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Questions and answers about the coronavirus

The coronavirus has raised concerns among workplace employees, experts and supervisors. We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions. However, follow your employer’s instructions and recommendations. 

If you work in state or municipal administration, follow your employer’s instructions and orders. Read the coronavirus instructions for the administrative sectorstate supplementary instructions  and emergency powers legislation.

The Finnish government has declared a state of emergency in Finland due to the coronavirus situation 

On 16 March 2020, the government announced new measures to deal with the coronavirus situation in Finland. The measures are intended to protect the population and safeguard the functioning of Finnish society and the economy. In cooperation with the President of Finland, the government has ruled that a state of emergency is in force throughout the country due to the coronavirus situation.

Decisions and recommendations are implemented by the government and the competent authorities in accordance with the act on emergency powers (29.12.2011/1552), the Communicable Diseases Act and other legislation. The competent authorities will provide more detailed guidance in accordance with their areas of responsibility.

Temporary legal amendments are in force until 31 December 2020

The amendments concerning employer-employee negotiations and layoffs were originally made for the period from 1 April until 30 June 2020. However, due to continuation of the crisis, they will remain in force until the end of 2020.
Do you have questions about lay-offs? Pro’s employee counseling is available by telephone at 09 1727 3442 on weekdays at 8.30–16.00. Please also check our other service numbers

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How can I prevent infection with the coronavirus, how can I protect myself, and what should I do if I suspect I have become infected?

Finnish government will soon issue a recommendation on wearing face masks. We recommend our members to follow the government’s instructions carefully and to wear face masks whenever necessary.

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health instructs people to use a handkerchief or sleeve when they cough. Used handkerchiefs should be disposed of in mixed waste. Also respirator masks can be used if available.

Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, a cough and shortness of breath. Swift identification of cases of infection is important to prevent the virus spreading.

If you suspect that you have been in close contact with a person who may have been infected with the coronavirus, and you experience a fever and respiratory symptoms within 14 days, please contact your healthcare centre or outpatient clinic if your condition worsens. You will be advised on the treatment measures to be taken. Read more.

Where can I find the latest information on the coronavirus situation?

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the National Institute of Health and Welfare and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health act as the leading authorities during the crisis. Follow the latest developments on their websites.

The national telephone helpline provides general information on the coronavirus. The number is +358 (0)295 535 535. The telephone helpline is open on weekdays from 8 am to 9 pm, and on Saturdays from 9 am to 3 pm. The helpline cannot provide health advice or advice in the event of acute symptoms that require emergency treatment. 

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Employer-employee negotiations and layoffs 

The temporary amendments to co-operation act and to contracts of employment act, based on the proposal issued by the central labour market organizations, remain in force until 31 December 2020. Many of Trade Union Pro’s collective agreements have already been implemented as fixed-term contractual changes to the duration of employer-employee negotiations and the notification period for layoffs. Check the situation in your own sector from your shop steward, the person in charge of the sector, or call the employment relationship hotline. Information on the changes has been sent by email for each sector’s shop stewards.

The instructions below explain how negotiations and layoffs will be carried out in the absence of any changes to the collective agreement. Check your own collective agreement, as some of Pro’s contracts already include the option to agree otherwise on the length of negotiations and the layoff notification period.

My employer is planning layoffs. How long will the negotiations last?

When negotiating layoffs, the employer must provide notice of layoffs to the employees at least five days before the layoffs are intended to begin. The minimum duration of employer-employee negotiations for layoffs is five days. The amendment is in force until 31 December 2020.

I have a fixed-term employment contract. Can I be laid off?

The employer can lay off employees working under a fixed-term contract provided that the same conditions are fulfilled as with employees working under a continuous employment contract. The amendment is in force until 31 December 2020.

My terms of employment follow the national collective agreement, where the provisions concerning lay off period differs from what is stated in the law. Which one is applicable to me?

In this case you follow the negotiation and layoff notice periods stated in your collective agreement. Please note that temporary amendments have been made to many collective agreements and in the future the notice time for layoffs can be shorter than normally.

My employment was terminated due to financial and production related grounds during 1 April – 31 December 2020. Does this affect the employer’s obligation to re-employ?

Along with the temporary legal amendments also the obligation to re-employ is extended. for the period of nine of months the employer is obliged to re-employ former employees, whose employment was terminated due to production related or financial grounds between 1 April and 31 December. The extended re-employment obligation period concerns all employees discharged due to financial or production related grounds while the law is in force irrespective of the duration of the employees’ employment relation. Re-employment obligation period refers to the period of nine months starting from the end of the period of notice. During this period, the employer is obliged to offer employment to the unemployed employee.

The amendment is not applied to the public sector, where the re-employment obligation period lasts also between 1 April and 31 December 2020 either four or six months, depending on the duration of the employment relation in question.

Please remember to follow your collective agreement if its provisions concerning the obligation to re-employ differ from what is stated in the law. For more information, please contact the collective bargaining officer of your industry or the employee counselling service.

