Working hours are regulated by the Working Hours Act and collective agreements

Working hours refers to the time employees spend on performing work duties or are required to be present at their place of work at the employer’s disposal. Travel time is not included in working hours unless it is considered work. The employer has a duty to make sure that travel outside working hours does not place an unreasonable burden on employees. The Working Hours Act applies to both contractual and public-service employment relationships. The Act does not apply to employees who have full autonomy over their working hours (working hours are not pre-determined nor is the use of working time monitored) and whose work duties meet the additional requirements laid down in the Act.

Regular working hours, additional work and overtime

The working hours to be observed in the employment relationship are usually agreed on in the employment contract or collective agreement. From the perspective of the Working Hours Act, working hours may consist of regular working hours, additional work or overtime. Additional work and overtime refer to work performed outside regular working hours and that requires the employee’s consent. Employees are entitled to higher pay for overtime.

The maximum number and arrangement of regular working hours are determined on the basis of the Working Hours Act or provisions of collective agreements or local agreements based on them.

General working hours

For employees covered by a general working hours arrangement, regular working hours 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. However, in this case, the daily working hours may not exceed eight hours.

Regular working hours based on an agreement between the employer and the employee

The employer and the employee may agree to extend the daily regular working hours by two hours, unless otherwise provided in the collective agreement. In this case, the average weekly regular working hours may not exceed 40 hours over a period of no more than four months. Weekly regular working hours shall not exceed 48 hours.

Period-based work

In period-based work, the maximum regular working hours are either 80 hours in a two-week period or 120 hours in a three-week period. Period-based work is permitted only in sectors prescribed by law, or if so provided in a national collective agreement or collective agreement for public servants.

Regular working hours based on collective agreements

The method of arranging regular working hours may also be based on a national collective agreement or a collective agreement for public servants. Regular working hours based on a collective agreement shall not exceed an average of 40 hours a week during a maximum of 52 weeks.

Flexible working hours

The employer and the employee may agree on a flexible working hours arrangement in which the employee may, during at least half of their working hours, independently decide when and where to work. A written agreement on the flexible working hours arrangement shall be prepared. There are statutory minimum requirements for the content of such an agreement. The weekly regular working hours may not exceed 40 hours during a four-month period. Notice of terminating the flexible working time arrangement may be given at the end of the period following the current adjustment period.

Flexitime

An employer and an employee may deviate from the collectively agreed regular working hours arrangements and agree on a flexitime arrangement that allows the employee, within set limits, to determine when they may start and finish their daily working hours. The weekly regular working hours may not exceed 40 hours on average during a four-month follow-up period. A certain excess or deficit is permitted within the flexitime limits. At the end of the follow-up period, the accrued excess may not exceed 60 hours and deficit may not exceed 20 hours.

Working hours bank

A working hours bank is 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. Workplaces may conclude written agreements on the introduction of a working hours bank. There are statutory minimum requirements for the content of such an agreement. Similarly, the law lays down conditions for working hours transferred to the working hours bank, and for working hours leave.

Maximum working hours

Total working hours shall not exceed 48 hours per week on average during the four-month adjustment period. When calculating the maximum working hours, all hours worked (regular working hours, additional work and overtime) are taken into account. The duration of the adjustment period may be extended to 12 months through a national collective agreement.

Night work

Regular night work is permitted only in tasks prescribed by law, or if so provided in a national collective agreement. However, temporary night work is permitted. Night work may be performed regularly in sectors where period-based work is typical, and in shift work. The number of consecutive night shifts is limited.

Emergency work

In exceptional conditions, the employer may require the employee to work in addition to the regular working hours and overtime. Emergency work may be required when an unexpected event interrupts or seriously threatens to interrupt regular operations or to put life, health or property at risk. Emergency work may be required up to a maximum of two weeks.

Daily rest periods

In the course of a working day lasting more than six hours, employees must be given a minimum of one hour’s rest, and during this time they may leave the workplace. An employer and an employee can agree on a shorter break, but it must be at least half an hour. If the working hours in shift work or period-based work exceed six, employees must be allowed a break of at least half an hour or an opportunity to eat while they are working.

Daily and weekly rest periods

Employees must be provided an opportunity for uninterrupted daily rest of at least 11 hours during the 24 hours from the beginning of each shift. Under certain conditions provided by law, daily rest may be shortened in situations where work arrangements or the nature of the activity so require. If daily rest is shortened, the minimum duration of daily rest is, as a rule, extended the next day by an equivalent amount.

In addition, employees must be provided a weekly rest period of at least 35 hours once every seven days. As a rule, weekly rest is given on a Sunday. On conditions provided by law, an agreement may be concluded on average weekly rest periods.

See also:

Labour law, brochures

Further information:

Guidance and supervision of labour legislation: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Osha)

Law-drafting: Tarja Kröger, tarja.kroger(at)tem.fi, Nico Steiner, nico.steiner(at)tem.fi