Protection for young workers is provided for in the Young Workers’ Act and in decrees issued pursuant to that Act. The purpose of the Act is to protect young workers from undue strain at work.
The employer shall see to it that the work does not require more exertion or responsibility than can be considered reasonable with respect to the young worker's age and strength. The employer must always provide particularly careful guidance and induction training for young workers.
Concluding and terminating an employment contract
An employer may hire a person in a permanent relationship if he/she has reached the age of 15 and has completed his/her compulsory education. A person who has not completed his/her compulsory education is allowed to work for at most half of the school holidays and for restricted periods of time during the school year.
An adolescent whose 14th birthday is in the current calendar year may only work for pay with permission from his/her guardian. An adolescent whose 13th birthday is in the current calendar year or who is younger than that may only work for pay on an exemption granted by the occupational safety and health authorities.
An employment contract should always be executed in writing, although even a verbal agreement is legally binding. A person who has reached the age of 15 may conclude and terminate his/her employment contract himself/herself. For a young person under the age of 15, the employment contract may be signed by his/her guardian or by himself/herself with the guardian’s consent.
A young worker’s guardian is entitled to cancel the young worker’s employment contract if considered necessary because of the education, development or health of the young worker.
Young workers must be paid at least the wage specified in the collective agreement.
Wages are agreed on in the employment contract. There may be provisions in the applicable collective agreement concerning the minimum wage to be paid to young workers in the sector. Such wages specified for young workers are typically between 70 % and 90 % of the lowest wages specified for adult workers.
A pay slip must always be issued in connection with wage payment. Various bonuses and increments (e.g. evening work bonus, Sunday work bonus and holiday bonus) must not be included in the basic wage; they must be paid in addition to the basic wage and itemised on the pay slip.
Not all work may be assigned to young workers
Young workers may only be assigned to light work. A list of examples of such work is given in the relevant Decree of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Some job duties are considered so hazardous or harmful that there are restrictions on assigning young workers to perform them. There are also job duties to which young workers may never be assigned.
The employer may derogate from these restrictions on young workers’ job duties only if the occupational safety and health division at the Regional State Administrative Agency for Eastern Finland grants an exemption.
You may sign your own employment contract when you have reached the age of 15. If you are under 15, you must obtain your guardian’s consent.
Job duties are agreed on with the employer before the work begins. Although even a verbal employment contract is legally binding, it is recommended that the employment contract be executed in writing in two copies, one for you and one for the employer.
In the employment contract, you commit to working under the direction and supervision of the employer in return for wages or other compensation.
Be diligent when concluding an employment contract
The employment contract should indicate at least the following:
- the domicile or business location of the employer and the employee,
- the date of commencement of the work,
- in case of a fixed-term contract, the grounds for concluding a fixed-term contract and the date of termination of the contract,
- the trial period,
- the place of work,
- job duties,
- the collective agreement applicable to the work,
- the agreed wage and pay period,
- regular working hours,
- the manner of determining annual holiday,
- the period of notice or the grounds for determining it.
A trial period may be agreed on in the employment contract; under normal circumstances, this may be no longer than four months. In fixed-term employment relationships shorter than eight months, the length of the trial period may be no more than half of the duration of the employment relationship. During the trial period, either you or your employer may cancel the employment contract with immediate effect. However, the employment contract may not be cancelled on grounds that are inappropriate or discriminatory in view of the purpose of the trial period.
You may use this form for drawing up an employment contract (pdf, in Finnish): Employment contract.
You may request an explanation of the principal terms and conditions of employment
If your employment contract is not executed in writing, you are entitled to ask your employer to provide a written explanation of the terms and conditions of employment before entering into the contract (except if you are hired to do household work in the employer's home for one day).
For an employment relationship lasting more than one month, the employer must give you a written explanation of the terms and conditions of employment, unless these are entered in the written employment contract.
To request the explanation, you may use this form (doc, in Finnish): Document request to employer.
The employer may use this form to provide the explanation (pdf, in Finnish): Explanation of the principal terms and conditions of employment.
Your guardian is entitled to cancel an employment contract into which you have entered if there is reason to believe that the work is hazardous to your education, health or development.
Check that your wages and increments are correctly paid
Keep a record of the hours you have worked, whether in your calendar or on a working hours monitoring form. Use this record to check your working hours to see if your wages have been correctly paid.
You can use this form (pdf, in Finnish): Working hours monitoring.
Wages are generally determined in the collective agreement applicable to the sector you are working in. If there is no applicable collective agreement, wages are agreed between employer and employee. In every case, at least a usual and reasonable wage must be paid for work.
Your employer must issue you a pay slip in connection with every wage payment, itemising any evening work and Sunday work bonuses and other increments paid to you. Compare your record of working hours to the pay slip to verify that you have been correctly paid. In case of a discrepancy, request your employer to correct the wage payment.
If you are unable to work because you are ill, you are entitled to sick leave. Your employer may require you to submit a medical certificate verifying your incapacity due to illness. Your sick leave may be paid leave. If there is no provision for sick leave pay in the applicable collective agreement, such pay is governed by the Employment Contracts Act.
Annual holiday or free time is accrued at work
If you work on at least 14 days or for at least 35 hours in a calendar month, you will accrue annual holiday at either 2 days or 2.5 days per month, depending on the length of your employment relationship to date. Annual holiday is paid leave; its time must be agreed on with the employer.
