Government proposes to improve position of persons on variable hours contracts and introduce more predictable terms of employment
The Government proposal would drive the achievement of the Government Programme objective of more stable working hours in variable hours contracts. In addition, it would implement the amendments necessitated by the directive on transparent and predictable working conditions in the EU, such as predictable terms of employment. The Government submitted its proposal to Parliament on 21 April 2022.
Variable hours contracts are zero-hours contracts and other contracts where working hours are set to vary between certain hours (e.g., 0–30 hours per week) instead of having a fixed number of working hours.
“Zero-hours contracts may not be used unless there is a real need for them. In the future, employees will have a more secure position, as their minimum working hours must be reviewed regularly,” says Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen.
Employees’ minimum working hours should be reviewed every 12 months
In the future, employers would have a stronger obligation to review their working hours condition use against their need for labour. The working hours condition means the number of hours agreed in an employment contract. Employers should review their practices at least every 12 months.
An employee should be offered a higher number of working hours if the number of actual working hours and the employer’s need for labour during the review period indicate that the employee’s minimum working hours could be set higher. For example, if an employee on a zero-hours contract has constantly been working from 10 to 30 hours per week during the review period and if the employer’s need for labour is estimated to stay unchanged, the employee should be offered the option of having their minimum working hours raised to 10 hours per week.
The Government proposes to implement the Government Programme objective of more stable working hours in variable hours contracts by amending the relevant legislation. The amendments will improve the position of persons on variable hours contracts.
More open and predictable terms of employment for employees
The Government proposal will implement the amendments necessitated by the directive on transparent and predictable working conditions in the EU.
“The amendments required by the EU directive will strengthen the rules for fair working life and improve the position of employees. More open and predictable terms of employment benefit both employees and employers,” says Minister Haatainen.
Even now employers must give their employees a written account of the principal terms and conditions of work if they are not laid down in a written employment contract. In the future, employers would have to give their written account more quickly and this obligation would be extended to short-term employment relationships, too. The written account should include other information as well, such as training provided by the employer and the name of the insurance institution that provides pension cover or occupational accident insurance for the employer’s employees. The account should also contain information on special conditions on shift scheduling in variable hours contracts.
Employers who are obligated by law or by a collective agreement to offer training to their employees should offer that training free of charge. The time spent on training should be counted as working time and, where possible, training should be provided during regular work shifts.
In addition, employers should give a well-grounded response in writing to an employee working on fixed-term or part-time basis requesting the possibility of extending the regular working hours or the contract duration laid down in the employment contract.
Employees could receive compensation for cancelled work shifts
The proposed amendments to the Working Hours Act deal with variable working hours arrangements. The Act would lay down provisions on situations in which the employee’s consent is required for assigning a work shift. An example of such a situation would be when an employer wants to assign an employee to work shifts outside the days or the hours specified in the account on the key working conditions.
In addition, employers would be obligated to pay their employees a reasonable compensation for the inconvenience of having a work shift cancelled within 48 hours before the shift start. The amendment would apply to situations where such remuneration or pay would not otherwise be paid on the basis of law, a collective agreement or the binding nature of the agreed shift.
The Government proposes amendments to the Employment Contracts Act and the Working Hours Act. The amendments would enter into force on 1 August 2022. The proposals were prepared on a tripartite basis.
Iiris Niinikoski, Special Adviser to the Minister of Employment, tel. +358 295 047 372
Elli Nieminen, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 29 504 8247
Nico Steiner, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 29 504 9001
Working group report on legislative amendments concerning working conditions and variable hours contracts sent out for comments