Can my employment contract be annulled during trial period?

While the emergency laws are in force, the employer can exceptionally annul your employment contract during the trial period if there are financial or production related grounds for the annulment. The amendment is not applicable to the public sector, though the employment contract can still be annulled during the trial period due to financial or production related grounds, adhering to the notice period. The amendment is in force until 31 December 2020. 

I was laid off. Can I study while receiving unemployment benefit?

Laid off employees registering as unemployed jobseekers are from 1 April 2020 may, amongst other things, study or conduct entrepreneurial activities while receiving unemployment benefit. The legal amendment is applied to those whose layoff period has started from 16 March 2020 or afterwards. The amendment is in force until 31 December 2020. 

Please check also Trade Union Pro's training and webinars. Webinars support well-being during exceptional circumstances and are free for all Pro members.

Can employee whose employment has already been terminated be laid off?

No. Employee whose employment has been terminated has a right to a wage, as defined by collective agreement or law. Payment of wages cannot be interrupted or postponed in a valid manner by laying off a person whose employment has been terminated.

I am being laid off, what should I do?

It is most important to register at the unemployment office, i.e. TE office, your temporary lay-off or unemployment at the latest on the first day of lay-off. That can be most easily done through their electric services. http://www.te-palvelut.fi/te/en/information/use_te_services/index.html. For full information on the process for earnings-related unemployment allowance, see: www.tyj.fi/en/

My company has fewer than 20 employees. Should employer-employee negotiations be conducted?

Employer-employee negotiations should not be conducted before layoffs in this case. In this case, the employer must provide employees with a preliminary explanation of the reasons for the layoffs and their estimated duration. In other words, the employer must explain why layoffs are necessary, what the company’s situation is, and why layoffs are the only option at this stage. After this preliminary notification, the employer may provide notification of layoffs to employees directly.

A company employs more than 20 people. Should employer-employee negotiations be conducted?

The recommendation below is based on the temporary legal amendments. Many collective agreements include temporary amendments and in the future the lay off notice period may be shorter than normally. Please check your own collective agreement by contacting your Collective Bargaining Officer or Employee Counselling Service

The employer must initiate employer-employee negotiations before layoffs, and provide notice of commencement of the negotiations at least five days in advance. The notification must state the reasons for the layoffs and include an initial assessment of their duration, an explanation of the grounds for the layoffs and an estimate of the schedule for implementation of the layoffs after the negotiations.

How long do negotiations last?

During the period of 1 April –31 December 2020 when the emergency laws are in force, the employment-employer negotiations must be conducted for at least five days. At the beginning of the negotiations, it is also possible to agree on a longer period 

Please check the provisions of your own industry! It is possible that your own industry has agreed upon a shorter or longer negotiation period, in which case the period defined in the collective agreement must be followed instead of the five day period defined by the law. If you work in an industry which doesn't have a collective agreement or whose collective agreement does not mention the length of the negotiation period, the minimun period between 1 April and 31 December 2020 is five days.

The negotiation periods stated by the old legislation not currently in force were the following:

If layoffs affect fewer than 10 employees, the negotiating period is 14 calendar days.

If the employer-employee negotiations concern only layoffs, and if their estimated duration is no more than 90 days, the negotiating period is 14 calendar days (even if the layoffs affect more than 10 employees).

If the layoffs are estimated to last more than 90 days, the negotiating period is six weeks.

The shop steward can also agree otherwise on the negotiating period–that is, the negotiations may also last for less than 14 days. 

How long is the notification period for layoffs?

While the emergency legislation is in force between 1 April and 31 December 2020, the notice period for layoffs is only five days. Layoff notice period refers to the time period after which the layoff commences. Notification of layoff can be given immediately after the employer-employee negotiations have ended or, in companies having less than 20 employyes, immediately after the employer's assessment. 

Collective agreements provide for layoff periods and agreement concerning them. The layoff notification period refers to the time after which the layoffs come into effect. The layoff notification period is normally 14 days, and if the employment relationship has lasted for more than one year, the layoff notification period is one month. Check the duration in your collective agreement, as some Pro agreements provide the possibility to agree locally on a shorter layoff period.

Please – check your own sector’s terms. Perhaps a shorter negotiation period is agreed in your sector. If you work in a sector without a Collective Agreement, or if the Collective Agreement doesn’t specify the length of the negotiation period, the minimum negotiation period is five days during 1 April – 30 December 2020.

When an employer lays off an employee, the employer must provide a separate layoff declaration to the employee indicating the date of commencement of the layoff, the reason for the layoff, and whether it is temporary or for an indefinite period. Simultaneously the employer must also provide a notification, which includes an estimate of the end date of the layoff.

When will the layoff end?

Temporary layoffs normally end on the agreed date. In this case, the employee must return to work even if the employer does not provide separate notification of the end of the layoff period. If there is work available during the layoff period, the employer is obliged to offer it to the laid off employees. In such a case, the termination of layoff must be agreed mutually. The employee has a right to remain laid off until the end of the layoff period, should they so decide. 

