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02.10.2023 17:01

If dismissal is made easier, an employee could be fired on lighter grounds

The aim of the Orpo-Purra government is to allow employment contracts to be terminated without any serious grounds. If this happens, it would mean the destruction of employment security for workers, says PAM’s Legal Manager, Arja Pohjola. 

The grounds on which an employee can be dismissed are set out in the Employment Contracts Act (TSL 7:1-3). Currently, dismissal can be based on production or financial reasons or on valid and serious personal grounds relating to the employee. Now the government wants to abolish the requirement of serious grounds, so that in the future it would be sufficient to dismiss a worker for a valid reason. According to PAM’s Legal Manager Arja Pohjola, in practice this would mean that in the future more lenient grounds would be enough to dismiss a worker. 

– In principle, a valid reason could be any minor infringement, as long as it is not discriminatory. For example, being late once, minor non-compliance with work instructions or slightly inefficient performance are basically valid reasons, but not serious ones, says Pohjola.

If no serious grounds for dismissal are needed in future, an employee’s protection against dismissal would, according to her, no more than in the trial period.  

– None of us is a perfect and totally faultless worker. A coffee break that lasts a few minutes longer, an occasional personal matter during the working day, for example because of a sick child or a difficult life situation, are human situations and commonplace in many workplaces. However, this could be enough for dismissal if the serious grounds are done away with, Pohjola points out. 

PAMin ratkaisupäällikkö Arja Pohjola
For workers, doing away with the requirement of serious grounds would be a shocking change towards uncertainty, Arja Pohjola says. 

Increasing uncertainty and fear

It is still unclear where the dismissal threshold might be set because the exact wording will be contained in the draft government proposal. According to Pohjola, relaxing the grounds for dismissal due to the employee would in any case be a shocking change that would destroy the employee’s job security and create insecurity. 

– Weakening protection against dismissal while reducing unemployment benefits would be a significant breakdown of workers’ sense of security. Workers would have to live in fear if in principle any minor “disobedience” could potentially lead to dismissal, Pohjola says.   

But an employee could not be dismissed just like that in future either, because according to Pohjola’s information the employee would first have to be given a warning. 

– If they are not doing away with the warning, only the second slight lateness or other wrong behaviour could justify dismissal, she says. 

When are grounds serious enough

A large proportion of PAM’s disputes each year concern dismissals, where the assessment of serious grounds is key. According to Pohjola, there is usually a valid reason for dismissal, but whether the offence was serious is always assessed on a case-by-case basis.  

She gives two examples of court cases brought by PAM: in the first, a waitress was dismissed for not smiling enough in her job. In the other case, the employee had spent too long on the toilet after a verbal altercation at the workplace. After returning from his break, he had been told to leave the workplace completely. In both cases, the court ruled that the dismissals were illegal. 
– Would the outcome be different in the future in a case like this if the requirement of serious grounds is done away with? Pohjola asks.  

The Orpo-Purra Government Programme contains several cuts and impairments which affect the employees and the unemployed in the service sector.