Previously, both the Employment Contract Act and the Working Hours Act have allowed employing workers under so-called zero-hour contracts, meaning contracts where the employer is not obliged to provide minimum weekly working hours to the employee and the employee is not obliged to accept any work offered. In practice such contracts have manifested in the employer providing e.g. 0 to 40 hours of work per week. The employer has also been entitled to include clauses in the contract which oblige the employee to be summoned for work if needed.
For a long time, zero-hour contracts have been deemed problematic by workers. In practice they have allowed employers to circumvent the protections against unfair dismissal. The employer has been able to merely notify the worker that there are no longer working hours provided. In practice, the worker’s employment contract has thus ended without a notice period and the dismissal has not had weighty reasons as provided in the law.
The amendments to the law came in effect in June 2018.
Real Need of Workforce
Under the newly established regulations the employer on their side may not initiate to make variable hours contracts if their need for workforce is stable. If the need is stable the employment contract clause on working hours must be invariable. On the other hand, the lower limit of variable hours must not be agreed being less than the actual need of workforce. For example, if the employer needs a worker for 20 hours a week, the lower limit of variable hours may not be less than 20 hours.
If such variable working hours are initiated by the employer they must give information on what basis the need for workforce arises. This is meant to make both parties informed of the situation and the meaning and application of a variable hours clause.
Any older zero-hours contracts had to be changed to comply with the new law by the end of November 2018.
The new regulations only concern situations where the variable hours are initiated by the employer. The worker might wish to work less than the actual need of workforce. The worker may thus initiate a zero-hours contract at any case if they wish to do so.
Changes to Sick Leave Pay
Some changes in the law concerning the sick leave also took place. The salary must be paid when the worker’s shift is marked in the list of working shifts, work has been agreed on otherwise or in relation to the circumstances it van be deemed obvious the worker would have been at work if they were healthy.
Paid Notice Period in Cases of Variable Working Hours
In addition, the new legislation provides the number of working hours being during the notice period less than the average of hours provided during the 12 weeks before the last week at work, the employer must compensate for the loss of income. The goal is to secure the worker’s rights during the notice period. The employer may not abstain from providing work and if they do so, they must compensate the employee for this.
English translation by Lasse Jelekäinen