Layoffs for an indefinite period continue until the employer offers work to the employee. In this case, the employer must inform the employee of the end of the layoff period no later than seven days before the start of the work. However, the employer and the employee may also agree to end the layoff period at shorter notice.

Can I work elsewhere while laid off?

Yes, you can. During layoff, you can work for another company and get paid. An employment contract made during a layoff period can be terminated with five days notice period. For this reason, it is appropriate to let the new employer know about the layoff.

Can I resign/terminate my employment during the layoff period?

During the layoff period, the employee has the right to terminate their employment contract immediately and without a period of notice. If the layoff period has continued for more than 200 days without interruption, and the employee terminates their employment contract, the employer must pay the employee their salary for the period of notice in the same manner as if the employer had dismissed the employee.

How does sick leave affect layoffs?

If an employee has begun a period of sick leave before the layoff notification period, the sick leave will continue normally once the layoff period has begun. In this case, the layoff period begins at the end of the period of sick leave.

If a period of sick leave begins after the layoff notification period, the employer will pay the salary for the period of sick leave up until the beginning of the layoff period and the employee is laid off.

If an employee is scheduled to undergo an operation after the lay-off begins, and the employer has been informed of this, it will not affect the matter. If the layoff period starts before a period of sick leave begins, the layoff comes into effect.

How do layoffs affect annual leave?

Annual leave starting before the layoff comes into force continues normally, and the layoff period begins when the annual leave ends. If annual leave has been agreed but will now not be taken due to layoffs, in accordance with the general rule, the annual leave will not take place. However, it is possible to agree with the employer that you will take annual leave during the layoff period, in which case you will be paid normal annual leave pay during the annual leave period. Remember to report your annual leave and paid wages to the unemployment fund.

During the layoff period, annual leave accrues after the layoff period starts for 30 working days, i.e. six weeks. If the layoff period lasts longer than this, annual leave will no longer accrue for that time. If the layoffs are only partial – for example, if the employee is laid off for only three days a week, or for 50% of their working time – annual leave accrues for a total of six months during partial layoffs.

I have been laid off. What should I do?

Read Pro unemployment fund’s instructions (in Finnish) on what to do if laid off. Read more about The Unemployment Fund Pro in English. If you need more information about temporary lay-offs and unemployment benefits, see TYJ’s website.  

Temporary layoff – and how does corona change it?

Visit The Finnish Confederation of Professionals STTK´s website (in English) and the Federation of Unemployment Funds in Finland website.

Can an employer lay off permanent and temporary employees if units are closed?

Yes, if the conditions of the Employment Contracts Act are met. Based on the amendment measures agreed by the central organisations and the acts adopted under the emergency powers act, all employees, including employees on fixed-term contracts, can be laid off after five days of employer-employee negotiations.

Can an employer terminate an employment relationship if the employee is unable to work due to quarantine?

Employers do not have the right to terminate an employee’s employment contract because the employee is unable to work due to quarantine imposed by the authorities.

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How can I safeguard my livelihood?

Schools and educational institutions are possibly opened in August. Does the employer pay my salary if my child falls ill with covid-19?

Employer’s obligation to pay wages depends on the provisions of the collective agreement, which means that matter should be checked by referring to the collective agreement. Usually, collective agreements contain provision on obligation to pay wages in cases where employee has to stay at home and take care of their under 10 years old child. Typically, the obligation to pay wages in such situations lasts for a period of maximum 3 to 4 days. If there is no collective agreement or the applicable collective agreement does not contain any provisions related to the matter, one adheres to the law. According to the law the employee has a right to unpaid absence for the maximum period of four days if their under 10 year old child falls ill.

If an employee’s 10-year-old or older child falls ill, the employee has right to absence due to a compelling family reason provided the conditions set by the law or by collective agreement are fulfilled. Absence is unpaid unless the collective agreement states otherwise. KELA will pay sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease for parents of under 16-year-old children provided that the child is nursed at home preventing the parent of going to work and thereby causing loss of income.

You can try to agree with your employer for instance on telecommuting for the period when your child is ill. Employer has an obligation to pay your wages when you are telecommuting.

Unemployment security has been temporarily amended from 15 April onwards. How has it changed?

Thanks to temporary amendments, unemployment benefits are paid from the beginning of layoff period or unemployment without waiting period. Earnings-related unemployment benefit can also be received based on a reduced period of work, provided that certain conditions are met. In addition, layoff won’t affect the maximum duration of the benefits.
More information in Finnish can be found on Unemployment Fund Pro website.

What does the employee’s change security mean and how is it applied in Covid-19 pandemic?

Change security aims to facilitate the re-employment of an employee who has been dismissed due to financial and productive grounds and to provide support already during the period of notice. If a temporary layoff has lasted at least 180 days, also the laid off employee is covered by change security, provided that other requirements are met.

