Working life questions

Laws regulate working life, and the collective agreements concluded by JHL govern the rules of working life. Occasionally, conflicts may arise between an employee and an employer, and help is needed. Or are you wondering about something related to terms and conditions of employment, holidays, pay or leaves? You can find the answer here, in JHL’s working life questions.

Where can I ask for help in problematic working life situations?

Disputes related to employment relationships are usually solved quickly in workplaces.

First, always talk with your nearest supervisor about the matter. In this situation, you should present in writing what you disagree with.

If the matter is not resolved after the talk, contact a personnel representative, i.e. your shop steward and/or chief shop steward or, in matters related to occupational safety and health, OSH ombudsman and/or OSH representative.

Personnel representatives will give you advice on how to proceed with the problematic situation. They are the ones most familiar with local agreements and employer practices. Also remember that your own branch is at your service in problematic situations!

If the dispute is not solved in the workplace, you can turn to your nearest regional JHL office together with the shop steward. Regional offices get support from the specialists in our central office.

If your workplace lacks a shop steward, the nearest assistance in problematic situations can be found in JHL’s regional office. The regional office is also the shop steward’s closest support.

How and where do JHL members get legal aid?

Sometimes, problems at the workplace cannot be solved through local negotiations. In such a case, Trade Union JHL members may have the option to seek free legal aid and the services of a lawyer from the union. If your own methods for solving workplace disputes are unsuccessful, help is provided by your own branch, workplace shop steward and chief shop steward. If needed, they can get help from the union’s regional office and legal unit.

Do not seek out legal aid on your own; the local branch or shop steward needs to be involved.

  • Try to sort out disputes first with your supervisor or the employer’s representative managing the issue.
  • If this is not successful, ask your shop steward or chief shop steward to negotiate in the matter.
  • If your employer will not agree on the matter in accordance with the law and agreements, the shop steward will contact JHL’s regional office to consider follow-up measures.
  • Preparations for seeking legal aid can be started if the employer will not, even after the above-mentioned reviews and negotiations, correct the errors, even when it is clear that the employer has acted in breach of laws or agreements.

You can only apply for legal aid after the dispute has been negotiated on in the workplace, and it has not been possible to solve the dispute locally.

Prerequisites for granting legal aid

  • A JHL member can be granted legal aid for civil or criminal cases related to one’s employment, and for cases related to the operations of the union or its member branch.
  • Legal aid can be applied for only after the dispute has been negotiated on in the workplace, and it has not been possible to solve the dispute locally in accordance with the chain of representation.
  • The legal affairs division will conduct an assessment on the prerequisites for granting legal aid. The Employment Committee of the union’s Executive Committee will make the final decision on granting or refusing to grant legal aid.
  • The legal aid granted by the Employment Committee of the union’s Executive Committee only covers the principal trial court processing of the case. The legal affairs division will always decide separately on an appeal and on applying for a further leave to appeal in a court of appeal, and on applying for a leave to appeal in the Supreme Court. This also concerns any possible international legal proceedings.

These instructions complement section 21 in the union rules (Legal aid).

Basic prerequisites for granting legal aid

  • A prerequisite for legal aid is that the person’s membership has lasted at least six months (before the incident for which legal aid is being applied took place). The membership must remain valid throughout the case proceedings.
  • The incident for which legal aid is being applied must have taken place during the time of the person’s membership.
  • The membership fees must be paid in full.
  • If the member has hired a lawyer outside the union to handle the case before the legal affairs division has started to assess the case, the right to legal aid does not exist.
  • In individual cases, the Employment Committee may deviate from the aforementioned prerequisites for a special reason.

Based on an overall assessment, the legal affairs division will make a proposal to grant legal aid. This includes an assessment of:

  • the prospect of success in court for the case (whether the case has a sufficient prospect of success in court based on the information presented),
  • the financial interests related to the case, for example whether the injured party in criminal proceedings has made a civil claim (legal aid will not be granted if the possible gain is disproportionately small in relation to the risk and possible expenses),
  • the principled significance of the case for JHL members (a preliminary ruling is wanted, which would then set an example for future cases),
  • If the member is the suspect for an intentional offence, legal aid is normally not granted.

Legal expenses

  • Legal aid covers the member’s legal expenses without a deductible. The recoverable expenses are legal fees, the general fee for court proceedings, and the costs of taking of evidence.
  • If the member loses the case, the union will pay the legal expenses ordered by the court on the member’s behalf.
  • In case the court orders the counterparty to pay legal expenses to the member, the union will take the money as compensation for its legal aid.
  • If a settlement is reached in the case, the expenses and compensation will be agreed on in the settlement agreement.


