Terms of employment for PhD students

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Usually, PhD programmes are completed within an employment relationship where you are employed as a PhD fellow and enrolled as a PhD student at the same university.

Your employment is governed by the Collective agreement for state-employed academics concluded between the Ministry of Finance and AC/The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations (the AC collective agreement). Your enrolment is governed by the Executive Order on PhD.

The AC collective agreement contains, amongst others, a basic salary plan, in which you are placed according to your level of education and your seniority, as well as the rules on working hours. PhD fellows have their own annex to the AC collective agreement from which your rights in relation to pension, parental leave and illness, amongst others, are set out.

You may also be employed according to the Collective agreement for academics employed in the regions or on an individual contract, depending on where you work.

Salary for PhD fellows

See the salary table for PhD fellows

Hours of work

If your employment is governed by one of the three collective agreements, your weekly working hours are 37 hours. If you are employed as a PhD fellow at a university, you are obliged to "perform assignments for the employer university in accordance with its instructions, to an extent which over a three-year period corresponds to a total of 840 working hours".

This work can consist of dissemination, research, teaching, library work or other academic tasks (apart from administrative tasks) which may relieve the other scientific staff. The important thing is that you have to "gain experience with teaching activities or other forms of dissemination of knowledge related to that individual's PhD project". Thus, you cannot be required to teach something which is completely peripheral to your project, just as you also should not put up with being asked to make coffee or copy compendiums.

The scope and nature of the work are to be finally and mutually agreed upon on a semester-by-semester basis and the planning must be done appropriately throughout your enrolment period. You must be aware that if you are employed as a PhD fellow at a university, you are not entitled to remuneration for additional work unless the additional hours are due to you having exceeded the 840-hour limit for work carried out for the university.

Parental leave

As a public-sector employee, you are covered by the parental leave agreements applicable to your collective agreement. If you are employed under the terms of another collective agreement or under an individual contract, the terms for parental leave of that agreement apply.

If you are employed as a PhD fellow at a university, you have the right to extend your employment and your enrolment by the period, during which you are on parental leave. This means that if your employment terminates during your period of leave, your employment will be extended in the remaining period of leave. Furthermore your employment will be extended by a period corresponding to the period of leave until the scheduled end of the employment.

DM is only too happy to provide advice on the general guidelines for parental leave, but if you need help with completing forms in connection with parental leave, we refer to Udbetaling Danmark, which administers parental benefits in Denmark.


Unfortunately, it happens that PhD fellows fall ill during their employment/enrolment. Unlike extensions in connection with parental leave, during which there is a right to extension there is no right to extension due to illness. However, a may provision exists which means that the employment period may be extended in cases of prolonged illness when this has demonstrably delayed the study. This provision only applies to employees at a university.

Experience shows that, typically, a continuous period of illness of minimum one month must have occurred for the extension to be granted. You must familiarise yourself with the rules and procedures for illness at your place of employment and for making an application for extension. Also, make sure to document your absence due to illness with a medical certificate and, in this connection, be careful to extended both the enrolment and the employment period.


You accrue holiday to the tune of 2.08 days per each calendar month which you may take during the holiday year which starts on 1 May the following year and ends at 30 April the year after that. The timing of holidays must be planned in consultation with the individual employee and the university must, as far as possible, consider your wishes. When you start your PhD employment, you will typically not have accrued holiday from previous employment but you always have the right to take 25 days of holiday. When you have not accrued a right to holiday with salary, you may be able to receive holiday pay from the unemployment insurance fund during your holiday.

On 1 September 2020 a new holiday act takes effect which means that holiday may be taken from the commencement of any employment in line with the accrual of holiday.

In autumn 2013, a decision was made that the management of the universities must ”make clear the career perspectives for the scientific staff including, in particular, employees in non-tenured positions”. This may be achieved by e.g. discussing the individual’s career options and may be dealt with at the SAI. Ideally, your SAI should be undertaken with the manager who has the formal staff responsibility and this will typically be your head of department. 

Let yourself be inspired for a good SAI (in Danish)


As a PhD fellow, you may have your employment terminated. This may be due to the employer’s circumstances or your circumstances. Employer circumstances may include lack of work or financial cutbacks. Your circumstances may include e.g. long-term illness, issues with collaboration or failure to comply with the PhD plan. If your employer wishes to dismiss you, there is usually a specific procedure which must be followed and it is therefore important that you contact your union representative or DM as early in the process as possible. We will help you ensure that your rights are respected.

Learn more about dismissal (in Danish)

Your union representative

Your union representative knows the local conditions and this is always a good place to start if something is not working out. The union representative is in close contact with the DM secretariat if there are any doubts. 

It is also the union representative who has the right to negotiate and make agreements in terms of determining your salary, both on appointment and at the annual salary negotiations. If your workplace does not have a union representative, the DM secretariat will assist you.