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Terms of employment for PhDs

If you are both enrolled and employed at a university, you follow the Executive Order on PhD in relation to the programme itself. Your employment is governed by the Akademikerne/AC collec-tive agreement (the collective agreement between the Danish Confederation of Profes-sional Associations and the state, referred to below as the “AC collective agreement”).

The AC collective agreement contains, among other things, a basic salary plan, basislønforløb, 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, among other things, your rights in relation to pension, parental leave and illness are set out.

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

DM can help you review the collective agreement or your contract and provide advice if any disputes or doubts arise during your employment, for example if the planning of tasks does not match your other obligations. DM can also provide guidance on the challenges that may be related to holidays in connection with your employment.

Salaries for PhD fellows

See the salary table for PhD fellows.

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 institution 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 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 employed PhD fellow, you are covered by the parental leave agreements applying to your collective agreement.

You have the right to extend your employment and your enrolment with the period, during which you are on parental leave, but only for the part of your leave which falls within the period of employment. This means that if your employment terminates during your period of leave, at most, you can extend your employment by a period corresponding to the period of leave until the end of the employment. If your employment/enrolment terminates on e.g. 31 December, and your parental leave starts on 1 October, you will be entitled to parental leave with salary for the months of October to December (within your employment period). You will then be transferred to parental allowance for the part of your parental leave that falls after 1 January, and when you finish your leave, you will return to work for the period corresponding to the leave within the employment period, i.e. in this case for three months (October to December).

DM provides 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, can-provision exists which means that the employment period may be extended in cases of prolonged illness when this has demonstrably delayed the study.

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 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.

We experience more and more often that the universities put PhD fellows on notice that they must take holidays both during the initial period of employment when they have not yet accrued holiday with pay but, unfortunately, also before they finish it.

The universities' justification for giving notice that holiday must be taken is financial considerations, in the sense a lot of money may be saved if one does not have to provide paid holidays to employees who leave their positions. In DM we are acutely aware of the problem and you should contact your union representative or DM if you experience something like this.

Working environment

As an employee, you are covered by the rules on working environment and must not, amongst others, put up with being crammed into a small space with ten other PhD fellows. However,, you cannot demand a private office or a sit/stand desk; however, the seating and working height must be adaptable to your requirements. 

At least every third year, your place of work must undertake a WPA (Workplace Assessment). It must contain a schedule for, an assessment of, an action plan and a follow-up for the working environment of the workplace. The mental working environment is a very important element.

It is the experience of DM that many PhD fellow experience stress during their PhD studies. We can help you and will happily come to your workplace and provide a presentation on the physical and mental working environment. If you become stressed, DM will help you and may visit you for a series of visits with a psychologist. If you suffer a work-related injury, this must be reported.

Learn more at the website of the Danish Labour Market Insurance

Do remember that you have a health and safety representative you may be approached if you experience problems relating to your working environment, just like your union representative may also be of assistance.

Staff appraisal interviews

Like the rest of your colleagues, you are covered by the rules relating to staff appraisal interviews (SAI). You have the right to an annual SAI. This is a chance for the employee and his or her manager to appraise prior work efforts, collaboration, etc. just like it is an opportunity to discuss future tasks. Other topics may be with whom you wish to work and your wishes and desires in terms of continuing education. 

In autumn 2013, a decision was made that the management of the universities must ”make clear the career perspectives to 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 happen 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. 


As a PhD fellow, you may have your employment terminated. This may be due to the employer’s circumstances or your circumstances. Your circumstances may include e.g. long-term illness, issues with collaboration or failure to comply with the PhD plan. 

Before the university is able to terminate your PhD programme with the consequent termination of your employment, you must be given three months to rectify the issue. 

Contact your union representative or DM if you find yourself in a situation such as this. Your employer’s circumstances may include e.g. a lack of work or savings. However, a lacking allocation of funding cannot usually justify a dismissal while you are a PhD fellow. 

If your employer is a public institution and considers dismissing you, there is a specific procedure which must be followed. By way of example, a “consultation” must be held, during which you are given the opportunity to comment on the proposed dismissal. 

DM will be notified, however often not until the dismissal takes effect, so do contact your union representative or DM as early in the process as possible to enable us to provide you with the best possible help. Finally, you must be aware that your employment terminates on the day you submit your dissertation – even if this is ahead of schedule.

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.