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New Working Time Act in a nutshell
The new Working Time Act (872/2019) entered into force on 1 January 2020.
The new Working Time Act caters to changes in the labour market and working life, such as the growing popularity of time and location independent working. The new Working Time Act provides workplaces with tools for individual working hours solutions such as more adaptive arrangements regarding flexitime, flexible working hours and the introduction of a working time account. The reform also caters to the requirements of the Working Time Directive and its interpretations.
On this page, you will find the key points of the new Working Time Act with notes on material changes compared with the previous Act. The summary was prepared by Tarja Kröger, Senior Ministerial Adviser to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment
The Working Time Act is generally applicable. The Act applies to work performed under both contractual and public-service employment relationships. Section 2 of the Act lays down provisions on exceptions to the scope of application.
Persons with working time autonomy who are also included in the list provided in section 2 are excluded from the scope of application. Working time autonomy applies to employees whose working hours are not pre-determined or monitored, and who therefore have full autonomy over their working time. An assessment of the autonomy of working time essentially depends on the employee’s possibility to influence the duration and arrangement of working hours. Working time autonomy is a new concept in the Working Time Act.
The Working Time Act provides an exhaustive list of the situations in which the Working Time Act does not apply even if the conditions for working time autonomy are met. Work which by virtue of the relevant duties and of the employee’s position otherwise must be considered management of an undertaking, corporation or foundation or an independent part thereof, or independent work directly comparable to such management, is excluded from the scope of application of the Working Time Act. The new Act will not change the current situation in this respect.
Nor does the Act apply to religious functions, or to work performed by family members. Work which, due to its special characteristics, is carried out in conditions where the monitoring of working time arrangements cannot be considered the employer’s duty is also excluded from the scope of application of the Act. This includes work performed entirely or almost entirely in a non-fixed location beyond the employer’s control, or work characterised by mobility or schedules agreed between the employee and the customer (sales representatives, real estate agents).
Similarly, seafarers’ employment relationships, for which separate provisions are laid down, are excluded from the scope of application. Similarly, teaching and research personnel, persons performing forest, forest improvement and timber-floating work, Finnish Border Guard personnel and persons performing pilotage are excluded from the scope of the Act, provided that their working hours are laid down in collective agreements for government employees. Mechanical forest and forest improvement work and short-distance timber transport performed off-road fall within the scope of the Working Time Act.
The major difference between the new and the existing Act is that work performed at home and so-called distance work fall within the scope of the Act. The Working Time Act thus caters to the growing popularity of time and location independent working.
The time spent working and the time an employee is obligated to be present at a place of work at the employer’s disposal shall constitute working time (Section 3 of the Working Time Act). The Act still contains separate provisions on travel time counted as working time: Time spent travelling shall not constitute working time unless such time is simultaneously to be considered performance of work. Travel from one place of work to another by an installation mechanic or a home care assistant during the working day is deemed performance of work. Otherwise, travel does not constitute working time, but the employer has a duty to make sure that travel outside working hours does not place an unreasonable burden on employees. This is a new obligation imposed by the Working Time Act.
The opposite of working time is rest periods, for which the Act gives no express definition. In some cases, it is necessary to consider drawing a line between working hours and rest periods to limit periods of being tied to work. Time spent undergoing compulsory training and a compulsory health check counts as working time, whereas participation in recreational activities organised by the employer does not. Similarly, time spent by personnel representatives on performing their duties as elected officials does not count as working time.
The employer and employee may agree on a stand-by duty during the employee’s rest period, and on related compensation. As provided in section 4 of the Working Time Act, the employee shall be aware of the amount of compensation for stand-by duty or the grounds for the determination of the compensation as well as of the terms of the stand-by duty when agreeing on such duty. Stand-by duty does not count as working time. However, if the employee is required to remain at the place of work or in its immediate vicinity (on call), stand-by time counts as working time. Work carried out while on stand-by naturally counts as working time. The provisions on stand-by are largely the same as in the previous Working Hours Act.
As a general rule, regular working time shall not exceed eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. Alternatively, the average weekly working hours may total 40 hours over a maximum period of 52 weeks, provided that the regular daily working time does not exceed eight hours.
