14/09/2020

Flexibility and Trust Take Centre Stage in the Workplace

The exceptional circumstances this past spring were a real test of Finnish employment legislation. The legislative amendment temporarily shortening the duration and notice period for co-operations negotiations proved vital to many employers. The application of the amendment also required the amendment of many collective agreements on short notice.

One would hope that similar flexibility would continue to be available in the future. Different employers have different reasons for reducing their workforce, and in clear situations, there is no need for long negotiation procedures. Negotiations tied to specific time limits should not amount to extended notice periods for employees with negotiations only being continued because the minimum negotiation period has not yet run out.

The spring showed that employees and employers are capable of reaching flexible agreements that take the interests of both sides into account without stiff procedures imposed from the outside. Both legislation and collective agreements should be developed to provide a framework within which different workplaces can find the practices best suited to them regardless of what industry or union they are a part of.

The underlying philosophy of the new Act on Co-operation within Undertakings, which is currently being drafted, is trust—the desired result would no longer be sought through detailed procedural rules, but through agreement between the employer and personnel in the spirit of cooperation. The experiences of this past spring show that this approach really does work in practice. Employers act responsibly by securing the foundation for continued employment relationships and seeking solutions with employees that everyone can commit to.

If last spring’s amendments and the ground rules for shifting to remote working had been hammered out the traditional way, it is likely that they would still not be ready today.