Permits and notifications - Emergency work
Please note: A new version of the Finnish Working Hours Act entered into force on 1 January 2020. The information on this page is based on the new Act.
Emergency work can only be performed in exceptional circumstances as specified in the Working Hours Act. Employers who need their staff to perform emergency work must promptly notify their local occupational safety and health authority of the reason for the emergency work, its scope and estimated duration in writing.
Circumstances in which emergency work can be performed
Emergency work refers to employees’ regular working hours being extended in order to urgently attend to an unexpected event that interferes or seriously threatens to interfere with normal operations or poses a threat to life, health or property. In order to satisfy the legal definition of emergency work, both criteria, i.e. the materialisation of an unexpected event and its interference with normal operations or posing a threat to life, health or property, must be met simultaneously. If the criteria are satisfied, employees’ regular working hours can be extended by however much is necessary, albeit for no longer than a period of two weeks.
Restrictions and exceptions in the context of emergency work
Employees’ working hours can be extended in order to perform emergency work without their consent. Children under the age of 15 cannot be ordered to perform emergency work, and children aged 15 and over can only be used if no employees aged 18 and over are available.
Employees can never be ordered to work extended hours for longer than is necessary. Only work that is necessary to prevent any adverse consequences of the unexpected event can be performed as emergency work. Any further actions that may be necessary must be carried out during regular working hours. Work performed during regular working hours never counts as emergency work even if it satisfies the legal definition. Only work performed after employees’ regular working hours counts as emergency work.
Normal overtime rates must be paid for emergency work, and the regular Sunday work bonus must be paid for any emergency work performed on a Sunday.
Many of the normal restrictions, such as those relating to night work, shift work, rest periods and Sunday work, do not apply to emergency work. In theory, there is no ceiling for employees’ working hours in the context of emergency work. However, it is never practical or, from the perspective of occupational safety and health, even possible to expect employees to work continuously over a long period of time without breaks, even if they are performing emergency work.
Averaging out working hours following emergency work
After an employee has been made to perform emergency work, their working hours must be averaged out at no more than 48 hours per week over a period of four months. The employee must be given a compensatory rest period in connection with their next daily rest period or, if the nature of their work makes this particularly impractical, as soon as possible and in any case within 14 days. The employee must be able to take the entire compensatory rest period to which they are entitled as one uninterrupted period of time off, and they must not be on call during that time. Any weekly free time lost due to emergency work must be made up for as soon as possible and in any case within three months of when the emergency work was performed by shortening the employee’s regular working hours by however many hours of free time they lost. Subject to the employee’s consent, compensation for emergency work can also be paid in cash by adding an amount based on the basic rate of overtime pay to any overtime and Sunday work bonuses owed to the employee.
Submitting an emergency work notice
The Working Hours Act obligates employers who need their staff to perform emergency work to promptly notify their local occupational safety and health authority of the reason for the emergency work, its scope and estimated duration in writing.
The notice must also include an opinion by the employees’ shop steward or elected representative or, if the workplace has neither, the occupational safety and health representative. The opinion is designed to help occupational safety and health authorities to decide whether the notice requires them to take action.
Form: Emergency work notice (pdf in Finnish)
The form must be submitted to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health of the Regional State Administrative Agency in whose jurisdiction the emergency work will or has been performed. See here for contact information.
Processing of emergency work notices and subsequent actions
If the occupational safety and health authority has no objections to the notice and the information contained in the notice, no further action need be taken.
If the notice relates to work that does not satisfy the legal definition of emergency work, the occupational safety and health authority must take steps to restrict or discontinue the work. If the employer continues to ask their employees to perform emergency work despite the occupational safety and health authority’s objections, the occupational safety and health authority can report the case to the police pursuant to the Act on Occupational Safety and Health Enforcement and Cooperation on Occupational Safety and Health at Workplaces.
In ambiguous cases, the occupational safety and health authority can first request an opinion from the Labour Council.
Permits and notifications - Emergency work - Lainsäädäntö
- Section 19 – Emergency work
- Section 5 – Overtime work and emergency work
- Section 50 – Notification of a criminal case, and handling of the notification