The Danish flexicurity model prevents disabled people from getting a job. In neighbouring Sweden, twice as many disabled people are in work. (Photo: Colourbox)

Flexicurity disfavours disabled people

The flexicurity model allows employers great flexibility in firing employees. But this has a severe impact on the disabled people who end up outside the labour market, shows a new study.

The Danish flexicurity model, which gives employers greater opportunities to trim their workforces and fire employees, prevents disabled people from getting a job.

That is the conclusion of a recent PhD thesis, which shows that only a quarter of disabled people in Denmark have a job, while in Sweden there are twice as many disabled people in employment.

"The difference emerges from the fact that Danish labour market laws have very few requirements concerning the retention of employees with a disability," says lawyer Maria Ventegodt Liisberg, who has written her PhD thesis at the Danish Institute for Human Rights and at Maastricht University.

Flexicurity needs an overhaul

Disabled people in Sweden fare better because the law is clear. An employee cannot be fired because of reduced ability to work, including a disability. An employer is obliged to find a job for the disabled person so that he or she can continue to carry out useful work in the company.

Flexicurity is a compound of two words: flexibility and security.

The concept describes a labour market model that combines flexibility for employers with several forms of security for employees. Employers have greater opportunities to fire employees or move them around in the company, while society provides a security net for those who lose their jobs, through social security or unemployment benefits.

Based on experience from Sweden, Liisberg thinks the Danish flexicurity model needs an overhaul. Although Denmark has a law that forbids labour market discrimination against disabled people, this has not resulted in more disabled people getting a job.

"The problem is that, unlike Sweden, obligations to employees with a disability are still not specifically mentioned in Danish labour market laws," says Liisberg. "In Denmark, only the law on differential treatment covers the area of disability. Consequently, it is probably unclear to many employers as to how far their obligations extend."

One problem that Liisberg mentions in relation to disabled people is the 120 day rule, which allows employers to fire an employee who has had 120 days of sick leave within the last 12 months.

"In practice, the rule can result in discrimination if an employee who has been off work sick for more than 120 days because of a disability or reduced ability to work, is fired," says Liisberg.

Regulation required

An overhaul of the flexicurity model so that it includes disabled people would be a step in the right direction, says the researcher.

In the past disabled people received compensation, but today help is provided by making society more available to them. This should be reflected in a new model.

"Denmark's ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009 has allowed progress to be made. But as my research shows, Denmark still has labour market laws that can actually create problems for this section of the population," she says. "The laws should be regulated in a few areas if there is a serious wish to promote employment for the disabled.”


Read the article in Danish at

Translated by: Nigel Mander

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