Article 23 April 2019

New working hours act passed – What will change?

The long-awaited reform of the Finnish Working Hours Act was recently finalised. Passed by the parliament during the last weeks of its term, the new Working Hours Act will enter into force on 1 January 2020.

The most significant change is the introduction of a new concept of flexible working hours allowing the introduction of a working hours bank at all workplaces. In addition, overtime work will no longer have an annual maximum as the overtime is observed as a part of total working hours.

New flexible working hours arrangement for specialists

The act introduces a new concept of flexible working hours, an arrangement where the employer defines the work tasks, aims and overall schedule, but the employee is entitled to decide where and when to work. The flexible working hours arrangement can be used especially for work that is not tied to a time or place.

The employer and the employee can agree on the implementation of flexible working hours by a written agreement in which the terms of the arrangement are defined. The employee must be able to decide at least 50% of the working time as well as the places of work.

Statutory working hours bank

A working hours bank refers to an arrangement where the employee saves working hours, accrued day offs and other benefits converted into time off in a working hours bank. The accrued hours can be taken out later as compensatory leave.

Previously, provisions on working hours banks have been included in many collective bargaining agreements, but now the arrangement will become available to everyone. The implementation of the working hours bank is made by an agreement between the employer and the employees or the employee representative.

Maximum working hours

Currently, the maximum amount of overtime is 250 hours per calendar year with a possibility to agree on additional overtime of 80 hours per calendar year, but the overtime may not exceed 138 hours over a period of four months.

Under the new act, the provisions concerning the maximum amount of annual overtime will be replaced by a limit for total working hours, including also overtime. The employee's maximum overall working hours shall not exceed, on average, 48 hours per week in a period of four months with no possibility to agree on additional overtime.

Conclusions and prospects for the future

Although the new act will bring some changes and updates to the working hours legislation in order to better respond to the demands of work and business, it still lacks to take into account the ongoing changes in the different ways of organising work (e.g. platform economy, working in several employments and the combination of being employed and an entrepreneur). Therefore, a need to revise the act again in the near future might occur.

As the new act will not enter into force until 1 January 2020, there is still time to adapt to upcoming changes. In the meanwhile, employers should assess whether there is a need to revise the monitoring of working hours and if any changes to working hours arrangements should be considered.

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