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, unless it requires presence in the workplace or in its immediate vicinity. 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 4 hours) and its placement, the timing of rest periods and the maximum accumulation of hours in excess or falling short of the regular working hours.
The average weekly working hours may not exceed 40. The maximum flexitime should not exceed 60 hours at the end of a four-month follow-up period, and the working hours short of the regular working hours should not number more than 20. Exceeding of working hours can be compensated with salaried time off granted to the employee by mutual agreement. On request, the employer shall give the time off as full days.
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 means working time that exceeds the employee’s regular working time and additional work. As a rule, working overtime requires a separate consent from the employee on every occasion. This means that the employee cannot commit to working overtime as needed in their employment agreement.
Read more about overtime here.
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.
The parties of an employment contract can agree by a written mutual agreement on using a working time arrangement, if the employee is entitled to determine independently where and when to work for at least 50% of their working time.
An agreement on a working time arrangement shall determine at least the working days, weekly rest and possible fixed working hours. A notice can be given on a contractual condition concerning working time arrangement to terminate at the end of the period following the current reference period, so the working hours to be complied with after the termination shall be agreed on in the agreement. In a working time arrangement, the regular weekly working hours may not exceed 40 over a period of four months.
When a working time arrangement is applied, the compensation for Sunday work depends on whether the Sunday work was the employee’s own choice (basic pay) or ordered by the employer (Sunday pay). Possible fixed working hours within a working time arrangement i.e. working hours determined by the employer must not take place at night during the period from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
By using a working hours bank the employees can save and combine together their working hours, accrued holidays, or monetary benefits converted into free time. It is not possible to transfer salary paid for regular working hours, compensation for expenses or other receivables of compensatory nature or monetary benefits due to the working hours bank.
The employer and a representative of the employees or the personnel or a personnel group may decide on the introduction of a working hours bank in writing. The written agreement shall determine the items accepted to the working hours bank, saving limits, cessation of the working hours bank and the consequent compensation of items, and the use of the free time accumulated in the working hours bank.