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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 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
The reason for emergency work must be an unexpected event. Emergency work refers to employee’s regular working hours being extended in order to urgently attend to an unexpected event that interferes or threatens to interfere with the employer’s normal operations or poses a threat to someone’s life, health or property, or the environment. A further condition is that the work cannot be postponed to be carried out at a later date.
Emergency work does not require that all normal operations are stopped or threaten to be stopped. For example, the interruption or threat of interruption of one machine, appliance, or production line, which accounts for a significant part of a plant’s production capacity, may justify emergency work if the interruption or its threat has been caused by an unexpected event.
When assessing the criteria for emergency work, the following must be taken into account:
- the nature of the operations (for example, energy production and distribution plant, large processing industry plant, wholesale business, agribusiness)
- the scope of operations
- the amount of capital invested in the operations
- the amount of damage or the estimated damage caused by the interruption of the threat of interruption of normal operations.
An employer may have emergency work carried out by another company for a disruption in its own operations if the general criteria for emergency work are met.
Even regular operations involve different malfunctions. Regularly recurring but unpredictable events do not, as a rule, justify emergency work. The employer must prepare for such situations, for example with working time arrangements and technical aids. However, emergency work may be justified if:
- a regularly recurring, unpredictable even is exceptionally difficult in terms of its proportions or other characteristics, or
- regularly recurring events exceptionally occur at almost the same time.
When interpreting the criteria for emergency work, exceptionally extensive sickness or other absences, for example, can be taken into account.
What exceptions can be made and how?
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.
Employees can never be ordered to work extended hours for longer than is necessary. Only essential work duties can be performed as emergency work. Any further actions that may be necessary must be carried out during regular working hours.
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.
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.
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. Where this is not possible due to practical or other valid reasons, compensatory daily rest 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.
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 work done during the weekly rest period 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 employer must promptly and in writing notify their local occupational safety and health authority of the emergency work's
- estimated duration.
It is particularly important to describe the measures which the employer has taken to avoid the need for emergency work. The employer must prepare against regular and irregular incidents by technical means and personnel planning. These precautions should be reported to the authorities already when notifying of the need for emergency work.
The notice must include an opinion by the employees’ shop steward or elected representative or, if the workplace has neither, the occupational safety and health representative. In the absence of any kind of personnel representative, each of the affected employees must be reserved an opportunity to express their view.
Send the emergency work notification to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health of the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southwestern Finland. Contact information.
If you submit the notification via email, it is recommended that you use the secure connection of the regional state administrative agency. Use the secure email connection at least for sending documents with confidential or otherwise sensitive information. Encrypted e-mail.
Processing of emergency work notices and subsequent actions
The occupational safety and health authority examines the notification made and gives a decision on the matter.
If the notification 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.