[co-author: Sanna Alku]*
Finland updated the Working Hours Act to give employers the possibility to agree to wider flexible working arrangements with employees. The amended act is effective as of January 1, 2020.
More Working Time Flexibility for Independent Work
The new act introduces an entirely new flexible working category called “independent work.” This relates to employees whose work is not limited in place and time, such as experts and consultants. Work is categorised as independent work if at least half of the working time is such that the employee may freely decide when and where it is performed. The employer defines the work tasks, aims, and overall schedule, but the employee could then arrange the time and location. The act allows independent workers to have more flexibility than was previously the case, although their working week is limited to 40 regular working hours (calculated over a 4-month period).
Working Hours Bank for All Workplaces
A working hours bank refers to an arrangement where an employee can save excess hours worked, such as overtime hours, and convert these into time off for later use. Before the Working Hours Act was updated, working hours banks had only been possible when employers applied a collective agreement that included rules on working hours banks. The new act enables the use of working hours bank at every workplace. However, the implementation of the bank arrangement requires an agreement between the employer and the employees (directly or through their employee representatives). The maximum amount of hours an employee may save in the bank may not exceed 180 hours per calendar year.
Changes to Traditional Flexitime Arrangements
The previous Working Hours Act included rules on flexitime arrangements where up to 3 hours a day were “flexitime” under which employees could shorten or extend their day with a view to catching up the hours another day. The new act increased the daily flexitime limit from 3 to 4 hours, i.e., employees can shorten or extend their workday by up to 4 hours. The upper limit of hours saved under these arrangements has also changed from 40 hours to 60 hours. Further, employers and employees may now agree that flexitime need not be worked at the beginning or end of regular hours. Instead there can be a break between the end of actual working hours and the start of flex hours, so that an employee can, for example, work on flexitime between 8:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. instead of directly after the regular working hours.
What Can Employers Do Now?
Employers may want to evaluate which flexible working hours arrangement is best suited to their workplace and, if the employer wishes to implement new arrangements, ensure that the change process is properly implemented and documented. Changes to regular working time arrangements may require the employer to conduct co-operation negotiations in accordance with the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings.
*Castren & Snellman