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New working hours regulation enters into force


The new Finnish Working Hours Act (872/2019) will enter into force on 1 January 2020. Under the 23 years of the current regulation, substantial changes have happened in the forms, content and ways of working. The revised Act aims to meet the requirements of modern working life by facilitating more flexibility in working arrangements and by improving employees’ possibilities to a better work-life-balance.

Here are the most significant changes to the legislation.

The scope of application will become slightly broader than under the current Act. Employees with an independent status, such as the management of the company, will be excluded from the scope only where they have full autonomy over their working hours. This means that the employee determines independently his or her working hours without the employer predetermining or supervising them. Replacing the concept ‘workplace’ with a more neutral concept ‘working place’ highlights the purpose behind the new legislation that the employee’s working hours will no longer be tied to a specific place of work. Thus, the employee will fall within the scope of the new Act if the employer is able to control the time spent on working.

The new Act will increase the maximum limit of flexible working hours from three hours to four, and the maximum accumulation of excess hours from 40 hours to 60, within a four-month reference period. In addition, the employee’s working hours may never fall below 20 hours of normal working hours at the end of the period.

A new form of flexible working hours can be adopted if at least 50% of an employee’s working time is such that the employee independently decides, within the agreed limits, the time and place of work. The agreement on flexible working hours can be made between an individual employee and the employer in writing, defining the terms of the arrangement. However, the new Act limits the employee’s average weekly working hours to a maximum of 40 hours over a four-month reference period. The agreement may be terminated at the end of the period following the end of the current reference period. 

Statutory working hours bank may be adopted regardless of whether the employer is a party to a collective agreement with provisions on a working hours bank. Working hours bank enables the employee to save and combine working hours, earned leave and free time obtained from the conversion of monetary benefits within the limits set out in the new Act. 

The maximum number of working hours will be specified in the new Act. Currently, the employer and an individual employee can agree on 80 hours of additional overtime per calendar year in addition to the statutory maximum amount of 250 hours of overtime per calendar year provided that overtime never exceeds 138 hours within a four-month reference period.

The new Act will replace these caps with a limit for overall working hours, including overtime and additional work. Accordingly, the employee's total working hours may not exceed, on average, 48 hours per week in a period of four months. Employers must make the necessary changes to their working hours arrangements within one year from the entry into force of the new Act.

Night work will remain, as a rule, permissible only in certain sectors of the economy or in specific situations. However, these statutory restrictions will no longer apply to temporary night work, i.e. to work where the employer’s business hours usually take place during daytime, but there is an occasional need for work at night.

Employers should assess whether there is a need to make changes to the working hours arrangements or to the supervision of working hours. Our employment team is available to assist you in any questions you may have relating to the topic.

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