Family leaves

A prerequisite for being granted carer’s leave is that the employee’s relative or other loved one needs significant help or support requiring the employee’s immediate presence because their ability to function has decreased significantly due to a serious illness or injury.

Carer’s leave is unpaid. According to chapter 4, section 7 in the Employment Contracts Act, you can get five working days of carer’s leave per calendar year.

Check the collective agreement that your workplace complies with to see what it stipulates on, say, the length of carer’s leave.

Employees have the right to get temporary child care leave to care for a child or to arrange care of the child. An employee can get a maximum of four working days off at a time if their child or any other child under 10 years of age living permanently in the employee’s home falls ill. Please note: In the municipal collective agreement KVTES, and in the agreements for the church and sports organisations, temporary child care leave applies to children under 12 years of age.

Check your collective agreement to see if something else has been agreed on the matter, and whether the temporary child care leave is a paid leave.

It is possible to get temporary child care leave if a child under 10 years of age suddenly gets ill, and there is no other way to arrange care of the child. In the municipal collective agreement KVTES, and in the agreements for the church and sports organisations, the child can be under 12 years of age.

As a rule, your spouse cannot go on temporary child care leave to take care of the child in case you are at home after your night shift. Check your collective agreement to see if it has a special provision on temporary child care leave.

A new pregnancy gives you the right to interrupt your child care leave. The employee must notify their employer of the new pregnancy and of interrupting the child care leave two months before starting the new family leave.

Based on the Labour Court’s legal praxis, a person who gets pregnant again during child care leave can interrupt that leave and get a full salary on grounds of the new pregnancy. The interpretation is based on EU’s Parental Leave Directive. For salary payment, the employee’s prerequisites for salary payment have to be fulfilled. They are determined in the collective agreement, and they include notice periods, duration of employment, applying for Kela benefits, and submitting the necessary certificates to the employer. Check the content and interpretation of your sector’s collective agreement. 

If the recipient of child home care allowance gets entitlement to the new pregnancy allowance, it will not necessarily prevent the recipient from getting child home care allowance if there are other children under three years of age in the family. Check this with Kela.

Child home care allowance – Kela

Other leaves

If you want to take unpaid leave, you must agree on the matter with your employer. You should preferably conclude an agreement in writing.

Agreement is voluntary, and the employer also has the right to refuse to grant unpaid leave. It works the other way around too – your employer cannot force you to take unpaid leave.

If certain prerequisites are fulfilled, some types of unpaid leave must be granted. These types include absence for compelling family-related reasons, absence to care for a family member or other close relative, carer’s leave, and study leave.

Usually, you will not earn annual holiday during an unpaid leave.

In case of a period equivalent to time at work (see section 7 of the Annual Holidays Act), you will earn annual holiday during the time of your absence. These include for instance some family leaves (however, not child care leave or absence due to caring for a family member or another loved one) and part of study leave and sick leave.  

Collective agreements may stipulate something else about accumulating annual holiday, so check your collective agreement.

Employment benefits such as occupational health, telephone benefit or lunch vouchers are usually not available during an unpaid leave.

The collective agreement or your workplace may however stipulate something else about the matter, so check with your workplace.

The employer must at least arrange statutory preventive occupational health services for those who have been laid off. According to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, when it comes to services included in statutory occupational health services, such as health checks, laid-off employees are entitled to them, too.

If the occupational health services also include more extensive healthcare than the occupational healthcare, employees are entitled to it at least during layoffs that last a few weeks. However, if the layoffs stretch into months, the matter is more open for interpretation. The employer may then have the right to decide what to do with the healthcare benefit as an employment benefit.

Annual holiday

Unless the employee and employer jointly agree on the timing of the employee’s annual holiday, the employer will determine the timing. Before determining the timing of the annual holiday, the employer must give the employees a chance to express their wishes on the timing. Employees’ wishes must be taken into account as far as possible. The employer must also treat employees equally in allocating holidays.

A 24-day period of annual holiday (summer holiday) must be granted during the holiday season. The remaining annual holiday (winter holiday) must be granted no later than the beginning of the following holiday season.

Summer holiday and winter holiday must each be granted as an uninterrupted period. If it is essential for work continuity reasons to split holidays, summer holiday may be granted in one or more segments for the part that exceeds 12 weekdays.

In period-based work, summer holiday may be granted outside the holiday season.

Something else may have been agreed on this in the collective agreement, so check the collective agreement that your workplace complies with to see what it stipulates about the matter.

