Social security for seafaring citizens

In case of sickness, pension, maternity/paternity leave, etc. foreign seafarers employed on Danish ships are generally covered by Danish social security rules

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If you are taken ill, you are entitled to free care on board or ashore. The right to free care includes medical assistance, hospital treatment and dental treatment corresponding to the assistance and treatment eligible for state subsidy under the general rules applying in Denmark. The subsidy for dental treatment is 50%. If you want to see a doctor, your wish must normally be granted. In addition, you must be examined by a doctor, if the master demands it. 

If you are left abroad, while you are ill, you must be put in the care of the closest Danish embassy or a similar Danish diplomatic mission, which will be in charge of your care until repatriation is possible. If you are taken ill during service, you may be dismissed if your sickness prevents you from carrying out your job for an extended period of time. The definition of “an extended period of time” is determined in each individual case. Normally, the master can base the decision on a medical certificate. If you are dismissed due to sickness, you are entitled to free repatriation. If you are not resident in Denmark, you are entitled to a free journey to the place of engagement.

Free repatriation includes

  1. Transportation from the location you were at when you were dismissed to the repatriation destination.
  2. Board and lodging during the journey, during your stay at the place of departure, while you are waiting for the journey to be arranged and until your arrival at the repatriation destination.
  3. Transportation of up to 30 kg of personal effects, but not of other items acquired during the journey. 

If you are in service when you are taken ill, you are entitled to sick pay for a maximum period of 16 weeks or until the termination of service if you are still unfit for service. If you are dismissed due to sickness, you are also entitled to sick pay from your employer while you are unfit for service, but for no longer than 16 weeks. 

Sick pay includes the basic pay, seniority allowance, pension contribution and any education contribution. It does not include allowances paid for special service or for particularly hard and burdensome work or the like. You are not entitled to pay and have to pay the expenses for your return journey yourself if you have deliberately failed to disclose an illness or in case of self-inflicted illness.

As a seafarer, you may be covered by the special provisions on sickness benefits for seafarers. You are not entitled to receive sick pay and sickness benefits at the same time. Sickness benefits for seafarers are paid out either by the Danish Maritime Authority or by your employer.

You may be covered by the rules on sickness benefits for seafarers if:

  • you are working on board a Danish ship not exclusively engaged on domestic voyages
  • you are staying abroad and have, during the last two weeks, served on board a Danish merchant ship, provided that you have not taken another job after the service ended, or
  • you are employed by a shipowner and staying abroad in the course of your employment. 

If you are working on board ships exclusively engaged in domestic voyages or if you take your holiday/days off ashore in Denmark after termination of your service, you are covered by the general provisions on sickness benefits – even though you are still employed by the shipowner. 

Sickness benefits will be granted in case of full incapacity for work due to own sickness or injury. If your employer is not paying sick pay, the sickness benefits will be paid by your employer.

To be eligible to receive sickness benefits from your employer, you must have been employed with the employer in question for eight consecutive weeks before the absence and have worked for at least 74 hours during that period. If your employer pays neither sick pay nor sickness benefits to you, the Danish Maritime Authority will pay your sickness benefits after the first 30 days and for up to a total of 18 weeks counting from the first full sick day. 

You are only entitled to receive sickness benefits from the Danish Maritime Authority if you have been employed for 26 weeks immediately before the sickness commenced and you have worked for at least 240 hours, unless your sickness is due to an industrial injury.

If you have suffered an industrial injury and remain unfit for work 18 weeks after the injury, the sickness benefit period will be extended until the Labour Market Insurance has made a decision as to any loss of earning capacity. In case of industrial injuries, the requirement of 26 weeks prior employment and at least 240 working hours does not apply. If you are resident in Denmark, the responsibility for paying your sickness benefits is transferred to your municipality of residence after 18 weeks at the latest. If you are resident in another EU/EEA country, the payment of sickness benefits will be referred to the municipality where your employer is domiciled.

If you have suffered an industrial injury and are living outside the EU/EEA, the Danish Maritime Authority will continue to pay your sickness benefits after the period of 18 weeks until the Labour Market Insurance has made a decision as to any loss of earning capacity.

If you are resident in Denmark and are taken ill in Denmark after termination of service, you are covered by the national health insurance. This is also the case if you are working on board a ship exclusively engaged on domestic voyages. 

If you are staying abroad after termination of service, you are entitled to public health insurance benefits if, during the last two weeks, you have served on board a Danish ship, provided that you have not taken another job after the service ended.

If your spouse and children under 18 years of age are staying with you on board the ship, they will usually have the same rights as you. Public health insurance benefits include medical assistance, hospital treatment, medicine and dental treatment corresponding to the assistance and treatment eligible for state subsidy under the general rules applying in Denmark. The subsidy for dental treatment is 50%.

You are entitled to public health insurance benefits for up to 18 weeks as from the first full sick day or the day when the treatment (for example dental treatment) commenced.

If you retire due to pregnancy, you are entitled to receive wages (maternity pay) from your employer for as long as you have not found another job - however, for a maximum of two months. According to the order on medical examinations, you must work on board the ship when pregnant only up to and including the sixth month of pregnancy.When your employer is no longer obliged to pay maternity pay, you are entitled to receive maternity benefits from the municipality where you are domiciled or from the Danish Maritime Authority.

The period during which you are entitled to receive maternity benefits from the Danish Maritime Authority starts four weeks before the expected delivery and expires 24 weeks after the delivery. The child's mother is entitled to receive maternity benefits for the first 14 weeks after delivery, but can choose to share the maternity benefits for the subsequent ten weeks with the other parent of the child.

If you are staying in an EU/EEA country, the Danish Maritime Authority will - after the expiry of the 24 weeks after delivery - transfer your benefits case to Payment Denmark (Udbetaling Danmark) for continued payment of maternity benefits, if relevant, in accordance with the general provisions of the maternity act.

Last updated: 12 December 2020