In types of work expressly provided by law, working time may be arranged in periods. In the new Act, sectors where period-based work is permitted have been more generally defined, and the list has been updated to meet the new needs of working life. The list of sectors where period-based work is allowed is exhaustive, and the nature of work referred to therein requires continuity 24 hours a day, or at least most of the day, seven days a week.
Tasks where regular working time may be arranged in periods include security and guard duties, surveillance and traffic control duties, rescue duties and prison administration; press services, editorial radio and television work, and telecommunications services requiring night work; other early childhood education and care services requiring night work, and in social welfare, health care and veterinary services operating for most of the day; passenger and freight transportation and in the loading and unloading of ships and railway cars; the hospitality and cultural sectors and camp operations; and support functions essential to the ongoing performance of the duties and operations referred to above.
In period-based work, working time may not exceed 120 hours during a three-week period, or 80 hours during a two-week period. In order to organise work in a practicable way or to avoid shifts impractical for employees, regular working time may, however, be organised so that it does not exceed 240 hours during two consecutive three-week or three consecutive two-week periods. In this arrangement, regular working time may not exceed 128 hours during either of the three-week periods or 88 hours during any of the two-week periods. These provisions are identical to those of the old Working Hours Act.
Section 8 of the Working Time Act lays down the conditions for night work. Regular use of night workers is permitted only in tasks prescribed by law. However, the new Act permits temporary night work. This is a significant change from the old Working Hours Act.
Work performed between 23.00 and 06.00 still constitutes night work. However, it is possible to make different arrangements on the timing of night work under a national collective agreement such that work performed during a seven-hour period including the time between midnight and 5.00 would constitute night work.
In sectors where period-based work is permitted, regular night work is allowed regardless of whether a period-based scheme is applied or not. Similarly, night work is also allowed regardless of the number of shifts used in shiftwork. In the future, work can be organised into two 12-hour shifts, for example. In this respect, the provisions differ from those of the old Working Hours Act.
Night work may also be necessary to perform such maintenance and repair work that is essential to maintaining the regular operations of the employer and work that cannot be performed at the same time as work regularly performed at the workplace, for example due to the noise or dust caused by the work.
The new Working Time Act limits the maximum number of consecutive night shifts in period-based work and uninterrupted shift work to five (from the previous seven). However, with the employee’s consent, seven consecutive night shifts are permitted. In this case, the employee’s separate consent for each additional shift is required. Night shift refers to a shift during which at least three hours take place between 23.00 and 06.00. After the last night shift, the employee must be given at least 24 hours of uninterrupted leave.
In especially hazardous work or work that is highly stressful either physically or mentally, the working time may not exceed eight hours over a period of 24 hours during which the employee performs night work. More specific provisions may be laid down by Government Decree or more specific regulations agreed by collective agreement as to when work is to be considered to be especially hazardous or highly stressful either physically or mentally. No such regulation has yet been adopted.
According to section 39 of the Act, the regional state administrative agency may grant an exemption, permitting regular night-time work when the nature of the operations requires that work is to be performed at night and if such work cannot be performed only during the day without difficulty. Arrangements may be made under a national collective agreement regarding night work in tasks that are not included in sectors where night work is permitted by law.
The new Act provides more opportunities for night work. At the same time, however, the number of consecutive night shifts is restricted to address the health and safety risks associated with night work.
An employer and an employee may agree to extend daily regular working time by no more than two hours unless otherwise provided by the applicable collective agreement. In this case, the average weekly regular working time may not exceed 40 hours over a period of no more than four months. Regular weekly working hours may not exceed 48. The new Act permits more latitude for agreement between employer and employee (previously 9 hours/day and 45 hours/week).
The agreement may be concluded for a fixed or indefinite term. An agreement for an indefinite term or for a fixed term of two weeks or more is to be concluded in writing. An agreement on regular working time concluded for an indefinite term may be terminated to expire at the end of the adjustment period. Notice can be given on an agreement made for a fixed period of more than a year as in the case of indefinite agreements, four months following the conclusion of the agreement.
