Rest periods and breaks

Rest periods and breaks -alasivu - UUSI laki

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. You can find the content according to the old Act here.

Daily breaks

The Finnish Working Hours Act and collective agreements give employees the right to regular breaks and rest periods. Collective agreements may contain provisions on breaks and rest periods in different sectors that deviate from those of the Working Hours Act.

According to the Working Hours Act, employees who work more than six hours a day in a job where their physical presence at the workplace is not a requisite for the uninterrupted flow of work must, as a rule, be given a daily break of at least one hour. The employer can also agree on a shorter break with their employees, albeit no shorter than half an hour. Employees must be free to leave the workplace during their break. 

Employees who work shifts or have a period-based work schedule must be given a break of at least half an hour or an opportunity to eat at work during each shift of more than six hours.

Daily rest period

Statutory standard: 11 hours

As a rule, employees are entitled to an uninterrupted period of at least 11 hours off during the 24 hours following the beginning of each shift. A shorter daily rest period of nine hours can be applied to employees who have a period-based work schedule, if this is necessary to ensure the flow of work. Employees who have flexible working hours or who are subject to flexible working time arrangements can ask to have their daily rest period shortened to seven hours.

Temporary arrangements: 7 hours

An employee’s daily rest period can be temporarily shortened to seven hours for practical reasons with their consent. Employers can agree on the temporary shortening of their employees’ daily rest periods with the employees’ shop steward or, in the absence of a shop steward, the occupational safety and health representative, elected representative or other personnel representative.

Temporary arrangements: 5 hours

An employee’s daily rest period can be temporarily shortened to five hours for up to three consecutive daily rest periods for practical reasons or for reasons deriving from the nature of the work in the following circumstances:

  1. If the employee works shifts within the meaning of section 6 of the Working Hours Act and they are changing shifts
  2. If several shifts are worked in a 24-hour period
  3. If the employee works far away from their home or other place of work
  4. If the employee is a seasonal worker and the volume of work peaks suddenly and unexpectedly
  5. If there is a risk of injury
  6. If the employee works as a security guard and round-the-clock security is needed to protect property of people
  7. If the employee works in a role that is crucial for ensuring the continuity of the employer’s business

Compensatory rest periods

An employee whose daily rest period has been temporarily shortened must be given compensatory time off in connection with their subsequent daily rest period. Where this is not possible due to practical or other valid reasons, compensatory time off must nevertheless be provided as soon as possible and in any case within 14 days. The employee must be able to take off the entire compensatory rest period to which they are entitled in a single block, and they must not be on call during that time.

No compensatory time off need be given for employees who have flexible working hours or who are subject to flexible working time arrangements.

Weekly free time

Statutory standard: 35 hours

As a rule, employees must be given at least 35 hours of uninterrupted free time during each period of seven days, preferably around a Sunday.

35 hours on average

The 35-hour weekly free time entitlement can also be averaged out over a period of 14 days. However, employees must always have at least 24 hours off during each seven-day period.

Special weekly free time arrangements

If employees’ shifts run 24/7, the 35-hour weekly free time entitlement can be averaged out over a period of up to 12 weeks. However, employees must always have at least one continuous block of 24 hours off during each seven-day period. The aforementioned kinds of weekly free time arrangements always require a valid reason and the employees’ consent.

Employees who work no more than three hours in any 24-hour period can, instead of the 35-hour weekly free time entitlement, be given at least one continuous block of 24 hours off during each seven-day period.

Compensatory rest periods

Any employees who have to be called in to work during their weekly time off must be compensated for the loss of their free time. This can be done either by shortening an employee’s regular working hours to make up for the free time lost or by remunerating them in cash according to their regular hourly rate.

Deviations from the weekly free time rules – work during weekly free time

Employers who need their employees to come into work during their weekly free time in order to ensure the continuity of their business or who must keep some employees on call for practical reasons or due to the technical nature of the work can deviate from the weekly free time rules on a temporary basis.

Any weekly free time lost by an employee due to being called into work in such circumstances must be made up for as soon as possible and in any case within three months of when the 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 this kind of work can also be paid in cash by adding an amount based on the employee’s normal hourly rate to any overtime and Sunday work bonuses owed to the employee.