When the employer determines the timing of the annual holiday, they must notify the employees at least a month before the holiday begins. If this is not possible, the employer can in an exceptional case notify about the timing at the latest two weeks before the holiday begins.

The Annual Holidays Act stipulates the following:

If an employee falls ill before the annual holiday or at the start of the holiday

  • The employee must as soon as possible ask their employer for a transfer of the holiday. The employer must then transfer the annual holiday so that it can be taken later.
  • At the employer’s request, a report of incapacity for work must be presented (usually a doctor’s certificate).

If an employee falls ill during the annual holiday

  • The employee has the right to transfer their annual holiday after a six-day waiting period. The employee can have a maximum waiting period of six days during their annual holiday earned during each holiday credit year.  The waiting period does not diminish the employee’s right to a four-week annual holiday.

PLEASE NOTE! The waiting period only applies to employees who have earned 30 weekdays of annual holiday during the holiday credit year.

Something else may have been agreed on this in the collective agreement, so check the collective agreement that your workplace complies with to see what it stipulates about the matter.

Working time

Doing overtime work always requires employee consent. Requiring to perform overtime work also requires employer initiative.

As a rule, the employee gives each time a separate consent to overtime work. If it is necessary for working arrangements, the employee may also give their consent for a relatively short, set period at a time.

Public servants cannot refuse overtime work if working overtime is necessary because of the nature of the job and extremely weighty grounds.

According to the Working Time Act, the time spent working and the time an employee is obliged to be present at a place of work at the employer’s disposal constitutes working time. A meal break, i.e. so-called daily rest period, does not constitute working time if the employee is free to leave the workplace during this period.

As a rule, travel time is not regarded as working time according to the Working Time Act. Travel time is not regarded as working time unless such time is simultaneously to be considered performance of work. Collective agreements often have provisions that concern travel time. Check the collective agreement that your workplace complies with to find out what it stipulates about working time.


If you have been paid too much or too little, contact your supervisor immediately and ask for your pay to be corrected. You should also hold on to the related e-mails or other messages. Save the shift rosters, your notations about the shifts carried out, and payslips.

If your employer refuses to correct an erroneous payment, contact your shop steward or, if your workplace lacks one, contact the nearest JHL regional office.

If the salary is not on your account on the pay day, you should first check with your supervisor and payroll administrator or the accounting firm that the salary has been paid and it is not a question of a technical problem. Demand that the salary is paid immediately. If your salary is delayed, you have the right to a penalty interest rate. If it is a question of severance pay, you may also be entitled to pay for the waiting days.

If your employer has not paid your salary despite you contacting them, and it is not a question of a situation described above, contact your shop steward. If your workplace lacks a shop steward, contact the nearest regional JHL office.

If your employer has become insolvent, the unpaid salaries will be paid to you through the pay guarantee system. A pay guarantee application must be submitted within three months from the due date of salary payment.

The pay guarantee system safeguards the payment of outstanding claims arising from the employee’s employment relationship in case of the employer’s insolvency. Outstanding claims arising from the employee’s employment relationship, the ground for and amount of which have been sorted out, are paid through the system. The Uusimaa ELY Centre processes the pay guarantee application and makes a decision in the matter (ELY Centre = Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment).

ELY Centre – pay guarantee (in Finnish)

Demand for the payment of outstanding salary

A salary must be paid into the bank account designated by the employee. It must be at the employee’s disposal on its due date, i.e. on pay day. The pay day is determined by the employment contract or collective agreement.

A salary can be paid in cash only if it is necessary because of compelling reasons. Such a reason can be, say, a bank strike, or the fact that the employee has no bank account and they cannot open one. The employer will bear the costs of the payment method.

On payment, the employer must give the employee a calculation (i.e. payslip) showing the amount of the pay and the grounds for its determination.  When the payment is made in cash, the employer must have

a receipt signed by the employee or another substantiation verifying the payment. It is attached to the employer’s bookkeeping.

A salary must be paid on the last day of the pay period, unless otherwise agreed. Check the collective agreement that your workplace complies with to see what your pay day is.

If the basis for a time rate is a period shorter than a week (it is then often a question of hourly pay), a salary must be paid at least twice a month. Otherwise, a salary must be paid at least once a month.

If the pay rate is performance based, the pay period must not exceed two weeks unless the performance-based pay is paid together with a monthly salary.  If performance-based work lasts longer than one pay period, part of the pay determined on the basis of the time spent on the work must be paid for each pay period.

Concluding or ending an employment contract

According to the Employment Contracts Act, an employment contract is valid whether made orally, in writing or electronically. Oral contracts can be problematic in that it can be difficult to remember what has been agreed or the parties may remember things differently.

