2. Mar 2017

Health and safety representatives' dismissal protection before the Supreme Court

The Danish Appeals Permission Board has granted permission to appeal a judgment from the Danish ‎Eastern High Court on the scope of the dismissal protection of health and safety representatives under ‎the Danish Working Environment Act.

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. ‎

The above article is intended for general information only and does not constitute legal advice.

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Health and safety at work