Emergency work and grounds for emergency work

Emergency work is based on the Working Time Act and it is the employer’s duty to promptly notify the occupational safety and health authorities of the emergency work in writing.

The emergency work notice must also include an opinion by the employees’ shop steward or elected representative or, if neither of these has been elected at the workplace, the OSH representative. In the absence of any kind of personnel representative, each of the employees covered by the notice must be reserved an opportunity to express their view. For more information, see the instructions below. More information is also available on the työsuojelu.fi website.

Emergency work is regulated in the Working Time Act (872/2019), section 19 as follows:

  • An employer may require an employee to perform emergency work when an unforeseeable event interrupts or seriously threatens to interrupt regular operations or to put life, health, property or the environment at risk. Emergency work in addition to regular working time may only be required to the extent necessary and for a period of no more than two weeks. Emergency work may derogate from what is stipulated in sections 8, 17 and 24–27.

Once emergency work ends, the working hours must be averaged out to no more than what is stipulated in section 18 and the employee must be granted a compensatory rest period as stipulated in section 25, paragraph 4 and section 28, paragraph 2.

It is the employer’s duty to promptly notify the occupational health and safety authorities of the emergency work in writing.

It is imperative for the shop steward to attach their opinion to the emergency work notice.

If the shop steward does not consider the work to be emergency work as defined in the Working Time Act, they must mention this in their opinion.

An employee cannot refuse to carry out emergency work.

The employer must not require emergency work to be performed if the legally prescribed criteria concerning unforeseeable events are not satisfied. A lack of resources is not grounds for requiring emergency work.

The emergency work stipulation must be interpreted narrowly:

  • Emergency work can only be required in a situation in which there is a sudden reason that could not have been known beforehand. The need to order employees to perform emergency work is therefore unforeseeable and of a kind that the work cannot be postponed to be performed at a later date.
  • The employer must prepare for regularly occurring unforeseeable events so that the consequences of these events can be rectified without the need for emergency work (e.g. sick leave and annual holidays). A strike for which advance notification has been provided is not an unforeseeable event that would afford the right to require the performance of emergency work as stipulated in the Working Time Act.

If, during a strike, something unforeseeable were to occur that enables the employer to require emergency work, emergency work may be ordered with strict limitations. A strike is not grounds for requiring long-term, extensive emergency work.

Employees’ unforeseen refusal to work overtime may constitute grounds for requiring the performance of emergency work. If, however, the employer is aware in advance that the employees will refuse to work overtime due to an overtime ban, for example, there are no grounds for emergency work.

Instructions for investigating misuse of emergency work

When the employer provides notice that they are requiring employees to perform emergency work, the shop steward must ensure that the emergency work notice has been filed as required by law.

The shop steward must without exception attach their opinion to the emergency work notice, giving their view of whether the reason for the emergency work required by the employer is an unforeseeable event, and whether it puts life, health, property or the environment at risk.

In accordance with the Working Time Act, the Regional State Administrative Agency supervises the requirement of performance of emergency work. Send the emergency work notice to the Occupational Safety and Health Division at Regional State Administrative Agency of Southwestern Finland.

The shop steward must carefully gather all the information related to emergency work:

  • the work done
  • dates and times
  • number of employees
  • copies of records of the hours that the employees have worked
  • a copy of the emergency work notice and shop steward’s opinion.

The occupational safety and health authority may intervene in emergency work by limiting it or stopping the employer from requiring it.

If there is an unclear situation that should be investigated in the union, send the information to JHL’s central office by e-mail to kirjaamo@jhl.fi with “Emergency work notice” as the e-mail subject. We will investigate the matter and contact the controlling authority.