Before you sign a contract, check that the following items are included in the contract (Employment Contracts Act, chapter 2, section 4)

  • the employer’s and employee’s name, social security number, home address and domicile
  • starting date of employment
  • possible trial period and its duration
  • length of employment contract (fixed term or valid until further notice)
  • If the contract is fixed term, length of and reason for fixed-term contract
  • place of work
  • working hours (full-time, part-time)
  • type of work
  • pay and pay period
  • annual holiday
  • period of notice
  • applicable collective agreement
  • date and signature.

If you are unsure of the correctness of your employment contract, turn to your workplace shop steward or the nearest JHL regional office to have your employment contract checked.

Establishing a permanent employment relationship must always be viewed on a case-by-case basis. Even one fixed-term employment contract may be groundless, but on the other hand, several consecutive employment contracts can be concluded legally if there is a legal justification for them.

If consecutive fixed-term employment contracts show that the employer has a permanent need for workforce, it is a question of illegal consecutive employment contracts. In legal cases, a prerequisite has been that consecutive contracts have been concluded for several years.

If you suspect that your fixed-term employment is groundless, contact your shop steward or JHL’s regional office. We can then start investigating the matter.

If an illness seriously deteriorates your long-term capacity for work, this may constitute a ground for dismissal by the employer. For this, a doctor’s assessment of your chances of rehabilitation is needed. It is also necessary to look into whether the employer can offer some other kind of work as an alternative to dismissal, or to train you for another duty.

Usually, if the incapacity for work has lasted approximately a year and the condition has been assessed to be permanent, this is considered proof that it is no longer possible for the person to return to their previous work.

There must be an extremely weighty reason for the cancellation. Cancellation of the employment contract requires such a serious misconduct that the employment relationship cannot reasonably be continued, not even for the period of notice. A ground for this may exist, for instance, if the employee is inebriated or behaves violently in the workplace. Even in such situations, the cancellation must be based on an overall assessment of the events.

Also the employee can cancel the employment relationship if the employer violates or neglects their responsibilities in an extremely serious manner.

The reasons that justify cancellation are, say, that the employer has given misleading information to the employee on an essential point when concluding the employment contract, that the employer or their substitute has grossly jeopardised occupational safety in the workplace or otherwise injured the employee, or that the employee’s pay does not correspond to the employment contract. The right to cancel an employment contract may also come about if the employer acts violently towards the employee, or if the employee is subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace.

A notice is used in so-called petty cases where the employee acts in an improper manner. It can be oral or written.

A notice can be compared to the stipulation related to the right to direct and supervise work. A notice can be used with the aim to correct employees’ slight errors in performing their work duties, and to prevent the error from taking place again.

If the employee has neglected the obligations arising from their employment relationship, the employer may issue them a warning (Employment Contracts Act, chapter 7, section 2).

Repeated negligence constitutes grounds for termination of the employment relationship, but principally the employee may not be terminated before being issued a warning and given a chance to amend their conduct.

If the employer decides to terminate the employment relationship because of repeated negligence, the employer must be able to prove that a warning has already been issued. Because of this, it is in the interests of both employer and employee that warnings are issued in writing.

The employer may require the employee to sign the warning in acknowledgement of receipt. With their signature, the employee can confirm that they have been informed of the warning. Meanwhile, the employee should ensure that they do not verify the aspects presented in the warning with their signature.

If the employee is not guilty of any breach or neglect, the warning is insignificant and the employer cannot appeal to it as grounds for termination. To avoid ambiguity, an employee should always verifiably dispute an unwarranted warning. This may take place orally or in writing, for instance by e-mail. What is essential is that the employee can, if necessary, prove to have notified the employer of the fact that the employee has considered the warning unwarranted.

There are no provisions on the warning’s validity. As a rule, a warning must be issued within reasonable time after the employer has received news of the improper behaviour.

The employer’s warning procedure must be consistent and equal.

Occupational safety and health and well-being at work

The Occupational Safety and Health Act describes workplace bullying as “harassment and other inappropriate treatment”. It refers to long-term, repeated behaviour of such a serious nature that it endangers the employee’s health. It can also be gender harassment or physical or verbal harassment.

Examples of workplace bullying include

  • repeated criticism of an employee’s character or private life
  • constant submission, humiliation or induction of guilt
  • constant groundless criticism or hindering of work
  • constantly assigning tasks that are unreasonable or that go beyond or below prerequisites
  • isolating someone from the work community
  • violating someone’s personal integrity.