The provision on flexitime arrangements largely corresponds to that of the old Working Hours Act, but provides even more flexibility. The employer and the employee agree on the flexitime arrangement. When working on flexitime, the daily regular working time shall be reduced or extended by a flexitime period which shall not exceed four hours, instead of the previous three. The adjustment may take place at the beginning or end of the working day, or in the evening after the working day has ended.
In the flexitime arrangement, the weekly regular working time may not exceed 40 hours during a four-month reference period. At the end of the reference period, the accrued excess may not exceed 60 hours (compared to the previous 40 hours) and deficit may not exceed 20 hours. The number of accumulated working hours may exceed 60 during the reference period, as long as it decreases to the maximum allowed by the end of the period. To reduce accumulated excess hours, employees can work shorter days or take entire days off.
Arrangements may be made under a national collective agreement regarding the four-month adjustment period and the accumulated excess and deficit hours.
A new provision on flexible working hours has been added to the Working Time Act. The employer and the employee may deviate from the provisions of a collective agreement concerning duration and timing of regular working time, and agree on a flexible working hours arrangement whereby the employee may independently decide on the timing and place of performance of at least half of the working time. A flexible working hours arrangement is an option in job roles that are not tied to a specific time of day, day of the week or place of work. A flexible working hours arrangement is suitable for specialists whose work is guided by individual targets and objectives, and not simply by performance of work duties at a given time and in a given place.
An agreement on flexible working hours shall cover at least the following:
- the days on which the employee may work;
- the timing of the weekly rest period;
- any fixed working hours, however not working such hours between 23.00 and 06.00;
- the working time applicable after expiration of the flexible working hours agreement.
The employer must monitor weekly leave reported and taken by the employee and, if necessary, take necessary action regarding the employee’s working hours. As a last resort, the employer may terminate the flexible working hours agreement.
The weekly regular working time may not exceed 40 hours during a four-month adjustment period. The employee may occasionally work longer hours and, correspondingly, take longer periods of leave. The flexible working hours arrangement cannot be used for regular night work.
The flexible working hours agreement shall be concluded in writing, and it may simultaneously serve as a work schedule referred to in section 30. A contractual provision concerning flexible hours may be terminated to expire at the end of the period following the current adjustment period. No special grounds are required for such termination.
The Act contains a new provision regarding a working time account. A working time account refers to a system for combining work and private life that allows employees to save and combine working hours, earned leave or monetary benefits exchanged for leave. The employer and the shop steward or, when one has not been elected, the elected representative or other employee representative or the employees or a group of employees collectively may agree in writing on the introduction of a working time account. An agreement on a working time account concluded by a representative shall be binding on those employees whom the representative is deemed to represent.
An agreement on a working time account shall cover at least the following
- the items on which provisions are laid down in subsection 3 that may be transferred into the working time account;
- the limits for saving into the working time account;
- discontinuation of a working time account system and compensation of the items in the account at the time it is discontinued;
- the principles for taking leave and the procedures by which time saved in the working time account shall be taken as leave.
With the employee’s consent, given individually for each occasion or for a short fixed term, the following may be transferred into the working time account:
- hours of additional work and overtime;
- accumulated flexitime working hours up to a maximum of 60 hours per a four-month reference period;
- monetary benefits based on law or agreement after these have been converted into time-based units.
When employees use the time saved in the working time account as leave, they will be paid a regular salary to which they are entitled at the time the leave is taken.
Benefits saved into the working time account may include additional work and overtime compensation, additional pay for Sunday work, compensation for missed weekly leave, compensation for reduced working hours, or holiday bonus. However, items that may not be transferred into the working time account include pay for regular working hours, allowances or receivables of an indemnificatory nature, or a monetary benefit after it has matured for payment.
The accumulated hours saved into the working time account may not exceed 180 hours over the calendar year, nor may the total hours accumulated in the working time account exceed an amount equivalent to six months’ working hours.
When transferring the items referred to in subsection 3 into the working time account, the terms applicable to these items on the basis of law or agreement concerning exchange for leave or maturing of the benefit are replaced with the terms of the working time account.
An employee shall be entitled to take at least two weeks of leave saved into the working time account per calendar year. When more than ten weeks of accumulated leave has been saved into the working time account, the employee shall be entitled to take at least one fifth of the accumulated leave per year. At the employee’s request, the employer shall give the leave within the following six months. If the employer determines the timing of the leave, the employee shall be entitled to exchange the leave for a monetary compensation.
