Tuesday. 22.10.2019
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Why you should request an employment certificate when your work relationship ends

The Employment Contracts Act states you have the right to request a written certificate from your employer that specifies how long you have been working and the nature of your duties. Only if you request it, the document may also include the reason for termination of your employment and an evaluation of your ability and conduct.

Why you should request an employment certificate when your work relationship ends

Are you about to finish your employment contract? Are you planning to apply for a new job or for unemployment benefits from a TE-office?

If so, you are probably interested in getting an employment certificate as a proof of your previous professional performance and experience. In Finland, employment certificates play a very important role when applying new jobs, most public agencies remark.

Employment Contracts Act states that on termination of the employment relationship between an employer and an employee, the later is entitled to request a written certificate of employment.

Certificates extended upon request

This is an important thing to remember: employees must request these documents, since employers are not obliged to issue them at their own initiative. But once requested, a certificate must be issued without undue delay, because neglecting to issue a certificate of employment is a punishable offence, says the Finnish Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Työsuojely).

Certificates of employment may be useful for the workers as references to show to potential employers when searching new jobs. And probably will be required by public employment services (TE-Toimisto) if unemployment benefits are requested. When an unemployed jobseeker registers at the TE services, officials usually want to know the reason for termination of employment and who terminated it before assessing if the jobseeker has the right to unemployment benefit.

The Employment Contracts Act regulates in detail the issuance and the information contained in these documents. According to the law, a worker can choose, for example, if he wants the certificate to include an evaluation of his skills and conduct.

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Two types of certificates

The law says an employer has to issue a certificate of employment on request within 10 years from the termination of the employment relationship.

This means companies must keep all the data on the duration of the employment relationships and the employees’ job duties for at least ten years. After 10 years, employment certificates can still be requested and must be issued if possible, unless to do so would be "unreasonably difficult for the employer", the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says.

There are two types of certificates of employment: brief and extended. 

  • Brief certificates must include the total duration of the employment relationship and the job duties (work tasks) performed by the employee.
  • Extended certificates also may explain the reason for termination of the employment relationship and a testimonial, which means an evaluation of the employee's occupational skills and conduct. It is up to the employee to decide whether to include the reason for termination and the testimonial or only one of them. A certificate of employment with testimonial must be requested withing five years since the end of the employment relationship.

Employers must state the reason for termination of the employment relationship, when requested, in a way that does not include an evaluation of the employee. The reason for termination of employment may be given as one of the following:

  • Expiry of the fixed term.
  • The employee resigned.
  • Financial and production grounds.
  • Personal reasons due to the employee.
  • Cancellation of the employment contract at the initiative of the employer or the employee.
  • Cancellation of the employment contract by default.

If the employment relationship was terminated because of reasons due to the employee, the employer may not describe them in the certificate.

The recording of the reason for termination of the employment relationship and who gave the notice to terminate is usually required by the employment authorities when evaluating a jobseeker's entitlement to unemployment benefit.

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I am an employee, what should I do?

The request for a certificate of employment maybe done verbally, on paper or by email. If you need a form you can download it (in Finnish) from the website of the Finnish Occupational Safety and Health Administration HERE

When you request a certificate of employment, state clearly to your employer whether you want the certificate to contain just the duration of the employment relationship and your job duties or also the reason for termination of the employment relationship and the evaluation of your skills and conduct.

In case you have requested and received a brief certificate from your employer, you still may request a new one with the addition of the reason for termination or a testimonial or both, within five years.

However, if you requested a certificate including a testimonial and later you are unhappy with the evaluation written by your ex employer, you are not entitled to receive a new certificate anymore. Only if the document contains errors, incorrect, unlawful or a non-requested testimonial the employer is required to issue a new certificate with those errors corrected.

If your employer refuses to issue a certificate of employment, contact the occupational safety and health authorities in your region because he might be committing an offence. There is a penal provision in the Employment Contracts Act that provides for a fine to be imposed on an employer who fails to issue a certificate of employment, Työsuojelu remarks.

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