Basic laws regulating the work of foreigners in Finland
Whether you are a foreign employee or an employer of foreigners, read below a summary of the regulations regarding labour relations
Finland has become an increasingly desired destination for foreign workers because of the quality of its labour market, which is governed by the rule of law.
However, Finland has some peculiarities like any other country in the world. This is why it is convenient to know the main rules that regulate the relationship between employers and foreign employees before embarking on the adventure of travelling in search for a job. Please, make sure you can meet the legal requirements to work in the country.
The reader, whether foreign employee or employer of foreigners, can find a summary of those regulations below.
What is a foreign employee?
According to the doctrine of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Finland (Työsuojelu), a foreign employee is an employee who is not a Finnish citizen.
The employer has the responsibility to ensure that a foreign employee has the right to work in the country, and he must keep this information at the workplace. He also has to ensure that the working conditions comply with Finland’s occupational safety and health regulations.
Foreign employees need to have the right to work in Finland. And the grounds for that right will depend on the citizenship, the type of work to be performed in the country and the duration of the contract.
For example citizens of the Nordic countries, member states of the European Union (EU), Liechtenstein and Switzerland not need to apply for a residence permit in order to work in Finland. They already have the right to work on the grounds of their citizenship.
Employees who are not citizens of any of the aforementioned countries in most of the cases need a residence permit that allows them to work. However, there are some exceptions and the Finnish Aliens Act lists a number of cases in which employment is allowed without a residence permit.
The employer is obliged to ensure that foreign employees have residence permits that allow them to work. In addition, he must provide such information to the Office of Economic Development and Employment (TE) and the representative of the personnel in the workplace.
Instructions for foreign employees
Työsuojelu emphasises on its website that if you are not a Finnish citizen, the Aliens Act obliges you to prove to your employer that you have the right to work in Finland.
This means that you must present to your employer your passport, official travel document or residence permit card. The employer will generally make a copy of the document verifying your right to work, because s/he is required by law to keep that information at the workplace.
If you have the citizenship of an EU Member State, another Nordic country (Norway or Iceland), Liechtenstein or Switzerland, then you do not need a residence permit. However, if your stay in Finland lasts for more than three months, you must register your residence.
In case you need a residence permit, then you must apply for it yourself.
If there is any change in your right of residence or in any of the grounds for your right to work, you must inform your employer immediately. If your residence permit is about to expire, submit an application for a new one while the old one is still valid. Give your employer a copy of the receipt of your pending application and then give him a copy of your new residence permit as soon as you receive it.
If there is anything unclear about your pay, working hours or any other terms and conditions of employment, talk to your employer first. If you still have doubts afterwards, you can consult your case with trade unions, professional organisations and labour authorities in Finland.
When your employment relationship ends, your employer will not provide a certificate of employment automatically; you must request it. In order to do it, you may use the general document request. You can download it (in Finnish) from the page of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration by clicking HERE
Safety at work is the responsibility of the employer, but you as the employee also have responsibilities. If the work causes a serious hazard to your life or health or that of other employees, you have the right to refuse to perform it.
Obligations for those who employ foreigners
According to the Finnish Aliens Act, any employer who hires foreign employees must:
- Ensure that an alien entering his or her service and working in his or her employment has the required residence permit for an employed person or that the alien does not need a residence permit (Aliens Act, section 86a).
- Keep the information on the aliens in his or her employment and on the grounds for their right to work easily available at the workplace (Aliens Act, section 86a).
The information that the employer must keep at the workplace must include:
- The personal data of the foreign employee.
- The grounds for the foreign employee’s right to work.
The employer shall store the information for four years beyond the termination of the alien’s employment. The employer may choose how to store this information, but it must be easily available for inspection by the occupational safety and health authorities. The obligation to keep such information does not apply to a client using posted workers.
Principal legal terms and conditions of employment
The following obligations also apply to the employer under the Aliens Act:
- The employer shall inform the shop steward, the elected representative and the occupational safety and health representative of the alien’s name and the applicable collective agreement (Aliens Act, section 86a).
- The employer must affirm that the principal terms and conditions of employment of the foreign employee comply with current regulations and the applicable collective agreement. If a collective agreement is not applied, the terms of employment must correspond to those applied to employees in the labour market doing similar work (Aliens Act, section 72).
The principal terms and conditions of employment include at least the following:
- The date of commencement of the work.
- The trial period.
- The place where the work is performed.
- Job duties.
- The collective agreement applicable to the work.
- Grounds for determination of wages.
- Amount of wages.
- The pay period.
- Regular working hours.
- The manner of determining annual holiday.
- The terms and conditions concerning the period of notice.
In case of a fixed-term employment relationship, the grounds for concluding an employment contract for a fixed term and the actual or estimated expiry date of the employment contract must also be recorded.
The employment contract
In Finland, an employment contract is by default valid indefinitely, unless there is particular reason to define it as a fixed-term contract.
An employment contract signed for a fixed term at the employer’s initiative and without justifiable cause shall be regarded as being valid indefinitely. By comparison, no particular cause need be given for an employment contract signed for a fixed term at the employee's initiative.
The employer must consider the impact of several back-to-back fixed-term contracts on the determination of employee benefits. As far as the determination of employee benefits is concerned, an employment relationship is considered to have been continuous if employer and employee have signed fixed-term employment contracts such that:
- There have been several back-to-back contracts.
- The employment has continued uninterrupted.
- The employment has continued with only brief interruptions.
Consecutive fixed-term employment contracts at the employer’s initiative are disallowed when the number of contracts, their combined duration and the total employment thereby created clearly demonstrate that the employer's labour need is a permanent one.
What is a justifiable cause for a fixed-term employment contract?
A fixed-term employment contract at the employer’s initiative is allowable for instance because of:
- A substitution.
- A project of fixed duration.
- A one-off task.
- Seasonal work.
- An internship related to studies at an educational institution.
- The fixed term of an apprenticeship.
- Some other characteristic of the employer’s operations or the work to be done that motivates its fixed-term nature.
Hiring long-term unemployed persons
Since the beginning of 2017 an employer may hire a long-term unemployed for a fixed term contract valid for maximum one year without giving a justified reason for the fixed term.
The employer and the employee may also agree on several employment contracts for a shorter time than a year. From the starting date of the first fixed term contract the contract can be renewed at most twice during the year. The maximum total validity time of all the contracts together is one year.
A jobseeker who has been unemployed for at least one year is considered a long-term unemployed. The unemployed person may have had one employment relationship of at most two weeks during this time.
The trial period
Employer and employee may agree on a trial period at the beginning of the employment relationship. In agreeing this, it must be ensured that both employer and employee are clearly aware of the terms of the trial period and its length.
A trial period may be agreed regardless of the duration of the employment contract. It must be agreed before the work begins, because the trial period begins immediately when work starts. A trial period must also be specifically agreed on in the case of a fixed-term employment contract based on an apprenticeship.
If the employer is required to comply with a collective agreement, the employer must comply with any provisions regarding trial periods in that agreement. The employer must notify the employee of the application of this provision when the employment contract is signed.
How long can the trial period be?
The maximum time for a trial period in employment contracts concluded from the beginning of 2017 is six months, instead of 4 months previously.
The employer has the right to extend the trial period, if the employee during this time has been incapable to work or have been on a family leave for at least 30 calendar days. The employee must be informed about the extension of the trial period before the the trial period terminates.
The trial period and its extensions in fixed term employment contracts may not exceed 50 per cent of the duration of the employment period, however it may not be longer than six months.