Danish Tax Agency and the Danish Business Authority with a total of almost DKK 1.3 billion in the 2023-2026 period.
|DKK million, 2023-pl||2023||2024||2025||2026||2023-2026|
|Future-proofing the working environment efforts||113.1||113.1||113.1||113.1||452.4|
|Strong action against social dumping||168.3||168.3||168.3||168.3||673.2|
|Strengthened effort to ensure good working environments||36.4||36.4||36.4||36.4||145.6|
The prioritisation of approximately DKK 1.3 billion over the 2023-2026 period is financed via the allocated reserves for a new working environment agreement of DKK 317.8 million per year for 2023-2026 in the proposed 2023 budget. The allocated reserves include contributing funding from the working environment pool (DKK 106.9 million) and special pool for the working environment (DKK 100.8 million) in 2023 as well as an annual reprioritisation in 2023-2026 from the Danish Working Environment Research Fund to the National Centre for the Working Environment’s research into working environments involving the use of chemical (DKK 10.7 million) and a raising of the basic grant for the National Centre for the Working Environment (DKK 5.2 million). The parties to the agreement agree to the above financing.
The parties to the agreement note that the Government will allocate DKK 202.7 million permanently from 2027 (2023- pl), of which DKK 87.9 million will be allocated to the Danish Working Environment Authority’s working environment efforts and a total of DKK 114.8 million will be allocated to the Danish Working Environment Authority and the Danish Tax Agency’s efforts against social dumping and illegal labour. The permanent funds for efforts against social dumping and illegal labour are distributed as follows: DKK 82.6 million for the Danish Working Environment Authority and DKK 32.2 million for the Danish Tax Agency.
The agreement is valid for the 2023 - end of 2026 period. The parties to the agreement agree to discuss the working environment efforts from 2027 onwards at some point during 2026.
Some of the initiatives will require legislative changes. There is expected to be presented proposed legislation in the 2023/24 Danish parliamentary year. The parties to the agreement commit themselves to voting in favour of the coming proposed legislation and any potential individual acts.
The Danish Working Environment Authority is in the process of a comprehensive modernisation of its basic IT system platform and the central workflows in the inspection operations. The agreed simplifications of the Danish Working Environment Authority’s types of reactions and instruments strengthen the basis for digital implementation and administration of the rules and thus promote modernisation. The Danish Working Environment Authority’s continued work with digitalisation must focus on the needs of users in the labour market both today and in the future so that the digital solutions support the workplaces’ own working environment efforts and contribute to improving efficiency and quality in the Danish Working Environment Authority’s performance so that optimal working environment results are achieved.
The parties to the agreement will receive an annual update on the status of the implementation of the agreement. The Employment Committee and the Working Environment Council will also be informed about the implementation of the agreement once a year.
The agreement is a negotiated settlement for the 2023-2026 period. A majority in the Danish Parliament will be able to add additional funds to the Danish Working Environment Authority without the support of the settlement group. This applies both to funds allocated to the working environment efforts and funds to ensure orderly conditions.
Annex 1: Framework for the settlement, including applicable settlements for the working environment area
The parties to the settlement agree on the settlement’s initiatives on working environment efforts and orderly conditions, including the financial framework for the Danish Working Environment Authority which cannot be reduced without the support of the settlement group. However, like other government institutions, the Danish Working Environment Authority is subject to general technical corrections and general cross-cutting efficiency initiatives in connection with budget processes, etc.
The parties to the agreement agree that the settlement on the agreement on a future-proof working environment and efforts against social dumping means that:
- The parties behind the settlement are committed to implementing the agreed initiatives
- The parties are informed about the implementation of the initiatives in the settlement
- If changes are desired to initiatives included in the settlement, endorsement must be sought from the settlement group
- Initiatives not covered by the settlement will not be subject to it
The parties to the agreement agree to discuss the working environment efforts from 2027 onwards at some point during 2026. The settlement replaces the previous settlement on the agreement on a new and improved working environmental effort and orderly conditions in the labour market.