Midsummer came and went, and Finland is now in vacation mode. In this post, we talk about vacation days in Finland.
Vacation days in Finland
In Finnish employment relationships, you earn holiday credits based on the length and nature of your employment contract. The standard is that employees have 30 vacation days a year. Usually, people spend four weeks of this (24 vacation days) during the summer and a week (6 vacation days) during the winter. Those with children often time their winter vacations to match the times when school’s out.
The Annual Holidays Act stipulates how employees earn annual vacation days in Finland. It says what employees earn during vacation days, when employees can have their holidays, and so forth. The basic principle is that an employee earns holiday credits for each calendar month he/she is employed.
Collective agreements can define these provisions further.
In our Working in Finland course, we go over the basic rules that relate to vacation days in Finland. You can learn more about the rules in that course.
Midsummer starts the vacation season in Finland
Midsummer is an important cut-off point in Finland. That’s a popular time to start our four-week summer vacations. Many of us, however, come back from the Midsummer celebrations to work for a week and then say goodbye to the workplace for a full month. In fact, over a third of the Finnish workforce is on vacation in July.
In July, Finns drive to their summer houses, and travel to Southern Europe. They get married, have babies, eat ice cream and bbq sausage. They go to the outdoor theaters, and various different festivals, and swim.*
The most popular European destination for Finns in 2019 was Greece. About 59 % of all European package holidays had Greece as their destination. In a normal year, Finns also head to Turkey, Spain, Italy, and Croatia.
This summer is obviously different. With the Corona pandemic preventing people from traveling abroad, Finns are now spending their vacations with the borders of Finland. Although the Finnish travel industry seems hopeful, it is not yet clear what this year will be like. People might mostly stay put and do short trips near their homes.
Finding a rental cottage for this summer, though, is probably already impossible. Spending at least a part of the vacation in a rented summer house has seen a new surge this year.
Vacation days really are vacation days in Finland
So, Finns take a break in July. What they don’t do in July is answer their work emails and phones.
This really doesn’t have anything to do with the Finnish work ethic or the lack thereof. It’s just that Finns value their free time. They work to live and do not live to work. The individualistic nature of Finnish culture results in a rather sharp division between professional and private lives. Thus Finns are reluctant to let their work-life spill into their private lives and vice versa.
Finnish labor legislation supports this attitude: the employer cannot expect the employee to work while on vacation, and answering emails and work phone calls is work. In fact, the protections Finnish laws give for employee’s vacation times are so strong that the employee has to take at least two weeks of continuous vacation time even though the employee him/herself would like to take off a week here and a week there. Nope, can’t be done. One batch needs to be at least two weeks in length.
The fact that Finnish coworkers and clients sort of vanish for four weeks during the summer can be surprising and perhaps even annoying at first. But, I bet that after a while you yourself will see the benefits of actually having some proper time off. So, take a deep breath, relax, and turn off that work phone. We’re all off on vacation!
* The summer of 2019 in the light of statistics by the Statistics Finland: https://www.stat.fi/tup/tilastokirjasto/kesatilastot_2019
This post was edited and republished on June 24, 2020.
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