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Working life - 27.12.2022 klo 12.38

Preparing for possible power cuts at workplaces - here is what you need to know

Image: Creative Cat Studio/Shutterstock

PAM has received a number of inquiries about how possible power cuts could affect work duties, working hours arrangements and wage payments. We have put together answers to the questions that workers are most concerned about.

If electricity consumption exceeds generation in the winter ahead, the grid operator Fingrid may have to impose power cuts of some hours on a managed, regional basis. Managed power cuts prevent the entire power system from crashing. If there are power shortages, updates will be provided by Fingrid and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.

How can you prepare for power cuts at workplace?

The actions to be taken during power cuts will vary greatly by sectors and businesses. Acquaint yourself with the guidelines at your workplace and raise the subject of power cuts with your manager or shop steward.

Are employers entitled to change shifts because of power cuts?  

The Employment Contracts Act contains the right to wages for 14 days in the event of a power cut or other impediment. On this basis changes to shifts can only be made by agreement with the employee. Employers cannot unilaterally change shift lists or oblige employees to go home without pay due to a power cut.

Can employers assign employees to other duties or other locations?

The right of an employer to manage and supervise matters at the workplace is called the right to direct. Based on the right to direct, employers can order what work duties are to be performed, where and when.

An employer can assign an employee to other duties within a work shift for the period of a possible power cut, taking into account the employer’s duty to provide orientation and health and safety regulations. If an employee is assigned to another workstation during a shift, this must be possible in practice and full wages must in all cases be paid for the entire shift.  

In such cases, changing a shift list entirely is only possible by agreement with the employees.

Can employers require you to continue working despite power cuts?

Working can only continue during a power cut if it is possible without endangering employees’ health and safety. Inadequate lighting may mean many duties cannot be performed safely, if there is an increased risk of tripping, falling or colliding. Also, if employees are offered work that they are not familiar with, adequate competence must be ensured so that the work can be done without risks. For example, duties that require using chemicals or special equipment cannot be performed without orientation. If employees are assigned to other duties, their employer is still responsible for their health and safety.

Should you get your wages during power cuts?

If an employee is prevented from working, for example due to a power cut, they are entitled to their wages during the impediment, but for a maximum period of 14 days. 

Answers provided by PAM’s Counselling Manager Marja Salmivuori and PAM’s Occupational Health and Safety Advisor Erika Kähärä.

Employment Contracts Act Chapter 12 Section 2

3 Key Points to Remember  

  • Acquaint yourself with your workplace guidelines in the event of power cuts in good time
  • Employers must always primarily agree backup arrangements for power cuts with employees
  • If work is interrupted due to exceptional circumstances beyond the employee’s or employer’s control, the employee is entitled to receive wages for this period (however for a maximum period of 14)