The time spent on working and the time an employee is required to be present at a place of work at the employer’s disposal are considered working hours. Daily periods of rest are not included in working hours if the employee is free to leave the place of work during these times. Travel time is not included in working hours unless it at the same time constitutes work performance.
An employer and an employee can agree that the employee is required to remain available to be called in to work when necessary. Stand-by time is not included in working hours. Upon agreeing on stand-by, the employer and employee must also agree on remuneration for it. At least half of the time the employee spends on stand-by at home must be remunerated either in pay or by corresponding free time during regular working hours.
According to the Working Hours Act, regular working hours shall not exceed eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. The regular weekly working hours can also be arranged in such a way that the average is 40 hours over a period of no more than 52 weeks.
Working hours shorter than those in the Working Hours Act are generally agreed on in collective agreements or civil servants’ collective agreements. In many collective agreements the maximum duration of regular working hours is 7.5 hours a day or 37.5 hours a week.
In accordance with the law and collective agreements or civil servants’ collective agreements, working hours can be agreed on at the workplace.
An employer and an employee can agree on flexible working hours allowing the employee, within set limits, to determine the beginning and the end of the daily working hours. When agreeing on flexible working hours, an agreement must also be made at least on the fixed working hours (number of hours of work that must at least be performed daily), the limits of flexibility within 24 hours (maximum of 3 hours), the timing of rest periods and the maximum accumulation of hours in excess or falling short of the regular working hours.
When working hours are flexible, the regular daily working hours shall be extended or reduced by a flexible period of no more than three hours. The average weekly working hours may not exceed 40. The maximum accumulation may not exceed 40 hours. An employer and an employee can agree to reduce hours accumulated in excess of regular working hours by free time granted to the employee.
The working hours of an employee with variable working hours range between the minimum and maximum hours agreed on in the employment contract, or he/she is committed to work for the employer when called on. One example of such employment contracts with variable working hours is zero-hour contract in which the minimum number of working hours is set at zero hours per week i.e. the employer is not obliged to offer any work.
If the initiative for variable working hours is presented by the employee, no limits shall be set for their use. The initiative shall, however, genuinely come from the employee, so it is recommended to record the reason for variable working hours due to the employee’s needs (e.g. full-time studying) in the employment contract for the sake of legal protection of both parties.
It is not allowed to agree on variable working hours at the employer’s initiative, if the need for labour is in reality fixed. For example, if the employee works continuously 30 hours a week, the condition of the employment contract concerning variable working hours is invalid. The condition on variable working hours is lawful, if the employee’s working hours vary according to the needs for labour e.g. from 20-40 hours per week. If variable working hours have been agreed on at the employer’s initiative, the employer shall provide an account on to what extent and in which situations the employer has the need for labour.
On the employee’s request the minimum number in the condition on working hours shall be re-negotiated, if the realised minimum hours during the past six months do not match what is agreed in the employment contract. There is no obligation to re-negotiate, if the minimum hours have been agreed at the employee’s initiative. Negotiations shall generally be conducted within 1-2 weeks from the employee’s request, and he/she is entitled to use an assistant in the negotiations. If new minimum working hours cannot be agreed on between the parties, the employer shall present appropriate grounds for the valid condition concerning working hours. If the employer refuses to provide the grounds, the employee can contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
If an employee’s daily working hours exceed six hours, the employee must be granted a rest period of at least half an hour. The rest period cannot be placed immediately at the beginning or the end of a work day. The law does not determine the duration of lunch and coffee breaks, but they are agreed on in the collective agreement or civil servants’ collective agreement or at the workplace.
In shift work, an employee is entitled to at least 11 hours of uninterrupted rest between the work shifts. In exceptional cases the rest period may be shorter. The employer and can also agree with the employee’s representative on a temporarily shorter daily rest period.
Working hours must be organised to allow employees at least 35 hours of uninterrupted free time each week, preferably around a Sunday. The weekly free time can be arranged so that it averages 35 hours within a 14-day period. Weekly free time must, however, be at least 24 hours.
Additional work refers to work done on the employer's initiative which does not exceed the regular working hours stated in the law. Performance of additional work shall be agreed on separately and salary in accordance with regular working shall be paid for it.
An employee’s working hours may be extended with additional work or overtime performed at the employer’s initiative. Additional work is work that does not exceed the regular working hours determined in the Working Hours Act (8 h/day or 40 h/week) or the working hours agreed on in the employment contract or agreed on locally, but exceeds the regular working hours agreed on at the employer’s initiative (often 37.5 h/week). The employee is entitled to receive at least the ordinary pay or as much free time as the additional work has lasted. Compensation for additional work is often agreed on in the collective agreement in a way that differs from the law. Additional work may only be commissioned by the employee’s consent, so it is often agreed on beforehand in employment contracts. The employee has, however, the right to refuse for a justified personal reason to do an additional work shift on their free day despite their consent given to perform additional work.
Overtime refers to work carried out in addition to the regular working hours and additional work. Overtime shall be agreed on separately and an increased salary shall be paid for it.
The salary payable for the first two hours of overtime above the daily regular working hours shall be the regular salary plus 50 per cent, and for additional hours the regular wage plus 100 per cent. The regular salary plus 50 per cent is payable on hours exceeding the regular weekly working hours. By agreement, salary payable for additional work or overtime can also be partly or completely converted into corresponding free time.
The maximum amount of overtime during a four-month period is 138 hours, though 250 hours must not be exceeded in a calendar year. An employer can agree on additional overtime with employee representative. The maximum amount of such additional overtime in a calendar year is 80 hours.
Overtime is work that exceeds the maximum duration of regular working hours in the Working Hours Act. The employee is only entitled to receive compensation for overtime, if overtime has been performed at the employer’s initiative and with approval of the employer. The employee’s consent for overtime is required for each instance of overtime separately or for a short period beforehand, if it is needed for work arrangements. So the employee cannot commit themselves in the employment contract to work overtime as needed.
According to section 23 of the Working Hours Act, an employer and employee can agree on converting the compensation accumulated from additional work or overtime into corresponding free time. The employee shall then be given free time during their regular working hours and receive normal pay for that time. The employer or employee are not entitled to demand that the said compensation be converted into free time, but the practice shall always be based on an agreement. A different agreement may have been made under a collective agreement or civil servants’ collective agreement.
The agreement may concern either compensation for additional work or overtime in full or converting just a certain share into free time.
The duration of free time shall be calculated like the monetary remuneration payable for additional work or overtime. An employee will get from the additional work done as much free time as the additional work has lasted. E.g. one hour of free time for one hour of additional work. In case of overtime, the free time shall be increased in the same way as compensation for overtime paid in money. If an agreement has been made, for example, on converting two overtime hours with 50 per cent increase into free time, it corresponds with three hours of free time.