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Wellbeing at work - 08.11.2021 klo 08.30

Midweek public holidays out of your own pocket

Cleaner Riina Erimäe hopes for equality in paid days off.

PAM wants paid days off for midweek public holidays to apply to all employees equally. At present, cleaners in the property services sector in particular often go without them.

New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Independence Day and many other public holidays are paid days off for most people in Finland. Whilst employees in many other sectors are enjoying days off for public holidays, there are others who never benefit from them. One of them is Riina Erimäe, 48, a cleaner working on hourly wages.  

Erimäe, who is from Tartu, has worked as a cleaner for over 15 years and for her it is important to take good care of the places she cleans. This is also shown in the way customers have been delighted with Erimäe’s work. She currently keeps the K-Supermarket in Nastola spick and span.

“I like my work, and I wouldn’t want to change”, Erimäe says.

She admits that it is tough at times, however. A large share of Erimäe’s free time goes on recuperating from work, so getting days off for midweek public holidays would be very important for her.

Midweek public holiday compensation in the property services sector

Midweek public holiday compensation is paid to those employees who lose their earnings due to the holiday, i.e. the midweek public holiday would have been a working day according to the employee’s shift list.

Monthly paid employees do not lose their earnings even if they do not work on a midweek public holiday, therefore they are not compensated.

Hourly paid workers are entitled to midweek public holiday compensation if their employment relationship has lasted at least 3 months before the public holiday. For Independence Day, the length of employment required is 6 days.

The collective agreement 11 days for which midweek public holiday compensation is paid: New Year’s Day, Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May Day, Ascension Day, Midsummer Eve, Independence Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Part-time workers go without paid days off

Midweek public holiday compensation means that employees get paid for midweek holidays even if they are not at work. Under the property services sector collective agreement, employees must be compensated if according to their shift list a midweek public holiday would have been a working day, but due to the holiday the customer’s premises are closed and the employer does not assign other work instead.

According to Statistics Finland (2020), around 39 per cent of domestic, hotel and office cleaners are part-time workers. They usually work on hourly wages. With society increasingly open every day of the year, cleaning work is more often needed on public holidays too.

Part-timers who work on midweek public holidays get increased pay for the hours they work, but don’t otherwise benefit from midweek public holidays. On the other hand, for many part-timers their working hours are often arranged so that they never fall on a midweek public holiday.

In practice, a large proportion of cleaners entirely miss out on the benefit of paid days off on midweek holidays.

“In the long term, this means cleaners can lose up to eight days a year in annual earnings from missing midweek holiday compensation”, says PAM’s collective bargaining specialist Jarkko Viitanen.

He finds it unfair that paid days off do not apply to everybody equally.

“People on a monthly salary have no loss of earnings even if they don’t work on a midweek public holiday. They get the same pay whatever happens, unlike those on hourly contracts. A midweek public holiday doesn’t necessarily reduce monthly working hours, however. The working hours of the holiday day are done on other days of the month”, he says.

Walkout in support of midweek holiday compensation

A debate about midweek holiday compensation arose in the summer when the cleaning and property services company Lassila & Tikanoja unilaterally altered the company’s agreed and established practices so that workers would no longer be compensated for working shifts falling on midweek public holidays.

Instead, workers would make up for the hours falling on midweek public holidays over the company’s adjustment period by working the midweek holiday’s hours on top of “regular hours” in other weeks in the period – and at regular hourly rates.

If someone’s roster contained a shift on a midweek public holiday and the customer company was closed, previously many L&T employees got the day off and were paid midweek public holiday compensation. Now, moving the working hours to another day in the company’s adjustment period threatened to eat up the midweek holiday compensation.

Angered by the change announced by their employer, workers walked out, after which L&T agreed to pay midweek holiday compensation for the midsummer period. This autumn, company representatives and head shop stewards met to discuss the matter and agreed to continue midweek holiday compensation to the end of the year. What will happen next year is still unresolved, however.

“This has shown that midweek holiday compensation can’t be taken for granted”, says Erja Killström, head shop steward at L&T.

Kun ruokakaupat ovat entistä useammin auki ympäri vuoden, myös siivoustyötä tehdään yhä useammin juhlapyhinä.

Changes to collective agreement needed

The way midweek public holidays affect working hours and compensation paid to employees is agreed in the collective agreement for the property services sector. According to PAM’s collective bargaining specialist Jarkko Viitanen, it would be important to get an amendment inserted in the upcoming agreement round.

“The problem is that under the collective agreement a midweek public holiday isn’t a day equivalent to a working day so it doesn’t reduce working hours. Can it be the case that there is one sector in Finland where it’s possible to dodge the implications of midweek public holidays completely – which is what is now being done in the L&T case?” he asks.

Viitanen has been involved in a working group set up by PAM and the employers’ federation Real Estate Employers to look into possible solutions to improve the situation.

“We suggested practices that are common in other sectors for midweek holiday payments, but unfortunately the employers were unwilling to take this forward”, he says.

When negotiations on the property services sector collective agreement resume in the winter, PAM’s objective is that midweek public holiday compensation should apply equally to all property services workers in proportion to their working hours.


Did you know that:

  • Work done on Midsummer Eve and Christmas Eve is paid a wage increased by 100%.
  • Work done on Saturday in the week of New Year’s Day, Epiphany, May Day, Ascension Thursday and Independence Day as well as Easter Saturday is compensated by an increase of 50% to the regular rate of pay.
  • Work done on Sundays, religious holidays, Independence Day or May Day is compensated by an increase of 100% to the regular rate of pay.

Text:: Minna Raitapuro