Employee who is covered by change protection is entitled to paid leave during the period of notice when looking for a job or taking part in drawing up an employment plan or one of the measures included in the plan.  The duration of the paid leave is determined by the length of the period of notice (5 to 20 days). The leave cannot cause significant harm to the company and the employer must be notified about it in due time. Change security also includes right to supplementary unemployment allowance for the time you participate in services facilitating your placement in a job. Supplementary unemployment allowance can be received for the maximum period of 200 days.

If the employer employs regularly more than 30 persons, the employees who have been employed continuously for at least five years must be offered an opportunity to take part in training or coaching that promotes employment, paid by the employer. The employer and employee can agree that the employer fulfills this obligation by paying, either partially or in full, the training or coaching the employee has found.

Change security also encompasses the employer’s obligation to arrange occupational healthcare for employees dismissed due to financial or production-related grounds for six months after the employee's work duties have ended. This pertains to employees who, before their employment relation was terminated, had been employed by the given employer for at least five years. In addition, the employer must have regularly employed more than 30 employees.

Can employer delay paying wages?

According to Employment Contracts Act salary has to be paid on the last day of the pay period, unless agreed otherwise. Employment contract may determine the pay period and many industries have collective agreements that contain provisions regarding the pay period. These provisions may be binding.

The employer cannot unilaterally ignore the binding provision stated either in the employment contract or in collective agreement. If salary payment is delayed, the employer has a right to an interest on delayed payments. If payment of salaries is delayed when the employment relation terminates, the employer has a right to receive salary from the waiting period for a maximum of 6 days.

Can I refrain from work to prevent either myself or my family members getting infected? What does work obligation mean and is it affected by the exceptional circumstances caused by the coronavirus?

You cannot refrain from your work by your own decision, since the obligation to work, based on the employment contract, is in force also during a pandemic. However, many workplaces have agreed on remote work or telecommuting practices should the nature of the work allow for it.

Employee have a right to absence from work if their immediate presence is necessary, for instance if the kindergarten or school their child is attending to is closed. According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, law does not allow for getting paid during the absentee period but collective agreements may have other provisions related to the matter, which should be checked.

External borders of Finland might become closed – who pays salary if I cannot get to work?

The external borders of Finland might become closed as corona crisis continues. In such cases the state and the border guard will issue a separate decision on whether those commuting to work are still allowed to cross the border. If it is possible to continue crossing the border to work, the matter is resolved for you. You will need a written permission from your employer, which you show at the border.  

If the border is closed completely, or if only health care workers are permitted to cross the border, what happens to your salary? Such a situation would mean that work would be available but not accessible due to the closed border.

Should such an event happen, here's what you should do:

  • Negotiate with your employer about the possibility of working remotely and ensure that your own enables you to work from home.
  • If remote work is not possible and border remains closed, the employer is not obliged to pay your salary.
  • Border closure is not comparable to a quarantine mandated by the authorities. In the latter case, you would be eligible for sickness allowance on account of infectious disease. In addition, the state is not obliged to compensate for loss of income incurred by the closure of its borders.
  • Trade Union Pro members, who have been temporarily laid off, are eligible for earnings-related allowance from Unemployment Fund Pro

I was quarantined by a doctor responsible for infectious diseases in my municipality or hospital district. How can I safeguard my livelihood?

If you become ill or are taking care of a sick child, the usual statutory and collective agreement-based salary and sickness benefits are available. During quarantine and isolation, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland’s (Kela) allowance for infectious diseases will compensate for the loss of earnings in full. A guardian of a child under the age of 16 is also entitled to infectious disease allowance if the child has been quarantined.  Read more on Sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease and what are the requirements that must be met to qualify for the infectious disease allowance in Kela´s website.

What if my spouse, child or elderly parent gets sick and the situation requires me to take time off work? What can I do to secure my livelihood?

The right to absence from work applies to unavoidable family reasons. If you need to care for a young child who is sick at home, you can take temporary care leave on a paid basis for a few days in accordance with your collective agreement.

It is important to negotiate with your employer concerning the possibilities of working remotely, or of using flexitime balances or annual holiday leave.

If you or your child are quarantined by a municipal or hospital district doctor on the basis of close contact, you are entitled to compensation for full loss of earnings in the form of the infectious disease allowance.  

Who pays my salary during sickness or quarantine period? Can my company be compensated for them?

If an employee is unable to work due to an illness, their right to sick pay is determined according to Employment Contracts Act and collective agreements. In practice sick pays have been agreed upon by industry-specific collective agreements, which prolong employers’ obligation to sick pay compared to what is dictated by the law.

KELA pays sickness allowance for the period the recipient is incapable for work. The allowance is available after completing a specific waiting period. The waiting period usually consists of the first day of illness and the following nine working days. Typically the employer applies for sickness allowance, if it provides pay during the period of absence. In such cases KELA pays the allowance to the employer.