If you work on fewer than 14 days or for less than 35 hours in a calendar month, you accrue free time.
If you have not taken the holiday or free time due to you during the employment relationship before it ends, you will be paid annual holiday compensation in your final settlement. This must not be included in the basic wage; it must be itemised on the pay slip.
Request a certificate of employment at the end of an employment relationship
A fixed-term employment contract will expire automatically on the end date entered in the contract. The final settlement must be paid on the last day of employment unless otherwise agreed with the employer.
You should always request a certificate of employment at the end of an employment relationship. You will need it as a reference when applying for another job. When seeking training, you may gain additional credit for work experience that you can demonstrate with a certificate of employment.
Possible restrictions on work
Employment legislation protects young workers, i.e. employees under the age of 18. You must not be assigned to perform work that is hazardous to your health, development or education. There are also working hours limitations on the employment of young workers, and certain hazardous job duties may not be assigned to young workers at all.
Remember the basics
Follow your employer’s instructions. Come to work on time and perform your job duties as agreed. Keep the workplace neat and tidy. Use any personal protective equipment issued to you by the employer and be careful and diligent in your work.
Remember that inappropriate behaviour and harassment at work are prohibited.
Do not be afraid to ask for advice if you do not understand the instructions given to you. If you notice any defects or shortcomings, e.g. if one of your tools is broken, notify your supervisor. If necessary, you may also contact the occupational safety and health representative.
If your job duties cause a serious risk to your life or health or to those of other employees, you are entitled to refuse to perform them. You must notify your employer of such a refusal as soon as possible.
Ask for help and advice
If you disagree with your employer about any point relating to your employment relationship or the work to be performed, always first discuss this at the workplace. If there is a shop steward, an occupational safety and health representative or a personnel representative, you may turn to them for help. Also ask your parents for help. If the matter cannot otherwise be resolved, you may turn to the occupational safety and health division helpline at the Regional State Administrative Agency.
Young worker must be given thorough induction training
It must be remembered regarding young workers that their working skills and knowledge are not up to the level of those with a history of employment. Therefore they must be given particularly thorough induction training. Careful induction training improves the quality of work and helps avoid unfortunate accidents.
Young workers must be provided with induction training concerning the performing of the work and the risks involved. It must be ensured that they know how to comply with occupational safety instructions. It is particularly important to instruct them in what to do in cases of disruption or exceptional circumstances.
The work must be proportioned to the young person's physical and mental capacity
The Young Workers’ Act contains provisions restricting the working hours of young workers.
A Decree of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health specifies the conditions under which young workers under 18 years of age may perform those job duties classified as especially harmful or hazardous to young workers.
Work for which the empoyer must submit a prior notification to the OSH Division of the Regional State Administrative Agency and to the guardian is defined in acts and decrees. There are also provisions on dispensation for which the employer may apply under certain circumstances at the OSH Division for Eastern Finland of the Regional State Administrative Agency, when the employer wants the young workers to perform work defined as especially harmful and when he wants to deviate from limited working hours.
Health examinations for young worker
If a young worker’s employment relationship lasts for more than three months, he/she must be referred to a health examination at the occupational health care service at the employer’s expense. This health examination must be performed no later than one month after the start of the employment relationship.
However, the health examination requirement is waived if the work being performed is shop work, office work or other similar light work, or if the young worker has a medical certificate dated less than one year earlier demonstrating his/her fitness for the job duties in question.
Terms and conditions of employment must be issued in writing
It is recommended to execute the employment contract in writing. In any case, the employer is required to issue an explanation of the principal terms and conditions of employment in writing by the end of the first pay period if the employment relationship lasts for more than one month.
This explanation may be provided using this form (pdf, in Finnish): Explanation of the principal terms and conditions of employment.
Record of working hours and pay slip
The provisions concerning the record of working hours and pay slips apply to young workers just as they do to adult workers. It should particularly be noted that the statutory evening work bonuses, Sunday work bonuses and overtime pay must not be included in the basic wages; they must be paid separately and itemised on the pay slip and in the record of working hours.
A certificate of employment must be issued at the end of an employment relationship
Similarly, the end of an employment relationship is governed by the same provisions for young workers as for adult workers. It should particularly be noted that if the young worker has not taken annual holiday or free time during the employment relationship, the employer must pay him/her annual holiday compensation in the final settlement, and this must be itemised on the pay slip.
The employer must issue the employee a certificate of employment if the employee requests one. This may be provided using this form (doc, in Finnish): Certificate of employment.
The employer must keep a list of young workers
The employer must keep a list of young workers whose employment relationship lasts at least two months. This list must include:
- the full name and date of birth of the worker,
- the worker's address,
- the name and address of the worker's guardian,
- the date on which employment started,
- a job description.
A young worker’s employment may be part of learning at work
A young worker’s employment may constitute learning at work, meaning supervised and evaluated practical learning at a workplace towards a vocational qualification. Learning at work is generally not paid employment.
Further information on learning at work (in Finnish): Online information service on learning at work.
- Section 8 Employers’ general duty to exercise care
- Section 10 Analysis and assessment of the risks at work
- Section 14 Instruction and guidance to be provided for employees