Working group report on legislative amendments concerning working conditions and variable hours contracts sent out for comments
The purpose of the proposed amendments is to make working conditions more predictable and to improve the position of those employed under a variable hours contract. This was brought on by the implementation of the EU Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions and the Government decision to improve the status of employees in temporary employment and on zero-hours contracts. The proposed legislative amendments have been prepared in tripartite consultation.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is requesting comments by 21 January 2022 on the working group’s report, which contains a draft government proposal. The proposed amendments would implement the changes required by the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions in the European Union (working conditions directive). They would also drive the achievement of the Government Programme objective of more stable working hours in variable hours contracts (so-called zero hours contracts).
Affected legislation would include the Employment Contracts Act and the Working Hours Act. The proposed acts are scheduled to enter into force on 1 August 2022.
EU working conditions directive requires amendments to national legislation
Although the existing regulations in Finland already widely cover the requirements of the working conditions directive, the directive will, however, necessitate some changes in matters such as written reports on working conditions, training offered to employees and shift planning in variable hours working arrangements.
Proposed key amendments to the Employment Contracts Act:
- The employer’s duty to provide a written report of the conditions of employment would be extended to cover shorter employment relationships than is currently the case. The Directive would add to matters to be covered in the report the employee’s right to training, arrangements for overtime work and overtime compensation, and social security that the employer is required to provide.
- If the employer is obligated by law or a collective agreement to offer training to an employee, provisions would be laid down to make this training free of charge to the employee. In addition, the time spent on training should be counted as working time and, where possible, training should be provided during regular work shifts.
- In future, the employer should, at the request of an employee working on a fixed-term or part-time basis, provide a written and well-grounded response to the employee’s request to extend the regular working hours specified in the employment contract or the duration of the employment contract.
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. In addition, when a shift is cancelled 48 hours before the start of the shift, the employee would have to be paid a reasonable compensation for any inconvenience caused by the cancellation, unless such compensation would otherwise be paid based on law or an agreement.
The Government aims to improve the position of employees in temporary employment and on zero-hours contracts
The working group’s report also includes proposed amendments based on the Government Programme, according to which legislative measures will be taken to ensure more stable working hours for persons on variable hours contracts.
Stricter obligations would be imposed on the employer to review the conditions for variable working hours. The employer would be required to assess, at least every 12 months, whether the working hours specified in the employment contract were in line with actual hours worked. If the actual hours worked during the review period and the employer’s need for labour indicate that the number of minimum working hours could be increased, the employer should offer the employee an agreement to change the working hours to match the results of the review. In practice, this would mean an increase in the number of minimum working hours.
Proposals for legislative amendments prepared in tripartite working groups
The working group preparing the implementation of the directive on working conditions started its work on 5 November 2020. The working group included representatives from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Office for the Government as Employer, Local Government and County Employers KT, the Confederation of Finnish Industries, the Federation of Finnish Enterprises, Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), the Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK), Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland (Akava) and the Commission for Church Employers.
The amendment to the Employment Contracts Act, which is based on the Government Programme, has been prepared in a tripartite working group operating under the Ministerial Working Group on Promoting Employment. Its sub-group has representatives from the same parties as the working group preparing the implementation of the directive on working conditions.
The working group’s report includes a joint statement by the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK, Local Government and County Employers KT, and the Commission for Church Employers, a statement by the Federation of Finnish Enterprises, and a joint supplementary statement by the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK, the Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK) and Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland (Akava). In addition, appended to the report is a supplementary statement by the Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK) on the provision for the stabilisation of variable working hours.
After the consultation round, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment will continue to prepare the government proposal.
Nico Steiner, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 29 504 9001
Elli Nieminen, Senior Specialist, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 29 504 8247