If the employee is ordered to be quarantined in accordance with the Communicable Diseases Decree, they have a right to 100 percent sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease for the duration of the quarantine. If the employer is paying them salary for this time, the employer has a right to receive the allowance in question.

Communicable Diseases Decree includes provisions also for cases where employee’s child is placed in quarantine. Sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease may be paid also in such cases.

If you are quarantined after work-related travel, your absence from work could be considered to have been caused by reasons related to the employer, in which case you have a right to  salary.. You also have a right to salary in case you are placed under quarantine during your work-related travel abroad. Quarantine caused by a leisure travel might be considered differently, although so far there is no case law or general guidelines concerning such a situation. However, travelling against the official instructions issued by the authorities could be one of potential factors in such cases.

Who pays my salary during sickness or quarantine period? Can company be compensated for them?

If an employee is unable to work due to an illness, their right to sick pay is determined according to the Employment Contracts Act and collective agreements. In practice, sick pays are determined by industry-specific collective agreements, which prolong employers’ obligation to provide sick pay from what is dictated by the law.

KELA pays sickness allowance for the period the recipient is incapable for work. The allowance is available after completing a specific waiting period. The waiting period usually consists of the first day of illness and the following nine working days. Typically, the employer applies for sickness allowance if it pays salary to the employee during their period of absence. In such cases KELA pays the allowance to the employer.

If the employee is ordered to be quarantined in accordance with the Communicable Diseases Decree, they have a right to 100 percent sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease for the duration of the quarantine. If the employer is paying them salary for this time, the employer has a right to receive the allowance in question.

Communicable Diseases Decree includes provisions also for cases where employee’s child is placed in quarantine. Sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease may be paid also in such cases. If a quarantine is taking place after work-related travel, the absence could be considered to have been caused by reasons related to the employer, in which case the employee would have a right to salary. Employee has a right to salary also in case they are placed in quarantine abroad during work-related travel. Quarantine caused by a leisure travel might be considered differently, although currently there exists no case law nor general guidelines concerning such cases. For instance, travelling against the official instructions issued by the authorities can be a factor in deciding such cases.

Does employee have right to salary if they have caught coronavirus?

If an employee has fallen ill because of Covid-19 (i.e. unfit to work due to an illness), their right to sick pay is determined according to Employment Contracts Act and collective agreements. In practice sick pays are determined by industry-specific collective agreements.

What kind of medical certificates are required for sick leave during corona pandemic?

Employment Contract Act and collective agreements have provisions on the obligation to present medical certificates when requesting sick leave. Labour market organizations have recommended that during the corona pandemic sick pay could be based on employee’s own notification in order to avoid burdening the health care staff and to prevent the disease from spreading.

How do circumstances described in Communicable Diseases Decree affect payment of salaries?

If an employee is placed on quarantine according to the Communicable Diseases Decree, they have a right to 100 percent sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease for the duration of the quarantine. If employer pays salary to the employee during this period, employer has a right to this allowance.

Do employers pay wages if daycare centres and schools are closed as a precautionary measure, and an employee has to stay at home to take care of a child? 

The government has not yet provided information how schools and daycare centres will operate in the autumn. If a school (to the extent they provide teaching) or a daycare centre must be closed, thereby causing (under 16-year-old) children to be quarantined either because of catching the disease or being exposed to it, their caregivers are entitled to infectious disease allowance comparable to their loss of income.  

The employer has no obligation to pay wages in such cases. However, KELA provides temporary financial assistance due to an epidemic outbreak for parents, who have had to take unpaid leave from work in order to stay at home and take care of their child due to corona outbreak. Assistance can be sought retrospectively, and it is paid during the exceptional circumstances between 16 March and 13 May 2020. The amount of the assistance is 28.94 EUR per day, and it is unaffected by the applicant’s income level or the number of their minor children.

More information on the requirements for financial assistance due to epidemic outbreak can be found on KELA website

The daycare centre will not admit sick children. The employer pays wages for three days on the basis of temporary care leave, but what happens after that?  

Most collective agreements for clerical workers include an agreement on a short temporary absence, during which the employee is entitled to a salary. The length of this absence depends on the circumstances (such as the age of the child and possible care arrangements). The duration of the absence should therefore be discussed with the employer. 

If the collective agreement does not provide for a paid right of absence, the right to be absent from work temporarily to care for a child is based on temporary care leave as provided for in the Employment Contracts Act. 

If a sick child’s illness persists, it is important to attempt to agree with the employer on the right of absence and the use of paid leave, such as overtime leave, flexitime leave or annual leave. Other means of resolving the situation are also possible, such as childcare organised by the employer.

If I am subjected to quarantine imposed by the authorities while abroad on a business or leisure trip, will Kela pay a daily allowance? 

A daily allowance may be paid to a designated person who is isolated or quarantined in a European Union member state. A certificate of quarantine or isolation is required from a doctor entitled to impose these restrictions in the country in question. 