A statutory working time account is optional in situations where the collective agreement binding on the employer contains provisions on a working time account. The arrangement referred to in the collective agreement shall be governed exclusively by the relevant provisions of the collective agreement, and the statutory working time account shall be governed exclusively by the provisions of the Working Time Act.
If an employee wishes, for social or health reasons, to work less than the regular working hours, the employer must seek to arrange work so that the employee can work part-time.
If an employee wishes to work fewer than the regular working hours in order to retire on partial old-age pension or partial disability pension, the employer shall primarily seek to organize the work so that the employee can work part-time. When refusing to organise the part-time work, the employer must give its reasons for the refusal. This provision is new.
Working hours shall be reduced in a manner agreed upon by the employer and the employee, taking into consideration the needs of the employee and the production and service activities of the employer. These provisions are very similar to those of the old Working Hours Act.
Additional and overtime work is performed at the employer’s initiative. When a flexitime or flexible working hours system is used, additional work and overtime must be expressly agreed on. No compensation for additional work or overtime is paid for work performed at the employee’s own initiative.
For employees covered by a general working hours arrangement, work exceeding eight hours per day is considered overtime. Weekly overtime consists of working time that exceeds 40 hours per week, excluding work not considered daily overtime. When a shorter weekly working time than 40 hours has been agreed, additional work consists of work performed in addition to the regular working time entered in the work schedule that is not overtime.
When working average regular working hours, daily overtime consists of work performed in addition to the regular daily working hours entered in the work schedule. Weekly overtime consists of work performed in addition to regular working time that is not daily overtime. When the average working time has been agreed to average at less than 40 hours per week, work performed in addition to regular working hours shall nonetheless constitute additional work up to a week of 40 hours.
In variable working hours contracts, the employer is obliged to request the employee’s consent to enter hours exceeding the minimum working hours in the work schedule. In this case, hours entered in the schedule with the employee’s consent are regular working hours. If work was offered after the completion of the work schedule, these hours are deemed additional hours until considered overtime. This provision is new.
In period-based work, overtime shall consist of work in excess of the regular maximum working time under section 7. When shorter regular working time per period than provided in section 7 has been agreed, additional work shall consist of work that exceeds the regular working time without exceeding the maximum hours per period under section 7.
When working flexitime, daily overtime shall consist of work in excess of eight hours per day and weekly overtime of work which is performed on days entered in the work schedule as days of leave and which exceeds 40 hours without being daily overtime. Work performed on the orders of the employer in addition to fixed working hours, due to which the maximum accumulation under section 12, subsection 2 is exceeded at the end of the reference period, shall also constitute overtime. Work performed in addition to regular working time that is not overtime shall constitute additional work. This provision is new.
When working flexible hours, daily overtime shall consist of work in excess of eight hours per day and weekly overtime of work that is performed during the weekly rest period agreed in the flexible hours agreement without such work being daily overtime. Work performed in addition to regular working hours that is not overtime shall constitute additional work. This provision is entirely new.
Provisions requiring the consent of the employee have been collected in the same section regardless of whether they concern additional or overtime, preparatory work or Sunday work.
Overtime requires the employee’s consent separately for each occasion. However, employees may consent to overtime for short set periods when necessary for the organisation of the work. In this case, the employee must be informed of the duration of the period to which they are consenting.
Employees may only be required to perform additional work with their consent, unless additional work has been agreed in the employment contract. In such a case, employees shall be entitled to refuse additional work for justifiable personal reasons on the days of leave entered in the work shift schedule.
If the employee’s employment contract provides for variable working hours, the employer may require the employee to perform additional work in addition to the working time entered in the work schedule only with the employee’s specific consent for each such occasion. Consent may also be given for a short period at a time.
The employer and the employee may agree on so-called preparation and completion work. In this case, the employer and employee may agree that the employee, without giving separate consent, will be required to perform work that is essential in order for other employees in the workplace to work throughout their regular working time or that in shift work is necessary to exchange information at shift changes. Preparation and completion work shall not exceed five hours per week.
