Lapsi ja aikuinen katsovat kännykkää.

Legislative reforms this autumn – variable working hours and family leaves

News article

The provisions concerning variable workings hours in the Employment Contracts Acts were amended, and the family leave reform entered into force on 1 August 2022.

As a result of the family leave reform, the number of parental leave days increased and there is now more flexibility for parents to take leave. Both parents are given an equal quota of parental leave, and this leave may be taken over several periods until the child reaches the age of two. Each parent may also transfer part of their quota to the other parent, other custodian or their spouse or the spouse of the other parent.

The new provisions apply mainly to children with an estimated date of birth of 4 September 2022 or later.

Parental allowance days may be used until the child reaches the age of two.

As a result of the reform, a quota of 160 parental allowance days (six allowance days per week) is allocated to each parent. Parents are allowed to transfer up to 63 parental allowance days of their quota to the other parent, other custodian, their spouse or the spouse of the other parent.

Single parents receive both parental allowance quotas. However, the pregnancy allowance period may not be transferred or split into several parts by the pregnant parent. The pregnancy allowance period consists of 40 allowance days and starts 14–30 days before the estimated date of birth.

Parental allowance days may be used until the child reaches the age of two. Daily allowance days can be used over up to four periods, and parents may also take part-time parental leave.

All parents who have custody of the child have an equal right to daily allowance regardless of the gender of the parent or whether they are biological or adoptive parents or resident or non-resident parents.

Legal amendments concerning variable hours contracts

Variable working hours refer to arrangements in which the employee’s working hours vary between an agreed minimum and a maximum amount, for example so that their working hours are 0–25 hours per week. Agreement on variable working hours may be made at the employer’s initiative only if the actual need for labour varies, and the agreed minimum working hours may not be fewer than the employer’s actual need for labour.

Amendments have been made to the provisions concerning variable workings hours in the Employment Contracts Acts, and they entered into force on 1 August 2022. Below is a brief summary of the amendments.

  • Every 12 months, employers must review how well the agreed variable working hours clause is fulfilled in practice. If the number of working hours and the employer's need for labour indicate that there is more work than what was agreed as the minimum working hours, the employer must, within one month, offer the employee an opportunity to agree to amend the minimum working hours.
  • If the employer stops offering work altogether based on a zero-hour contract, the employer must, at the employee's request, explain in writing the reasons for the reduction in the work offered. These reasons may not be irrelevant.
  • At the request of a part-time employee, the employer is also obligated to provide a reasoned reply concerning the possibility of extending the agreed regular working hours.
  • If there is no written employment contract for the employment relationship, the employer must provide an account of the key conditions of employment to the employee. However, under the legal amendment, this account is not required if the employee's average working hours are no more than three hours per week over a period of four consecutive weeks. Previously, this account had to be provided only if the employment lasted at least one month. When calculating the working hours, the employee's work in another member company of the same group is also taken into account.
  • In terms of variable working hours, the written account / employment contract must state the days of the week and the times of day when there is typically a need for labour. The employee can be assigned work within these days of the week and times of day without their specific consent.
    The employer may therefore assign shifts to an employee in the shift schedule without their specific, case-by-case consent only within the agreed minimum working hours and only within the given times of day and days of the week.
    Example: The agreed working hours are 10–20 hours per week. The employee has been informed in writing in the employment contract that work is typically available from Monday to Friday between 8.00 and 19.00. The employee’s consent is required for hours in excess of the ten hours a week and for work outside the 8.00 – 19.00 period or on the weekend. In practice, this means that the employer and the employee agree on such work.
  • If the employer cancels a work shift that has been marked in the shift schedule or has been otherwise agreed less than 48 hours before the start of the shift, the employee must be paid reasonable compensation for the inconvenience caused by the cancellation.
    However, this compensation does not have to be paid if the employee is entitled to other compensation on the basis of their contract, the section concerning the impediment to work in the Employment Contracts Act or the binding nature of the agreed shift.

Some of the new provisions can be provided for otherwise in the national collective labour agreement. You should therefore always check the provisions of the applicable collective agreement.

Act on Early Childhood Education and Care also amended

The Act on Early Childhood Education and Care was also amended along with the family leave reform. The right to early childhood education and care starts in the month when the child turns nine months. A child’s right to the same early childhood education and care place will be maintained during their absence of up to 13 weeks due to parental leave. No client fees for early childhood education and care are charged for this period.

In addition, the reform introduced unpaid carers’ leave for up to five days per year, based on the Work-life Balance Directive.

The author is a legal counsel at TEK.

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