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Home“How to” DenmarkYour Guide to Danish Salary Negotiations

Your Guide to Danish Salary Negotiations

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Equal qualification, equal work, but no equal pay; this is the unfair reality for many migrant or ex-pat workers coming to Denmark. The 2020 version of the “Migrant Pay Gap” issued by the International Labor Organization reveals that, on average, international workers across all sectors earn ca. 17.3% less than their national counterparts. Although this number has already decreased from ca. 21% in the year before, there is still some work to do. 

Naturally, there isn’t one reason alone that explains this human-made phenomenon; instead, several factors must be taken into account. One of them, however, is the different cultural nature that comes into play when internationals discuss compensation with a Danish employer. Here’s our guide for successful salary negotiations. 

  1. Salary negotiations aren’t a one-time thing

In Danish companies, it is common that your direct manager will discuss your salary annually, usually in December, with the newly negotiated pay starting in January. However, it is important to note that you will not achieve much in this once-a-year meeting if you stay “undercover” the rest of the year, no matter how much you prepare yourself for this meeting. In many countries with strict hierarchies, you will receive a title and compensation after working a specific number of years. Denmark, however, has a flat hierarchy and rewards good work, which allows you to make bigger jumps from one year to the next. That is if you can show your manager that you deserve it by ensuring you are getting noticed by your manager regularly. Don’t be shy about highlighting your success in team meetings, one-on-one meetings, or other fitting situations during the year. 

  1. Do your research

We get it. If you come from a culture in which it is frowned upon to talk about money with your colleagues, you will feel even more uncomfortable doing so in a new job and new culture. You should do it, though. Danes are much more open about sharing income. 60% state that they have no or little issue sharing compensation information with co-workers. Of course, you shouldn’t just ask a colleague you have close to zero interactions with or completely out of the blue, but you can definitely approach a colleague you get along with well and with whom you have built a certain level of trust. This requires that you have been at the company for a while already. But what to do when you are negotiating a company entry salary? An excellent way to find out about average pay is to use the many pay comparison tools on the web. Often, they don’t have lots of data for Denmark, as it is a comparably small country. You will find the most accurate ones at your A-kasse or union. 

By the way, next to seniority, you should also consider your educational title when doing the research. If you have a PhD, it might enable you to get paid a higher salary than your colleague without one, although you do a similar or even the same job. 

  1. Start a success diary

Are you already great at sharing success with the team and your manager on a regular basis? Excellent! But don’t expect them (or you, for that matter) to remember that when you are actually sitting down in your salary negotiation meeting. Temporarily, amnesia is a thing in these situations. To ensure that you don’t draw on a blank during this meeting, it is wise to note your successes regularly. Of course, the most essential success will be delivering on your previously agreed KPIs, but don’t restrict yourself to them. You can also highlight your soft skills, for example, if you brought in useful or helpful information from which the entire department profited and which enabled it to achieve the department’s overall KPIs.

  1. Consider alternatives

A high number at the end of your payslip might sound preferable, but sometimes it is wise to tailor compensation to your specific situation. Despite the overall relatively relaxed attitude and high trust in terms of where you work and which hours, some Danish companies do have strict rules. For example, you have to be in the office at least three times a week or be available between 10.00 and 15.00 o’clock. 

Suppose you like flexibility and are employed in a rather strict company. In that case, you might instead want to negotiate extra days off (maybe your birthday) or a more flexible schedule with the possibility of working from abroad over long stretches of time instead of a high salary rise. 

Alternative compensation may include…

… additional vacation days

… higher vacation money (ferietillæg) 

… additional insurance package (e.g. dentist agreement or full coverage for physiotherapist)

… remote and flexible working (e.g. working longer periods from abroad)

… added pension payment from your employer (it is not common in Denmark for the employer to pay into your pension scheme)

… paid professional development opportunities 

… change of professional work title (this might help you find another job opportunity more easily if you are considering changing company)

… compensation for commuting 

… participation in conferences (this might help you to secure yourself a spot at important networking events/conferences, especially if the availability of spots for your company/team is limited by leadership)

… bonus and other one-time payments 

  1. Preparation is your new best friend

At the beginning of this article, you have read that the salary negotiation isn’t a one-time thing. That doesn’t mean that the official meeting has no importance, and you can go into it entirely unprepared—quite the opposite. You should know what your manager considers important and be ready to react to counteroffers and counterarguments of your manager (or the person you negotiate with). If you are a member of an A kasse or a union (highly recommended), you can participate in their salary negotiation courses. Often, they will be in Danish, so it might be wise to instead reach out to A kasse or union directly and prepare during a one-on-one training. 

  1. Seek out help

Being a union member is also recommended if you get stuck during the salary negotiations and can’t seem to find a fair compensation that both parties feel comfortable with. A union can help you during this phase or even negotiate for you. Sometimes, this might be wise, as you don’t want a fair salary to be the reason that negatively impacts your everyday work environment and your otherwise good relationship with your manager. Let the union representative be the “bad guy”. 

  1. Be resilient, but listen

Be prepared to encounter resistance from your manager, and don’t give up immediately. Even though your manager might be supportive of your professional development overall, they might tell you that they cannot give you what you ask for. Often, the negotiation will not be done in just one meeting. Make sure that you have listened to the arguments your manager mentioned during this first meeting. Plan in the necessary time to re-prepare and find new proof that will realistically outweigh your manager’s points. If you cannot showcase the wanted successes or else disarm your manager’s arguments, it is better to take a slightly worse deal for the time being and re-negotiate at a later point in time. If you have the standard Danish work contract, you can negotiate your salary more than once a year. 

  1. You have an offer from another company

Ok, this one is a sensitive one, and you shouldn’t put it out there lighthearted. 

But you also don’t need to be shy. You can mention that you have gotten an offer from another company and consider taking it during the negotiation process. It can help you show your employer your market value and increase your room for play. Keep in mind – this one can go both directions, and you should be okay with either outcome. Only use the new offer if you are sure that your employer doesn’t want you to leave and has the means to match/top the new offer. In case they cannot or don’t want to do so, you must be sure and ready to take the new role and move on. Staying in your old company, although you had a better offer and the employer knows about it, will most likely put you in a terrible negotiation position for the next round, from which you will only recover very hard and get a good deal. 

Claudia Bednorz
Claudia Bednorz
I’m a skilled journalist from Germany who relocated to Denmark in 2018 and graduated with an M.A. in Communication and Culture in 2020. After graduation, I transitioned from journalism to marketing. Since the end of 2022, I help building a tool that assists international professionals thriving in Denmark. My passion remains writing about cultural topics or travel.

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