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23.01.2023 17:02

Average minimum working hours, pay rise and access to occupational healthcare – what should you know about them?

PAM’s Chief Negotiator Marja Salmivuori and her assistants answers questions put by members.

“Normally there has been an across-the-board pay rise at the start of the year. When will my wages go up?”

There is no across-the-board pay rise even though you often hear that said. Each trade union negotiates collective agreements for the sectors it represents, and wage rises are also part of these. 

Pay scales and pay rises are minimum wages – employers can pay more. Collective agreements guarantee a minimum wage for everybody, however. 

A two-year agreement period was agreed in the service sector collective agreement negotiations in spring 2022. Minimum wages and pay rises were only agreed for the first year of the period, however. That’s why service sector wages are being negotiated again in spring 2023. If no agreement is reached in the negotiations on pay, the collective agreement can also be terminated. 

Collective agreements also agree other valuable employment benefits, such as holiday bonuses, sick pay, employment-specific supplements as well as midweek public holiday payments and annual daysoff. These things, among others, have been negotiated in collective agreements to a better level than required in employment laws. Contrary to what is often thought, many employment benefits and rights in Finland are determined based on collective agreements and not the law.

When more people belong to the trade union in their sector, the union is in a stronger and better negotiating position. 

“My employer told me that I don’t have access to occupational healthcare. Is this possible?”

Employers must provide statutory preventive occupational healthcare, even if they only have one employee. Providing medical care, on the other hand, is voluntary for employers. 

Statutory occupational healthcare includes health check-ups, workplace surveys, support for working capacity and investigating illnesses and symptoms connected to the work. For example, providing care for accidents at work is part of statutory occupational healthcare. For this purpose, of course, all employees need to know where their occupational healthcare is.

Providing voluntary medical care means, for example, treating colds and fever or things like vaccinations or physiotherapy treatements. 

In the orientation provided at the start of employment, employees must be told what sort of occupational healthcare package they are covered by. Accordingly, employees are entitled to use occupational healthcare services without having to pay or ask their employer for permission each time. 

Collective agreements contain specific agreements on when, for example, a nurse’s certificate is sufficient confirmation of illness. This applies to situations where occupational healthcare only covers the statutory requirements. Collective agreements may also contain separate provisions on epidemic diseases.

If you are not sure what occupational healthcare you are covered by, ask your superior about it. 

“I work as a chef in a restaurant and the average minimum working hours agreed in my employment contract are 90 hours per three weeks. My coworkers talk about getting their average minimum working hours and a working hours review. What does this mean?”

In the collective agreement for employees in the hotel, restaurant and leisure industry, average minimum working hours can be agreed with part-time employees in their employment contract. 

If the employer and the employee have agreed on an average three-week working hours period, you have to get the agreed hours during the review period. 

The employer and the employee review whether average minimum working hours have been reached over a one-year review period. A shorter review period can, however, be agreed on an individual workplace basis. 

The review is done for whole three-week time periods from January to January. The review period starts from the first whole three-week period in January and ends with the whole period of the same length in January the following year. 

The review of working hours is done within two months of the end of the review period. The employee must be told when the review will take place and what three-week periods it will cover before the review is carried out. 

The review helps to make sure that the employment contract corresponds to the actual working situation. If actual average working hours have been longer than the working hours agreed in the employment contract for no justified reason, agreed working hours must be brought into line with actual working hours. So in this case the hours in the employment contract should be increased to correspond to the hours worked. 

If working hours have been less than the minimum hours agreed, the employer must pay the employee an amount corresponding to the hours they did not get. There is no obligation to pay, however, if the agreed minimum working hours were not reached for reasons due to the employee or because of an unpaid absence. 

If no other review period has been agreed at your workplace, the collective agreement for employees in the hotel, restaurant and leisure industry lists the review periods and the number of three-week periods to be used in the review.