Under the Danish Working Environment Act, employees' health and safety representatives have dismissal protection in the same way as employees' union representatives "within the same or any similar sector". For health and safety representatives who are covered by a collective agreement, the nature of the dismissal protection is easy to determine, but if the health and safety representative is not covered by a collective agreement, the legal situation is more complicated.
Last year in August, the Danish Eastern High Court delivered its judgment in an appeal concerning the dismissal of a health and safety representative, who had a university degree. Before the High Court, the employer did not dispute the claim for unfair dismissal under the Danish Salaried Employees Act, but the question was if the employee was provided with additional dismissal protection as a result of her status as a health and safety representative. And as the health and safety representative was not covered by a collective agreement, the question was therefore if she was able to point to a collective agreement within "any similar sector".
Affirming the lower court's decision, the High Court said that there is no general statutory rule granting dismissal protection to health and safety representatives. But while the lower court held that none of the collective agreements relied on by the health and safety representative could be regarded as applicable within "any similar sector", the High Court concluded – quite surprisingly – that there was no basis for a narrow definition of "any similar sector", holding that the Industrial Agreement for Salaried Employees was applicable because the health and safety representative's work involved some of the tasks and duties covered by that collective agreement and also because some of her colleagues – although having another educational background – were covered by that collective agreement.
The judgment delivered by the High Court has attracted a great deal of attention, among other things due to the surprising conclusion to interpret "any similar sector" so broadly as to extend the Industrial Agreement for Salaried Employees to also cover an academic employee.
The Danish Appeals Permission Board's decision to permit an appeal to the Supreme Court is therefore generally welcomed in legal circles.
Norrbom Vinding will be following the proceedings in the Supreme Court and report on any developments.