Employees may be required to work on Sundays and public holidays (Sunday work) only when this has been agreed in the employment contract, or with the employee’s consent. However, no consent is required if the nature of the work is such that it is regularly performed on the said days.
There are separate provisions for public servants and officeholders. When additional work or overtime are essential due to the nature of the work or for extremely compelling reasons, public servants and officeholders may not refuse such work.
The new Working Time Act no longer regulates the maximum amount of overtime. Instead, it contains provisions regarding the maximum number of employees’ total working hours.
The working hours of an employee, including overtime, may not exceed an average of 48 hours per week over a period of four months. Arrangements may be made under a national collective agreement to extend the period to 12 months.
All hours worked, regardless of whether they are regular working hours, additional work, overtime, preparation or completion work, or emergency work, are included in the maximum working hours. Total maximum working hours include all hours counted as working time.
The principles governing emergency work will remain largely unchanged in the new Working Time Act. The only exception is that upon the conclusion of emergency work, the working time shall be adjusted to no more than the maximum hours (48 hours/4 months) and the employee shall be given a compensatory rest period.
As previously, remuneration for additional work shall be at least equal to the pay for agreed working time. Regular pay plus 50% for the first two hours worked and regular pay plus 100% for each subsequent hour shall be payable for daily overtime. Regular pay plus 50% shall be payable for weekly overtime. These provisions remain unchanged. Similarly, provisions on remuneration for overtime in period-based work are in line with the Working Time Act.
Pay for additional work or overtime and, according to the new Working Time Act, pay increment for Sunday work, may be exchanged for leave. In addition, the employer and the employee may agree to transfer the leave into the working time account in use at the workplace, or to combine it with the carried-over holiday referred to in the Annual Holidays Act.
When the employee’s daily consecutive working time exceeds six hours and the employee’s presence at the workplace is not essential to the continuity of the work, the employee shall be given during the shift a regular break of at least one hour’s duration during which the employee is free to leave the workplace. This break may not be placed at the start or end of the workday. When the daily working time exceeds 10 hours, the employee shall additionally have the right to a break of no more than thirty minutes after eight hours of work. When working time in shift work or period-based work exceeds six hours, the employee shall be given a break of at least thirty minutes or the opportunity to have a meal during working hours.
In deviation from the old Working Hours Act, the employer and the employee may agree on a shorter break of at least thirty minutes, unless otherwise provided in the collective agreement.
During the 24 hours following the start of each shift, employees shall be given an uninterrupted rest period of at least 11 hours except for work performed during stand-by time. In deviation from the old Working Hours Act, an uninterrupted rest period of 11 hours shall primarily be applicable in period-based work. In period-based work, the daily rest period for reasons relating to the organisation of the work may be reduced to nine hours.
As the old Working Hours Act, the new Working Time Act also provides for situations where the daily rest period can be shortened to seven (flexitime and flexible working hours) or temporarily to five hours. Rest periods compensating for reduced rest period shall be given to the employee in connection with the following daily rest period or, when this is not possible for compelling reasons due to the organisation of the work, as soon as possible and within 14 days at the latest. The compensatory rest period shall be given as an uninterrupted period and it may not occur during stand-by time. Compensatory rest time can take place outside regular working hours, such as during the employee’s leisure time, and thereby it will not shorten the employee’s regular working hours. There is one exception to the provisions on compensatory daily rest: The employer is not required to give a daily rest period if the employee working flexitime or flexible working hours chosen to shorten their daily rest to seven hours.
The provision on compensatory rest period is mandatory; no deviating arrangements can be made in an employment contract or collective agreement. The provision on compensatory rest periods is stricter than the provision of the old Working Hours Act and improves the employees’ working time protection.
Working time shall be organised in such a manner as to give the employee once in every seven days an uninterrupted rest period of at least 35 hours. Weekly rest is no longer linked to a calendar week. Weekly rest may be placed at the beginning of the first work period the next leave at the end of the following seven-day work period. As a result, the maximum gap between weekly rest periods is 12 working days. Similarly to the old Working Hours Act, weekly rest period should preferably be given on a Sunday.
