Working hours

Working hours

The Working Hours Act specifies the maximum working hours per day and per week, and also overtime, rest periods between shifts and the requirement for keeping a record of working hours. Flexible working hours or an adjustment system over a longer period of time may be agreed upon, as long as the arrangements agreed upon comply with the Working Hours Act and the applicable collective agreement.

It is important to agree about the working hours on signing the employment contract.

Regular working hours

‘Regular working hours’ as defined in the Working Hours Act refer to the daily and weekly hours worked by the employee. Under the general provision in the Working Hours Act, regular working hours shall not exceed eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. The ‘day’ and ‘week’ are defined as the calendar day and calendar week, respectively, unless otherwise agreed.

The general provision does not prohibit working hours arrangements where the working hours are shorter than the above. The general provision also allows for averaging working hours over a longer period of time, allowing for a six-day working week.

Average working hours

When using average working hours, the use of working time must be planned in advance and the adjustment system must be drawn up in advance.

Working hours may be arranged on the basis of an average over a longer period of time. In this arrangement, weekly working hours may be arranged so that they work out to no more than 40 hours per week on average over an adjustment period of 52 weeks. The adjustment period may also be shorter.

When average working hours are applied, the daily and the weekly working hours may be longer than what is stated in the Working Hours Act as a rule, if this has been agreed in the collective agreement generally binding for the branch.

An employer applying the average working hours provision or period-based work provisions of the Working Hours Act must have a working hours adjustment system in place. The system must show the regular working hours for at least every week in the adjustment period.

The adjustment system must be prepared in advance at least for the period within which the regular working hours must average out to the statutory or agreed average number. Employees must be notified of any changes to the adjustment system well ahead of time.

Examples of the provisions in collective agreements on the average working hours:

 

Sector Maximum regular working hours Duration of
Adjustment period
Daily working hours Weekly working hours
Food industry clerical workers

10 hours

50 hours

12 months

Energy sector workers

10 hours

50 hours

12 months

ICT-sector clerical workers

12 hours

Not regulated

12 months

Trade sector workers

10 hours (or more)

48 hours

26 weeks

Real estate services workers

10 hours

Not regulated

26 weeks

Hotel and restaurant industry workers

10 hours

Not regulated 6 months
Construction workers

10 hours

50 hours

6 months

Electrical installation workers

10 hours

50 hours

26 weeks

Technology industry workers Not regulated Not regulated

12 months

Technology industry clerical workers

12 hours

Not regulated

12 months

Additional work

Additional work is work done in addition to the employee’s agreed regular working hours that does not exceed the maximum regular working hours specified in the Working Hours Act. Additional work is work done at the employer’s initiative and with the employee’s consent.

Työaika-kuvituskuvaExample:

  • The agreed regular daily working hours of an employee are six hours.
  • The employee works an eight-hour day.
  • The difference between the agreed working hours and the actual working hours, two hours, counts as additional work.

Over time work

Overtime is defined as working hours exceeding the regular weekly working hours specified in the Working Hours Act. However, work done beyond regular working hours is only considered overtime if it is done at the employer’s initiative and with the employer’s approval.

Overtime also always requires the employee’s consent, and this consent must be specifically and separately obtained for each occasion. Therefore an employee cannot be ordered to work overtime and may not commit in the employment contract to working overtime whenever required.

Daily overtime is work that exceeds the maximum daily regular working hours specified in the Act. Weekly overtime is work that exceeds the maximum weekly regular working hours specified in the Act but not the maximum daily regular working hours.

Working hours monitoring systems

It is important to keep in mind the definition of working hours and only record the actual hours worked in an unambiguous manner. Records of working hours and payroll records must be kept separate.

The beginning of 2020 brought a shift from overtime monitoring to total hours monitoring at workplaces. The statutory ceiling for working hours was previously based on a ceiling set for overtime while, under the new system, the ceiling is based on total working hours.

The ceiling for total working hours applies to all work regardless of how working hours are organised, including, for example, flexible working hours schemes and flexible working time arrangements. The ceiling is calculated on the basis of all hours worked, regardless of whether they are regular working hours, additional work, overtime, emergency work or handovers.

Maximum number of working hours during each adjustment period and per year

The provision concerning the absolute ceiling for the total number of working hours constitutes mandatory law. Working hours are calculated per employee and across adjustment periods the length of which must be determined in advance. 

Each adjustment period is treated as a separate entity. The Working Hours Act does not specify a time as of which adjustment periods must be observed or the way in which the start dates and lengths of adjustment periods should be regulated by national collective agreements.

Pursuant to section 18 of the Working Hours Act, the rule of thumb is that employees’ total working hours, including any overtime, must not exceed an average of 48 hours per week over a four-month period.

However, national collective agreements can be used to agree on extending the adjustment period to six months or, for technical or practical reasons, up to a maximum of 12 months. Correspondingly, the maximum number of hours that employees can work depends on the length of the adjustment period, which can thus vary from 4 to 12 months.

The starting point of the adjustment periods can be agreed in whichever manner is the most practical in the sector in which the employer operates.

From the perspective of compliance with the Working Hours Act and keeping track of employees’ working hours, the starting point should be that the ceiling for total working hours is monitored over regular four-month periods. The hours of any temporary workers must be monitored from the beginning of their contract.

Considering the provisions of the Annual Holidays Act on the granting of annual holiday, the maximum number of hours that employees can work each year on the basis of the Working Hours Act is approximately 2,300 hours (48 hours x the number of working weeks).

Transitional provisions

Employers have until 1 January 2021 to introduce a monitoring system based on the monitoring of maximum working hours. This leaves a transitional period of just over one year during which employers can use either an overtime monitoring system based on the old provisions or a system based on monitoring employees’ total hours under the new provisions.

Transitioning from a monitoring system based on maximum overtime hours to a system based on total working hours could complicate matters for employers if the switch took place in the middle of an adjustment period or another reference period, which is why the transitional provisions are designed to give employers flexibility to bring their working hours monitoring systems into line with the new provisions of the Working Hours Act at the most opportune time.

Overtime monitoring in accordance with the former Act

The maximum amount of overtime during a four-month period is 138 hours. Collective agreements may contain provisions on the length of this accrual period that differ from the Act. Also, the maximum amount of overtime in a calendar year is 250 hours.

If the 250-hour maximum looks likely to be reached and the employer still has a need for more overtime, additional overtime may be agreed on locally. The maximum amount of such additional overtime in a calendar year is 80 hours. In other words, the maximum amount of overtime in a year is 330 hours.

Overtime under the Working Hours Act:

Overtime
Work exceeding the maximum regular working hours (8 h/days and 40 h/week) under the Working Hours Act

Daily overtime
Work exceeding the maximum regular daily working hours.

Weekly overtime
Not exceeding the maximum regular daily working hours, but exceeding the maximum regular weekly working hours.

Maximum overtime
138 h/4 months or 250 h/calendar year

Additional work
Work exceeding the maximum overtime  (250 h/calendar year).
Maximum 80 h/calendar year. Local agreements on the work place.

Maximum overtime based on agreement on additional overtime work 
330 h/calendar year


Further information:
Tyosuojelu.fi: Working hours