Because the daily allowance compensates for loss of earnings, it can only be paid for days when the person was unable to work due to quarantine or isolation. This means that the daily allowance is not paid during a holiday period, for example, or in the case of tasks where remote working is possible. An employer’s statement is required for loss of earnings. Read the instructions on Kela’s website.

My spouse had a trip and the employer ordered them to remain in quarantine at home for 14 days. Should I also remain in quarantine or can I go to work?

This is a tough question. If you can work remotely, then of course it makes the most sense to stay also at home. However, if the nature of your work is such, that you cannot do it from home, it is worthwhile to talk about the issue with your own employer. If you stay at home voluntarily, your employer is not obliged to pay your wages. The matter is altogether different, if you are ordered to remain at home.  

I was on a weekend trip abroad. My employer quarantined me and suggested that I use bank holiday leave, annual leave days or the like. Should I agree to this?

First and foremost, you should negotiate with your employer on the possibility of working remotely. If this is not possible, agreeing might be the better option. If your trip was work-related, the employer is obliged to pay your wages.

Must the employer pay working time allowances (e.g. extra pay for evening work, work on Saturdays and during night-time hours) for shifts already planned, even if they are not worked due to the epidemic?

The question does not define the situation in sufficient detail to make it possible to take a position on the obligation to pay wages. However, if the obligation to pay wages exists, it can be said that the employer would not have to pay working time compensation for the period in question, since the worker’s right to such compensation is based on actual time worked. Fixed allowances that are independent of the working conditions and are usually related to the status or professional qualifications of the worker must be paid. However, collective agreements may give rise to exceptions to the above, and in case of doubt, it is therefore advisable to contact the contractual representative for your area.

Mortgage payments

Some banks, such as Nordea, provide credit for wage interruption to their customers in the event that wages are not paid. The interest rate for the service is three months of the Euribor rate plus 4.00 per cent. In the event of a layoff, it is possible to negotiate an amortisation-free period for repayment of existing Nordea bank liabilities. Read more.

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Work-related travel

What should I do when my work requires travel?

The workplace-specific rules are always decided by the upper management of the workplace in cooperation with employee representatives.

The urgency and necessity of work-related travel is determined case-specifically with the employee’s supervisor in accordance with the rules of the workplace management. The possibilities of carrying out certain tasks by video call or via the internet should be assessed.

It is important to regularly follow the notifications issued by the National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as situations are currently prone to sudden changes. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, travel abroad should be avoided from 17 March 2020.

What should I do if I get sick on a business trip outside Finland?

In the event of illness, the instructions and regulations of the local authorities must be followed. Contact for local treatment should always be made first by phone – if necessary, with the assistance of the hotel or the host of the visit.

The person’s own occupational healthcare services or travel insurance company can also be contacted for advice.

It is a good idea to agree regular contact with family members in Finland or with the workplace to avoid being completely isolated in your hotel room when ill.  

Why do different employers give different guidelines for quarantine after a trip abroad?

The responses of different employers may vary, because the situation is new to everyone, and there is no previous experience of a similar situation to draw on. Workplaces and tasks also differ, and the effects of the current situation also come to light in different ways.

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Instructions and practices in the workplace

We are ceasing to work remotely and returning back to the workplace. Where can I find instructions on safe return to workplace?

Both European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) and Finnish Institute of Occupational Health have provided instructions on safe return to workplace. Both instructions are available in English.

What should I do if I suspect that I have the coronavirus?

If you have a fever, cough, upper respiratory symptoms and shortness of breath, inform your employer of the likelihood of your suffering from coronavirus without delay. Follow the standard practice of reporting sick leave in the workplace. This is the case even if you have not travelled abroad to an area affected by the coronavirus, or have not been in close contact with people exposed to the virus.

The Confederation of Finnish Industries has recommended that the practice of self-reporting of sick leave by employees to employers should be introduced in all workplaces during the pandemic. The instructions of the healthcare authorities are that mild cases of coronavirus do not require hospital treatment.

If symptoms persist beyond the self-reporting period, or if no such agreement has been made despite the recommendations, contact the occupational healthcare services by telephone or online chat, or if there is no extensive occupational healthcare, obtain a sick leave certificate from the public healthcare services. Stay at home as long as you have symptoms.

How should the matter be dealt with in the workplace?

Any guidance and measures concerning the coronavirus should be addressed in cooperation with the occupational safety and health services.

Cooperation on occupational safety and health is cooperation between employers and employees to ensure health and safety at the workplace. Issues to be dealt with in the context of occupational safety and health include:

  • Hazards and harm associated with the work and the working environment
  • Measures and plans to prevent hazards and harm

Cooperation on occupational safety and health is carried out in cooperation with the occupational healthcare services. Employers must provide employees with occupational healthcare services to prevent health hazards arising from work, and to protect and promote the safety, working capacity and health of employees. Preventive occupational healthcare applies to all persons, regardless of the nature of the employment relationship.

