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Lawyer explains: What changed in labour legislation?

In August, a number of legislative amendments entered into force. Their aim is to improve the position of those working under contracts with variable working hours. Meanwhile, EU’s Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions was imposed.

Contracts with variable working hours are contracts where the employee has committed themself to perform work when separately asked to do so, or where, instead of fixed working time, working time varies between certain numbers of hours as agreed (such as 0–30 or 5–25 hours per week).

In terms of contracts with variable working hours, labour legislation was changed last August.  Employers now have an even stricter responsibility to ensure that the working hours clause corresponds to the actual need for workforce.

According to the law, it is not allowed to agree on variable working hours by employer initiative if the need for workforce is in reality steady. The minimum variable working time also cannot be agreed to be shorter than the need for workforce requires. If at least 15 hours of work per week is regularly available, the employer cannot offer an employment contract where the working time is 5–30 hours. There must be at least 15 hours of working time.

Working time must be audited once a year

The employer must at least every 12 months review how the agreed working hours are realised. If the number of realised hours and the need for workforce demonstrate that the minimum amount of working time must be increased, the employer must offer the employee a change in the working hours clause to correspond to the need that has arisen.

The employer must notify the employee on the point in time when the employer conducted the audit. If the employer or their representative asks for a written account on the result of the audit, the employer must provide one.

Employers must ensure that the working hours clause corresponds to the need for workforce.

Collective agreements enable deviation from the law when it comes to agreeing on the audit and on offering work. For instance, this practice is in use in the collective agreement for the private social services sector.

In case the employer cancels a shift marked in the shift roster later than 48 hours before the shift starts, reasonable compensation must be paid to those with variable working hours.

EU Directive increases openness and predictability

In addition, EU’s Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions was imposed in August. To implement it, changes increasing the openness and predictability of the terms and conditions of employment were imposed.

In the future, a written account on the terms and conditions of employment must be provided more quickly than at present, even in short employment relationships. Usually, most of the information required has already been laid out in the written employment contract. However, a written account of the information must be given if there is no written contract, or if some of the information mentioned in chapter 2, section 4 of the Employment Contracts Act is not laid out in the contract. An account of the most central information must be given within seven days of starting work. As for the rest of the information, the time limit is one month.

A written account on the terms and conditions of employment must be provided, even in short employment relationships.

If the employer has an obligation based on the law or collective agreement to provide training to employees, the training must be free of charge (the new Employment Contracts Act, section 2, paragraph 19). The time spent on such training is counted in working time.

In addition, the changes required by the Directive were made in the Act on Public Officials in Central Government, and in the Act on Civil Servants in Local Government.

There is still room for improvement

The changes that were now imposed will improve the position of those with variable working hours. However, one can still not be completely satisfied with the regulation.

The stabilisation audit of working hours does still not apply to those carrying out steady part-time work, although an audit of their working hours clause, held at certain intervals, would also be advisable.

One shortcoming is also the fact that an account of a conducted working hours audit is not provided to the employee without a separate request.

Keijo Tarnanen is a lawyer in JHL’s legal affairs division.