Emergency work

Permits and notifications - Emergency work

Emergency work can only be performed in exceptional circumstances as specified in the Finnish Working Hours Act. Employers who need their staff to perform emergency work must immediately 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. Work performed during regular working hours never counts as emergency work even if it satisfies the legal definition. Only work performed after the employees’ regular working hours counts as emergency work.

Emergency work is not included in employees’ overtime hours, and even employees who have already exhausted their overtime quota can be ordered to perform emergency work. However, normal overtime rates must be paid for emergency work, and the regular Sunday increment must be paid for any emergency work performed on Sundays.

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.

Emergency work notices

The Finnish Working Hours Act obligates employers who need their staff to perform emergency work to immediately 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 employer’s Regional State Administrative Agency. 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 therein, 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 Finnish Act on Occupational Safety and Health Enforcement and Cooperation on Occupational Safety and Health at Workplaces.

In ambiguous cases and where there is no legal precedent, the occupational safety and health authority can first request an opinion from the Labour Council.

Permits and notifications - Emergency work - Lainsäädäntö

 

Legislation

Working Hours Act (605/1996)

  • Section 21 – Emergency work

Young Workers’ Act (998/1993)

  • Section 5 – Overtime work and emergency work

Act on Occupational Safety and Health Enforcement and Cooperation on Occupational Safety and Health at Workplaces (44/2006)

  • Section 50 – Notification of a criminal case, and handling of the notification