Example: Failure to pay agreed wages

Customer story

“I know that many younger people would’ve given up trying to go after the unpaid wages”

Teppo, 54, restaurant supervisor

After I lost my job in the restaurant industry because of COVID, I went through a temp agency and applied for work at a refinery that needed extra hands during a strike. I also received a commission for referring people I knew for the job. I’d agreed with the temp agency’s representative on the terms of employment and saved them carefully since I had to let others know about the agreed terms when I recruited them.

We worked with a good team spirit but when the payslip arrived, we were disappointed to find out we hadn’t received the agreed overtime pay. I was annoyed since I felt I was personally responsible for my mates who I’d talked into the job. I went to see the employer’s representative, who appealed to the collective agreement and no longer seemed at all committed to the terms of employment I had in writing.

I know that many younger people would’ve given up trying to go after the unpaid wages, but I was annoyed about the employer’s behaviour and decided to contact a lawyer from the Lakikaveri service.

What does Lakikaveri legal service say?

An employment contract can be formed in many different ways: verbally, in writing or electronically. In addition, so-called tacit agreement is possible. In this case, the employer allows the employee to work on its account without an explicit agreement with the employee. Therefore, the terms of employment agreed with the temp agency’s representative by email are valid and binding on the parties. There are also grounds that warrant the conclusion that the terms of employment you agreed to were also valid for your coworkers. For this to be the case, Teppo needs to have agreed on the employment of the persons concerned with the employer, and the persons themselves have not made other agreements with the employer.

As a general rule, collective agreements can only deviate from the Working Hours Act to the employee’s advantage. However, in the case of a national collective agreement, the collective agreement may agree on certain matters provided for the Working Hours Act, such as overtime pay, in a manner that is to the employee’s disadvantage. In temporary agency work, the temp agency’s collective agreement takes precedence, with the customer company’s collective agreement applied secondarily.

However, the employee and employer can always agree on better terms for the employee than what is stated in the law and the collective agreement. In this case, therefore, the terms of employment on overtime pay agreed by Teppo over email take precedence over the collective agreement and the Working Hours Act.

In my view, Teppo is entitled to collect the unpaid overtime pay, including interest on late payment. If, despite reminders, the employer does not pay the agreed overtime pay, it is possible that the threshold for terminating the employment contract is exceeded. In this case, Teppo and the friends he recruited can terminate the employment contract immediately and claim compensation from the employer for an amount equal to 3 to 24 months' wages. If the employment has already ended, it is possible to demand wages for a waiting period of six days in addition to overtime pay when the final payoff has not been paid in full.

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