However, the weekly rest period may be organised to average 35 hours over a period of 14 days. In this case, the weekly rest period must consist of at least 24 consecutive hours during each seven-day period. In continuous shift work, the rest period may be organised to average 35 hours over a period of no more than 12 weeks. However, the rest period shall consist of at least 24 consecutive hours in each seven-day period.
If employees work during their weekly rest period, the time spent working is to be compensated to them as soon as possible, but no later than three months from the performance of work by shortening their regular working time by the time corresponding to the missed rest period. With the employee’s consent, monetary compensation for such work may also be given, in addition to any overtime and Sunday pay.
A work schedule shall be prepared for a maximum duration, but for at least one week. In work where the timing of regular working hours does not vary or in which flexitime or flexible working hours are in use, the work schedule may be prepared for an indefinite period. In this case, the agreement on flexitime or flexible working hours shall replace the work schedule.
Employees shall be informed in writing of the work schedule well in advance and no less than one week prior to the start of the period covered by the work schedule. Thereafter the work schedule may only be changed with the employee’s consent or for a compelling reason relating to the organisation of the work.
The employer’s obligation to maintain a working time register remains essentially unchanged from the old Working Hours Act. The employer may organise a working time register in two different ways. The register shall contain entries on the regular, additional, overtime, emergency and Sunday work, and the remuneration paid, or, alternatively, keep separate registers of all hours worked and of overtime, emergency and Sunday work and the related payments.
When working flexible working hours, the employee shall provide the employer with a list of hours worked during regular working time for each pay period such that the list indicates the weekly working time and weekly rest period. The employer is obligated to record in the working time register this information provided by the employee. The provision is new.
The employer shall keep a record of the items saved by the employee in the working time account and of exchanging items transferred into the working time account for leave.
The new Working Time Act contains a number of provisions permitting derogations from the provisions of the Act. Arrangements can be made in an employment contract on matters including:
- Stand-by duty and related compensation
- Extending regular working time (2 hours/day and 48/week during a four-month adjustment period)
- Flexitime arrangements
- Introduction of flexible working hours
- Reduced working hours
- Reducing the daily break to half an hour
Arrangements may be concluded in a workplace-specific agreement regarding flexitime and the introduction of a working time account. The contracting party representing employees may be a shop steward or, when one has not been elected, another elected employee representative or a group of employees together.
The employer and the employee may agree on a separate monthly compensation for additional and overtime work and Sunday pay for employees who:
- are mainly tasked with the direction and supervision of other employees’ work; or
- have concluded an agreement on flexible working hours.
An agreement on such monthly compensation shall be concluded in writing. Unless otherwise agreed, such an agreement may be terminated at the end of the next pay period. If the agreement concerns a flexible working hours arrangement in an employment relationship, the agreement on separate compensation shall expire no later than upon the expiry of the flexible working hours agreement. These provisions differ to some extent from the provision regarding separate compensation of the old Working Hours Act.
Matters that may be agreed on in a national collective agreement include:
- Stand-by duty, excluding stand-by that does not meet the definition of regular working time
- Regular working time
- Sectors where period-based work is permitted
- Tasks in which the use of night workers is permitted
- Flexible working hours
- The limits of flexitime, the maximum accumulated excess and deficit, and the length of the reference period
- Working time account
- Duration of the agreement on reduced working hours
- Consent to Sunday work
- Adjustment period for maximum working time
- Compensation for additional work, overtime and Sunday work, and exchanging compensation for leave
- Daily breaks, daily rest period, weekly rest period
- Adjustment plan and the work schedule
In a national collective agreement, employers and employees may also agree on exceptional regular working time in work that is only performed from time to time during the daily working time in which the employee is required to be available for work. Similarly, an agreement may be concluded to exceed the maximum working time in respect of doctors on call at hospitals or veterinary hospitals when the maximum working time is exceeded due to on-call duty that counts as working time.
Enterprise-specific collective agreements may be used to agree on regular working time arrangements. If a generally applicable collective agreement contains a qualifying provision for local agreement on regular working time, the alternative of local agreement is also available to non-organised employers complying with the collective agreement in question. The local agreement shall be concluded within the limits permitted by the collective agreement. The contracting party representing the employees may be a shop steward or, when one has not been elected, another elected employee representative or a group of employees together. These provisions are identical to those of the old Working Hours Act.