Position of employees working variable hours to be strengthened – improvements also to be made to predictability and transparency of conditions of employment
The stability of working hours in variable hours contracts will be improved in accordance with the Government Programme. In addition, the amendments necessitated by the directive on transparent and predictable working conditions in the EU, which obligate employers to provide employees information on the conditions of employment more extensively and quickly, will be implemented.
The President of the Republic approved the amendments on 8 July 2022, and they will enter into force on 1 August 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. Regularly reviewing minimum working hours will secure and improve the position of employees. If an employee continuously has more work than their minimum hours, their employment contract should reflect that,” says Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen.
Employees’ minimum working hours must be regularly reviewed
In the future, employers will have a stronger obligation to review their use of contract conditions concerning variable working hours in light of their need for labour. A working hours condition is the number of hours agreed in an employment contract. Employers must review their practices at least every 12 months.
The first review of existing employment contracts must be carried out within 12 months of the act entering into force, in other words by 1 August 2023.
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 consistently worked between 10 and 30 hours per week during the review period and if the employer’s need for labour is estimated to remain at that level, the employee should be offered the option of having their minimum working hours raised to 10 hours per week.
The amendments implement the Government Programme objective of more stable working hours in variable hours contracts by amending the relevant legislation.
More predictable and transparent conditions of employment for employees
At the same time, the amendments necessitated by the directive on transparent and predictable working conditions in the EU will be implemented.
“The amendments required by the EU directive will strengthen the rules for fair working life and improve the position of employees. Transparent and predictable conditions of employment benefit employees and employers alike,” says Minister of Employment Haatainen.
In future, employers will have to provide a written account of the key conditions of employment more quickly than today and also provide one in short-term employment relationships. This applies to situations in which this information is not provided in a written employment contract. The written account should include information on, for example, training provided by the employer and the name of the insurance institutions that provide pension coverage or occupational accident or occupational illness insurance for the employer’s employees.
Employers who are obligated by law or by a collective agreement to offer training to their employees must offer that training free of charge. In addition, the time spent on training will be counted as working time and, where possible, training must be provided during regular work shifts.
In future, employers must also provide a written and reasoned reply to a fixed-term or part-time employee’s request concerning the possibility of extending the regular working hours agreed in their employment contract or of extending the duration of their employment contract.
Compensation of employees for cancelled work shifts
Employers must pay reasonable compensation to employees working variable hours if a work shift is cancelled within 48 hours before the start of the shift. This applies 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.
In future, the act will define the situations in which assigning a work shift requires the consent of an employee working variable hours. The employee’s consent will be required if an employer wants to assign work shifts to the employee outside of agreed days of the week or times of day.
The proposals were prepared on a tripartite basis between the government, employers and employees.
Iiris Niinikoski, Special Adviser to the Minister of Employment, tel. +358 29 504 7372 (questions for the Minister of Employment)
Elli Nieminen, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 29 504 8247
Nico Steiner, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 29 504 9001