Finnish employment contracts

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If you are about to start a new job in Finland, this blog is for you. In our blog post this week, we’ll very briefly take a look at what’s supposed to be covered in Finnish employment contracts. You can learn more about this and other employment-related regulations in our tutorial Working in Finland

A written or a verbal contract?

Employers in Finland don’t actually have to offer a written employment contract to their employees. A verbal one does suffice legally. Sometimes the contract comes into effect just by the fact that the employee has started doing the job.

The employer doesn’t have to do a written contract even if the employee requests it. Although the employer doesn’t have to do a written contract, the employer does have to provide the employee with a written statement that contains either the principal terms of employment or the information where the principal terms of the contract can be viewed. The written terms may be a collection of appropriate documents. They may also just contain references to the appropriate collective agreement or statutes in law. 

Despite this, these days most employers do offer the employee a written contract. It’s the best way also for the employer to remember what has been agreed to. Finnish employment contracts do not have a standard format although they all have roughly the same content. That’s because the content of Finnish employment contracts comes from the Finnish Employment Contracts Act.

The employer will do two identical copies of the contract. They will ask you to sign both. One is for the employer’s records and one is your own copy. These days employers, at least those that have hired more than one international employee, have an English language version of the contract available. If your employer only presents you with a contract in Finnish, make sure that you understand everything that’s written on it. To help you in these types of situations, our tutorial includes an English language example. It also includes a word list of the most common employment-related words in Finnish and in English as well as an explanation of those terms.

Getting ready to sign your first Finnish employment contract? Be better prepared by taking our online course “Mini-course on Finnish Employment Contracts”. You can find it in our online store.

What are the principal issues that need to be discussed?

The Finnish Employment Contracts Act stipulates what principal issues the employer needs to tell the employee. They are:

  • The location of the employer’s business and the employee’s place of residence;
  • the date when the work starts;
  • if your employer is offering the employee a fixed-term contract, the contract needs to state the end date or the approximate end date of the contract, and the employer needs to state the reason for the fixed-term nature of the contract;
  • the length of the trial period;
  • the principal location where the employee is going to work. If the employee has no fixed place of work, the contract needs to state the principles by which the various locations of work are determined;
  • the job description of the employee;
  • the applicable collective agreement;
  • the basis for the salary and the salary period;
  • working hours;
  • how the annual leave is determined; and
  • the term of notice and the principles by which the term of notice is determined.

So, when you start at a new job, these are the things you should know about your new job at a minimum.  

What else?

If you do have a good bargaining position, you can certainly bring up and negotiate additional issues to be added to your contract. For example, if you start at a new job just before the summer and thus might not be legally entitled to paid summer leave, you can try to negotiate for some. 

If you are moving to Finland because of your job, you can try to negotiate for a relocation package of some sort (don’t forget to negotiate our services to be included in those). You might also negotiate for employer-paid Finnish lessons. 

Employers may have their own standard benefits packages they offer and they might add those into the contract as well. Such benefits might include a lunch benefit or your employer may offer recreational vouchers. 

Remember that these benefits often have tax repercussions. Ask your employer how your benefits will be taxed so that you understand their true monetary value. 

Why is it important to have all of these terms clearly laid out? 

The terms in the employment contract form the basis of your employment relationship. The employment contract binds both you and your employer to the terms you have agreed upon. It means that both of you have to abide by those terms. You cannot go against them and neither can your employer.  

Because of this, employers often leave contract terms quite vague in purpose. This vagueness allows both you and your employer some room to maneuver. For example, often the job description starts with a phrase “At the start of the employment relationship the duties of the employee include….” and ends with “….and other tasks and duties specified by the employer”. This type of phrasing takes into account that duties do evolve and change during the course of an employment relationship. 

If somewhere along the way, both you and your employer decide that certain terms in your contract need changing, you can do that either by agreeing to a whole new contract or writing an addendum to your current one. In this, you’d detail the new terms. 

If your employer wants to change these terms unilaterally, it is not completely impossible. There is a legal way to do that, but we’ll leave that for another blog post or you can enroll in our tutorial Working in Finland to learn more. 

You can also learn more about Finnish employment contracts from our minicourse Finnish employment contracts.

Make sure you know what you are signing. Enroll in this short and inexpensive online course “Mini-course on Finnish Employment Contracts”. You can find it in our online store.

The mission of Finnwards is to help internationals thrive in their life abroad. We provide coaching, consulting, and training services that help them do just that. Check out our Services for Businesses and Organizations or our Expat Inspiration Catalog for more information! While we serve internationals and their employers all over the world, our specialty is Finland. With our help, internationals can build a uniquely Finnish life for themselves and their family. In addition to the coaching, consulting and training services, we also offer a wide selection of self-guided online courses about Finland. Contact us and let us help you or your employees succeed in their professional and private lives abroad and in Finland.

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