Finland’s New Working Hours Act – New Tools for a New Decade

For an increasing number of people, work is no longer tied to a specific time or place. Technology has made it possible to work at any time of day and equally well whether at the office or a cabin in the woods. More and more workplaces value the result of work over working hours, and responsible employers are also looking to make it easier to combine work with family life. The new Working Hours Act entering into force in Finland from the start of 2020 offers employers and employees tools to find solutions tailored to their individual workplaces.

Flexible Work Lets the Employee Decide

One of the most significant reforms is the flexible working hours system. In this new system, the employer and employee agree a working hours clause stating that the employee is free to choose the time and location for at least half of the working hours. This model is a good fit, for example, for expert positions in which the employer defines the goal, but the employee decides where and when they work to achieve that goal. By contrast, the flexible working hours model is not well suited to customer service or factory work where the employer dictates the time and place for work.

Working Hour Reserve for Working Hours, Benefits and Free Time

The second major reform is the introduction of working hour reserves. Reserves are a way to integrate work and free time in which employees can save up and combine working hours, free time and monetary benefits converted into free time. The employer enters into an agreement on adopting a working hour reserve with the employees’ representative, but each employee can decide independently whether to transfer items into the reserve. If the working hour reserve allows it, the employee can transfer additional hours and overtime hours; flexitime hours (within the limits set by the act); unpaid evening, night and Sunday work hours based on collective bargaining agreements; as well as other benefits converted into working hours into the working hour reserve.

Changes to Flexitime Accrual and Periods

The regulation of flexitime is also changing. As of the start of 2020, the accrual of overrun hours cannot exceed 60 hours and over a four-month period, and the shortfall cannot exceed 20 hours over the same period. The maximum overrun and shortfall under the current act is 40 hours. Furthermore, the daily flexitime limit has been extended from three hours to four hours, and the evening flexitime period can be separate from the rest of the working day, for example from 20:00–22:00. It is worth noting that in many respects national labour market organisations can establish different flexitime arrangements in collective bargaining agreements.

Extension of Regular Daily Working Hours Increased to Two Hours

Employers and employees can agree on a maximum extension to daily working hours of two hours, unless prevented by a collective bargaining agreement. For example, the working time could be 6 hours one day and 10 hours another, but the working hours have to balance out to a maximum of 40 hours over a four-month period.

Flexible working time solutions that can be tailored to the individual workplace can help companies attract and retain the best talent. At best, flexible solutions can provide a competitive edge. It is worth keeping in mind, however, that there are prerequisites and limits for local working hour solutions, and it is worth double-checking what they are from the new act or from an employment law specialist.