In cooperation at the workplace on occupational safety and health, it would be helpful to consider the following measures:

  • Remote working (insurance and practical arrangements for remote working)
  • Company-specific quarantine on return to work from an area affected by the pandemic, e.g. a period of remote work for 14 days before returning to the workplace.
  • Limiting work-related travel
  • Revising attendance policies for meetings or seminars, e.g. attending meetings remotely
  • Company practices relating to visits
  • Self-reporting procedure
  • Quarantine instructions abroad
  • Leisure travel and how to inform the employer of it
  • Updating of safety instructions for exceptional situations (e.g. broken appliances, inspections/monitoring by operation control personnel, and other statutory inspections or monitoring). Read the notice by the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency for process plants. (This page is in Finnish only)

Agreement must be reached on who will inform employees of the instructions, and who will instruct supervisors in exceptional situations.

Coronavirus situation evokes worry and anxiety. How should I act?

Exceptional situation strains mental wellbeing. If your own health, or recovery from work, worries you, you should contact your immediate supervisor, occupational healthcare or the health and safety representative of your workplace. Pro’s experts can help you in solving matters related to your employment. Pro’s webinars and career counselling service will also provide support to your wellbeing in exceptional circumstances.

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Remote working, tools and emergency work

Do I have to carry a computer with me every day outside work due to the possibility of quarantine?

The company must agree on the rules and practices to be followed – for example, on the policies for taking work computers home and who will replace any work equipment in the event of damage.

I don’t have a laptop or the necessary connections for remote working – what should I do?

The company must agree on the rules and practices of the company – for example, on the policy for taking laptops home and for organising the necessary communications connections.

It is the employer’s responsibility to provide the worker with the necessary tools. If an employee’s work contribution is available to the employer under the employment contract, but the employee cannot work for reasons attributable to the employer, the employer is in principle obliged to pay the employee in full unless otherwise agreed. Read more: chapter 2, section 12 of the Employment Contracts Act.

Can employer have emergency work carried out, and to what extent? Can employer force employees to come to work?

The exceptional circumstances in force from 14 May to 31 December 2020 apply only to those working in social and health services. In their case it is possible to exceed the maximum number of working hours prescribed by the working hours act as well as to postpone the annual leave. 

Are employees in different fields treated equally by the law?

By default, yes. However, certain fields have specific features due to the nature of their work. These fields require exceptional regulation. For instance, night work allowed in hospital work even though regular night shifts are forbidden in numerous other fields of work.

While the coronavirus pandemic is going on, it is necessary to safeguard certain key functions which are essential for the functioning of the society and for the health of its citizens. For these reasons, these fields have implemented certain actions included in the emergency law. These include, among others, employer’s right to deviate from certain regulations of Workings Hours Act, Annual Holidays Act and Employment Contracts Act.

Can employer change the roster if the work in question is not emergency work?

The working hours act (872/2019) and collective agreements determine the situation in which employers can change rosters and shifts. According to the working hours act, rosters can only be changed if the employee agrees to it, or if there is a weighty reason for reorganising the work. For example, a situation where a large proportion of staff are quarantined due to the coronavirus may justify unilateral changes to rosters and shifts by the employer. However, collective agreements may provide for a very broad right to change rosters, so it is advisable to check the collective agreement applicable to you to see what has been agreed in this regard.

Can the employer withhold a roster based on the possibility of further changes to it?

No – rosters must be made available no later than 14 days before the work period is due to begin.  

Can company order its employees to work two shifts during exceptional circumstances (morning and evening shift)?

Regular working hours can be re-arranged into shift work. If collective agreement or employment contract do not pose any restrictions, any kind of work can be done as shift work. The tasks of the employees working shifts must be similar but not necessarily fully identical. The employer must also ensure that the employee have their daily and weekly rest periods.

In shift work, the work shifts must change regularly following periods which have been agreed upon in advance. Shifts are considered to change regularly, if a previous shift continues for no more than an hour simultaneously with the new shift or if there is no more than an hour separating the shifts from each other.

Shift work is based on a roster which must be given to all employees in writing in due time or at the latest one week before the work period of the roster begins. After this the roster can be changed only with the employee’s consent or in case there is a compelling reason related to the rearrangement of work.

 

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Leisure travel, holidays, time off and insurance

Can an employer limit trips during leisure time?

The employer cannot exert any control over the leisure activities of employees.

During the coronavirus crisis, can employers exert control over or prohibit employees’ leisure activities?

No.

Does quarantine affect the accrual of annual holidays?

Yes, it does. Annual leave does not accrue for a period in which a person is voluntarily quarantined. However, working days or hours of work that are considered comparable to days at work are days or hours when the employee is prevented from working during the period of employment because of an order from the authorities that was issued to prevent the spread of a disease.

Can annual leave that has already been agreed be changed to another date if I don’t want to take annual leave now?

Employees cannot change the dates of their confirmed annual leave on their own initiative. Annual leave that has already been agreed can only be changed by agreement with the employer. 

Can an employer suspend my annual leave?

