Article 19 December 2017

Changes in employment legislation – wrapping up 2017, looking ahead to 2018

As the year 2017 draws to an end, it is good to look back at changes implemented in employment legislation during this year as well as look into expected changes for the coming year.

Changes made in 2017

As of 1 January 2017, the maximum length of a probationary period was extended from four to six months. In addition, the employer is now entitled to extend the probationary period, if the employee has been absent from work during the period due to incapacity or family leave.

The re-employment obligation after a termination on financial and production-related grounds was shortened from nine months to four months. The employer has an obligation to re-employ a previous employee who is a registered job-seeker if the employer needs new employees for same or similar work which the employee performed within four months of the termination. If the employment relationship has lasted for at least 12 years, the re-employment period is six months.

Another change has been the employers' ability to conclude fixed-term contracts without needing to justify their use with someone who has been unemployed for more than a year.

In addition, the obligations of an employer employing at least 30 employees were tightened in relation to outplacement and occupational health care services in connection with redundancies with respect to employees with more than five years of service.

Furthermore, the employer is no longer required to inform the employees of their rights to unemployment services in connection with redundancies or to notify the Employment and Economic Office of temporary lay-offs and termination of employment contracts due to financial or production-related reasons.

Upcoming and expected changes in 2018

New collective bargaining agreements

Several collective bargaining agreements for the leading Finnish export industries (paper, technology and chemicals) expired during the last quarter of 2017 triggering negotiation rounds. To date, new agreements have been reached in the paper, technology, chemical and ICT industries. Several other business fields are expected to follow the salary increase levels accepted by these industries.

Working hours, annual holidays and zero-hour employees

A comprehensive reform of the Finnish working hours legislation is currently under consideration. The Working Hours Act is to be renewed to meet the modern needs for e.g. flexible and remote work. A government bill for the new Working Hours Act is expected to be submitted to the Finnish parliament during spring 2018. Also, new rights for employees with zero-hour contracts were proposed when a government bill for employees with variable working hours was presented to the Finnish Parliament on 14 December 2017. Changes are expected to enter into force in June 2018.

Additionally, the Annual Holidays Act is also to be renewed. A governmental working group is currently evaluating the need for changes and is expected to provide its proposal in June 2018.

Data protection

The new Data Protection Act is expected to enter into force on 25 May 2018 simultaneously with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The intention of the GDPR and the new Data Protection Act is to improve data protection and the rights of the data subject as well as to harmonise data protection legislation in the EU member states. A governmental working group is currently evaluating the relationship between the GDPR and the Act on the Protection of Privacy in Working Life and it is expected to provide its proposal in December 2017.

Trade secrets

A governmental working group on trade secrets proposed the enactment of the Trade Secrets Act to enhance the protection of trade secrets and to implement the changes required by the EU Trade Secrets Directive. The new act is expected to enter into force in June 2018.

Seasonal workers and intra-corporate transferees

In November 2017, the Finnish parliament clarified the conditions of entry, residence and permits of third-country seasonal workers and intra-corporate transferees by accepting the proposals for the Seasonal Work Act and Intra-Corporate Transferees Act, as required by the relevant EU Directives. The intention of the Acts is to enhance work-based entry. The Acts will enter into force on 1 January 2018.

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