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Restrictions on the use of zero-hour contracts from the beginning of June


 A legislative package that has come into force on 1 June 2018 improves the conditions of those with varying working hours (for example employees with zero-hour contracts and employees that are called to work if need be). From now on, it is only allowed to agree upon such working conditions on the employer’s initiative if the labour force need actually varies. In such cases, the minimum working time must correlate with the actual need of labour force, and the employer is required to negotiate a review of it, should the completed working hours during the past six months indicate that it is necessary to do so. The new law imposes obligations also on zero-hour contracts concluded before the law came into force.

The employer must provide the employee with a statement describing the situations when and to what extent a need for work force may appear, so that the employee with varying working hours can estimate his or her use of time as well as level of income. If the employer wants to give the employee working hours exceeding the agreed minimum working hours, the employer must prior to drafting the duty rota inquire how much work the employee can accept and under what circumstances. The employee’s consent is necessary for any work exceeding the work included in the duty rota.

Employees’ employment security has in turn been improved by preventing the employer to influence the salary paid during sick leave and notice periods through unilateral arrangements. From now on, employees are entitled to sick leave pay both when working hours have been marked in the duty rota and when working hours have been agreed upon under other conditions or are otherwise evident. During the notice period, employees will in turn have the right to get compensation from the employer for loss of profit, if the working hours offered by the employer are less than what the average amount of work has been during the 12 weeks preceding the last shift. Similar norms apply when the employer and the employee have agreed upon a fixed number of working hours, but a notable part of the actual work is performed as additional work.

Once these changes become applicable (partly after a period of transition), they will increase employers’ costs and administrative work to some extent and will require extra attention when employment agreements are drafted. As a practical impact, some employees may transfer to fixed working hours, and other flexible working arrangements, such as subcontracting and temporary agency work, may become an option along with varying working hours.

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