This can only be done by separate agreement with the employee.

Can an employer order an employee to use holidays from the next holiday period if the company’s operations have been restricted, and there is not enough work for all the employees?

No – the matter must be agreed separately.  

Can employer postpone my annual leave or force me to have it earlier than I had planned?

In practice scheduling the annual leave is a matter that is often agreed upon locally by the employer and the employee. Determining when the annual leave is held is part of the employer’s right to direct work. The employer can determine when the annual leave is held within the time frame specified in the Annual Holidays Act, which is 2 May to 30 September for summer holiday and 1 October to 30 April for winter holiday. The collective agreements of certain industries carry an exception to the law regarding the summer holiday season. Summer and winter holiday must be held uninterrupted unless keeping the work going on requires the part of summer holiday exceeding 12 working days to be held as one or in several segments.

When the employer determines the time for annual leave, the employee must be notified at least one month before the beginning of the annual leave. An exception to this can made only if it is not realistically possible to give the notification one month in advance. In such a case, the beginning of the annual leave must be notified as soon as possible or at the latest two weeks before the leave begins.   

If the employer already notified about the starting date of the annual leave thus confirming it, or if the employee and employer have already agreed about when the leave is going to take place, the employer cannot unilaterally change the intended date for annual leave. If the employer unilaterally changes the date of already confirmed annual leave, the employer is responsible for compensating the incurred losses to the employee according to the Employment Contracts Act. However, the employee must comply with employer’s order concerning the new date of the annual leave, even though the change had violated the regulations.  

The employer cannot interrupt annual leave once it has started. However, employees working in the public sector may follow collective agreements, which allow for interruptions. The timing of the annual leave can always be changed based on mutual agreement by the employer and the employee.

Can an employer order employees on family leave to return to work due to the coronavirus?

No.  

Can an employer suspend an employee’s study leave and order them to return to work?

No.

Can an employer terminate a partial care leave agreement in the exceptional circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic?

No.

Despite the exceptional circumstances, the employer must comply with the provisions of the Employment Contracts Act regarding family leave.

Employers do not have the right to unilaterally terminate agreements for partial care leave (i.e. the temporary reduction of working time for the purpose of caring for a child). The suspension of partial care leave also refers to the cancellation of leave, and the law requires the change to be agreed.

Only employees have the right, subject to justified reasons and a notice period of at least one month, to suspend or cancel partial care leave that has been granted to them. The change must be agreed between the employer and the employee one month before the change is to come into effect.

If no agreement is reached, the worker has the right to suspend the care leave for a justified reason. If the employee wishes to take partial care leave again, they must submit a new proposal to the employer. Because of the exceptional nature of the situation caused by the coronavirus and the emergency powers act, it is advisable to discuss any changes to working time arrangements and the suspension or shortening of care leave with the employer.

I cancelled my leisure trip to a country classified as a high-risk area for the coronavirus. However, it was not possible to cancel the trip at no additional cost. Will the employer reimburse the costs incurred?

No. Employers are not responsible for the leisure activities of their employees. For this reason, employers are also not responsible for any costs involved. Your insurance policy may cover part of your costs.

The cancellation policy for flights always depends on the tickets purchased and the airline.  If the airline cancels a flight, they will refund the cost of the tickets or offer a new flight at a later date.

Trade Union Pro members are insured through the Turva insurance company

As a Pro member, you are automatically covered by travel and leisure time accident insurance that is valid all over the world free of charge. Passenger insurance also covers accompanying family members under the age of 20. For students, the validity of travel insurance has been extended for the purpose of work placements.

Turva provides key information on travel insurance, travel and the coronavirus, and updates the web page as the situation develops. Turva’s web pages are in Finnish. We recommend you contact your own insurance company of Turva by phone, by e-mail, by chat or by electric services as applicable in the company.

The Turva website has a chat service which is also available on Saturdays. You can also call the Turva service number +358 (0)1019 5110 (Mon–Fri 8 am to 6 pm).

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Union events and training courses

The union’s in-person training courses and events have been cancelled until 30 June 2020

Pro to cancel all its in-person training courses and events until 30 June 2020. Events that can be held electronically will still be held. These events include webinars (webinars are only in Finnish).

Pro recommends that its member associations take government guidelines into account in their own operations.

Union staff working remotely

The aim is to safeguard the continuity of the union’s operations by various means, such as enabling Pro personnel to work entirely remotely until 30 April 2020. Pro has ruled that all international travel of its members, administration or personnel organised by the association will be cancelled. Travel within Finland is also to be avoided.  

Employees returning from abroad are required to work remotely for two weeks after their return.

Pro follows closely the recommendations issued by the government and public authorities.

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International trade union activities

European Works Council and SE Works Council activities in companies

Employee involvement in company decision making – through information, consultation and participation – is now more important than ever. Social and economic impacts must be anticipated and addressed. For this reason, the following measures are recommended for European Works Councils and SE Works Councils.

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