Not all conflicts are workplace bullying

Not all workplace conflicts constitute workplace bullying as meant by law. Individual situations of inappropriate behaviour, such as occasional inappropriate talk or work-related differences in opinion, do not constitute harassment.

Employer rights include supervising, leading and planning work. The employer also has the authority to decide about the quality and extent of work duties, and about workplace procedures. Exercising this right is not bullying.

The following is not workplace bullying

  • justified decisions and instructions given by the employer concerning work and work supervision
  • joint processing of problems with work and in the work community
  • justified intervention in someone’s work performance
  • giving a warning for a justified reason
  • guiding the employee to an assessment of work ability for a justified reason.

Here’s what to do

  • Tell the bully clearly that you do not accept their behaviour and demand that they stop. If you are too afraid to talk to the bully alone, bring up the matter together with an occupational safety and health representative or a shop steward.
  • If this has no effect, contact your supervisor.
  • If the bully is your supervisor, submit a written notice to their supervisor. If necessary, you can contact the authority that monitors your workplace.

If your workplace has no guidelines on how to notify the employer of bullying, use the notification form (in Finnish) on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s website.

  • If your supervisor is the bully, contact their supervisor.
  • Note down all the situations in which you have been bullied for possible later processing.
  • If necessary, turn to your occupational safety and health representative and/or occupational health.
  • If the supervisor is not doing anything to solve the situation, you can submit a notice to the occupational safety and health authority. The occupational safety and health representative, too, can contact the occupational safety and health inspector.

Who can take action and what action can be taken

Problems related to workplace bullying can only be solved within the work community. Processing and taking care of bullying situations are included in employer obligations on the basis of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The situations may involve neglecting or investigating the terms and conditions of employment. In those respects, the matter is the responsibility of the shop steward. In such a situation, the occupational safety and health representative and shop steward should cooperate.

The occupational safety and health representative represents the employees in all matters related to occupational safety. The representative represents all the employees in his/her division regardless of which trade union they belong to, or which trade union the representative belongs to.

The occupational safety and health authority supervises that the employer complies with the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Ultimately, the authorities can intervene in the situation.

JHL does not have the same means that authorities have when it comes to intervening in bullying situations. For that reason, the union’s duties have to do with guiding, training and providing information to occupational safety and health and trade union actives.

More information:

In a good work community, the employees are treated fairly, there is a smooth flow of information and work duties are meaningful.

Inappropriate treatment in the workplace can be prevented

  • by drawing up guidelines for a good workplace and by going through them together
  • by complying with commonly agreed guidelines in the workplace
  • by drawing up a written onboarding plan and by onboarding well
  • by talking about the work and its goals.

More information:

A behaviour is always harassment if someone regards it as unpleasant and the harasser continues their behaviour although the target of the behaviour expresses that it is unpleasant.

The harasser can be anyone: a supervisor or subordinate, co-worker or customer. The employer is in all situations obligated to take action to sort out harassment and stop it.

The harassment is sexual if it is unwanted and sexual in its nature.

Gender harassment on the other hand is unwanted behaviour targeting a person’s gender, gender identity or expression of gender in a non-sexual way.

Harassment can be verbal, non-verbal or physical behaviour, the aim of which is to intentionally or actually violate the targeted person’s mental or physical integrity. Harassment may also take place by phone or online. A harasser usually aims to create a threatening, demeaning, humiliating or distressing atmosphere. 

Examples of harassment include

  • remarks that degrade or demean another gender or genderlessness
  • groping and other touching
  • rape or attempted rape
  • sexual suggestions or demands, sometimes including dating invitations
  • intrusive gestures and expressions
  • obscene language and innuendoes, comments on someone’s private life, clothing or figure
  • pinups and bawdy calendars
  • sexually evocative letters, messages and e-mails
  • remarks that degrade or demean another person’s gender
  • demeaning another person’s gender
  • bullying on the basis of a person’s gender.

If you notice that your co-worker is behaving in an inappropriate way towards another person, ask them to stop such behaviour. You can ask the person subjected to harassment if they need your help. If your co-worker has been subjected to harassment, do not leave them alone!

Harassment is always a problem for the entire work community. Co-workers must show with their actions and words that disruptive behaviour is not acceptable.

Talk to the person involved and/or report what you saw or heard to your supervisor, the shop steward or to the occupational safety and health representative. Supervisors have a statutory obligation to intervene in harassment that has been brought to their knowledge. Harassment must be stopped.

All people have legal protection. The person accused of harassment must not be judged before the matter is clarified.

Anti-harassment guidelines on central organisation SAK’s website