Occupational healthcare in Finland

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In this blog post, we’ll explain to you what occupational healthcare in Finland is like.

Healthcare systems vary a lot across the world. Thus it is difficult to make sense of systems in other countries. Some countries have universal healthcare. In some, healthcare is tied to employment status. Others have a mixture of both of these systems.

The Finnish system is based on universal healthcare. In Finland, access to publicly funded and most often also publicly operated healthcare is tied to residency and/or your employment status

Finland, however, also has an occupational healthcare system. Its primary purpose, though, is not to give employees medical care when they need it. Here’s what the system is all about   

Occupational healthcare in Finland is about prevention 

Employers have to offer their employees access to occupational healthcare in Finland. This is true even if the employer only has one employee. This obligation also covers part-time employees and those with fixed-term contracts. 

However, the primary purpose of the occupational healthcare system in Finland is not to treat illnesses or provide medical care. Instead, one of the purposes is to prevent work-related illnesses and accidents. The other is to promote the health and safety of employees. The objective is to keep employees healthy and working until retirement. 

This mandatory occupational healthcare in Finland includes, for example 

  • investigations of the working conditions and the safety of workplaces;
  • assessments of employee’s health and capacity for work (eg. medical exams);
  • suggestions for the employer as to how to improve the working conditions, and the health and safety of employees;
  • rehabilitation assessments of individual employees.

So, at its most basic level, your employer does not have to offer you access to any type of medical care whatsoever. 

In most cases, however, employers go beyond the mandatory requirements. They arrange medical care and other health services for the employees via an occupational healthcare provider. 

These providers are often (70 %) large private healthcare companies that offer an extensive range of healthcare services. 

Irrespective of what the provider can offer, the scope of occupational healthcare services varies from employer to employer. Essentially it depends on what the employer is willing to pay for. 

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The majority of employers offer more than the mandatory services

According to a 2018 survey of occupational health care providers, the majority of their employer clients (71 %) have service agreements that go beyond the legal minimum. 

29 % of their clients have an agreement that only includes the mandatory services.

Small employers with less than 10 employees more often (35 %) offered only the mandatory coverage. Almost all (98 %) large companies with more than 250 employees went beyond the mandatory services.

Most often a company has a service agreement that includes the services of a GP, nurse, physiotherapist, and occupational psychologist. How employees get access to these professionals depends on the terms and conditions the employer has set. 

Your employer’s occupational healthcare service provider may, for example, have several locations. Your employer’s contract, however, may allow you to use only one of their locations. Or, maybe you are allowed to use their services only on weekdays or only for specific ailments or problems.

Occupational healthcare services in Finland rarely cover access to specialist services. Dental and eye care are often also completely excluded. So are prescription drugs and, for example, OB/GYN services. 

Occupational healthcare services also do not cover the needs of your family members.

Healthcare in Finland relies on the public system. Hence even at their best occupational healthcare services do not replace the public system. For example in serious cases and cases of emergency, employees in Finland still rely on public services.

The primary benefit of good occupational healthcare services in Finland is that often they grant you faster access to general medical treatment. 

Thus the extent of the occupational healthcare services is not as important a consideration for potential employees as it might be somewhere else in the world. However, it is not completely irrelevant.

Occupational healthcare and related services can still be a meaningful perk

Most employers these days offer occupational healthcare services that go beyond the legal minimum. Thus just providing some sort of medical care doesn’t necessarily give an employer a competitive edge in attracting employees.

However, there can be meaningful differences in the healthcare services employers offer. One difference, for example, can be access to dental care or specialist care. 

Some employers also offer their employees medical expense insurance and/or leisure-time accident insurance.

Medical expense insurance as a perk has grown in importance within the last few decades. In 2009, about 98 000 individuals were covered by medical expense insurance paid for by a company. In June 2020, the number had risen to about 260 000

When you are negotiating your employment contract, ask what kind of occupational healthcare services your employer offers. Ask also how you are supposed to use them. The restrictions placed on their use can significantly affect their usefulness to you.

Also, normally the occupational healthcare services employers provide are tax-free. However, in cases where the services are extensive or exclusive to just some employees, they might be taxable benefits. Make sure you know whether you will be taxed for some of the healthcare benefits you receive. 

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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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