Working time is regulated by the Working Time Act and collective agreements

Working time refers to the time employees spend on performing work duties or are obliged to be present at a place of work at the employer’s disposal. Travel time is not regarded as working time unless it is considered work. The employer has a duty to make sure that travel outside working time does not place an unreasonable burden on employees. The Working Time Act applies to both contractual and public-service employment relationships. The Act does not apply to employees whose working time is not pre-determined nor is the use of working time supervised and whose work duties meet the additional requirements laid down in the Act.

Regular working time, additional work and overtime

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

The maximum number and arrangement of regular working time is determined on the basis of the Working Time Act or provisions of collective agreements or local agreements based on them.

General working time

For employees covered by a general working time arrangement, regular working time shall not exceed eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. Alternatively, the weekly working time may be organised in such a way that it averages 40 hours over no more than 52 weeks. However, in this case, the daily working time may not exceed eight hours.

Period-based working time

In period-based work, the maximum regular working time is 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 time based on collective agreements

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

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

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

Flexible working hours

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


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

Working time account

A working time account is a system for combining work and private life that allows employees to save and combine working time, earned time off or monetary benefits exchanged for time off. Workplaces may conclude written agreements on the introduction of a working time account. There are statutory minimum requirements for the content of such an agreement. Similarly, the law lays down conditions for working time transferred to the working time account, and for working hours time off.

Maximum working time

Total working time shall not exceed 48 hours per week on average during the four-month adjustment period. When calculating the maximum working time, all hours worked (regular working time, 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 breaks

In the course of a working day lasting more than six hours, employees shall be given a minimum of one hour’s break, and during this time they are free to 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 time in shift work or period-based work exceed six hours, employees shall be allowed a break of at least half an hour or an opportunity to have a meal during working time.

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 legislation, brochures

Further information

Guidance and supervision of labour legislation: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Osha)
Law-drafting: Nico Steiner, nico.steiner(at), Katja Peltola, katja.peltola(at)