Frequently asked questions
This section briefly explains some of the most important features of working life, such as employment conditions. The information is presented in Q&A format to make it more reader-friendly.
The answers aim to take into account the rights and responsibilities of both employers and employees. They also highlight widespread problems in the culture industry that are especially noteworthy.
Our themes are:
1. The rules of employment
2. Unemployment benefits and social security
3. Special characteristics of artistic work, such as copyrights and self-employment
1. THE RULES OF EMPLOYMENT
In Finland conditions of employment are dictated by three main factors: legislation, industry-wide collective agreements, and individual employment contracts.
Minimum wages, for example, are not determined by law, but by collective agreements. In Finland all corporations and individuals are required to abide by national legislation and binding agreements.
What is the position of trade unions in Finland?
In Finland and Scandinavia trade unions hold quite a strong foothold in working life as lobbyists, negotiators and advisors. Accomplishments such as the 40-hour and 5-day working week, paid annual leave or alternative holiday compensation (in addition to salary), all exist thanks to trade unions. Other benefits include paid sick leave, compensation insurance for workplace accidents, occupational health care, family leave and pension security.
The Trade Union for Theatre and Media Finland (Teme), who develop and administer this Work for All portal, negotiate collective agreements for employees working in several different fields such as film, television, theatre, dance and circus. Additionally, the Finnish Actors’ Union and the Finnish Musicians’ Union separately negotiate their own collective agreements that must be followed in employment contracts in their fields. Unfortunately very few collective agreements in this field have been translated into English.
Finnish collective agreements are listed on the websites of each trade union and on the Finnlex website http://www.finlex.fi/en/
All collective agreements negotiated by the Trade Union for Theatre and Media Finland can be found on our website: https://www.teme.fi/fi
How can I find the right collective agreement or trade union?
The right collective agreement or trade union is usually determined by the employer in question. The question is: who is your employer, and what collective agreement applies to their business? When you find the respective collective agreement, the trade union concerned will be mentioned as one of the agreement’s negotiators. It is crucial that all employers and employees join their respective unions in order to get help and advice on how to interpret different laws and agreements. Trade unions have valuable information and know-how about their fields and the related agreements. It is a good idea to at least look through the websites of different trade unions to find field-specific information that may not be found elsewhere. Joining a trade union also entitles you to advice and help from a lawyer specializing in employment matters.
Many employees through membership of their own union are also members of one of Finland’s three central trade union confederations in Finland: SAK, STTK and Akava. The Trade Union for Theatre and Media Finland (Teme) is also a member of SAK, the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions.
Employees can look for trade unions in their field at http://www.liitot.fi/en/
Employers can organize themselves in employers’ associations according to their respective fields. The Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK), is one of the biggest employers’ associations in Finland, and many employers in the performing arts field, including the audiovisual and film arts, dance schools and opera, are members of EK: http://ek.fi/en/
Many theatres in Finland are members of the Association of Finnish Theatres: http://www.suomenteatterit.fi/eng/
What is a good employment contract like?
You should preferably keep a copy of your employment contract on paper, in order to avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations. However, verbal contracts are just as binding as written ones. A proper employment contract should include, in addition to the names and addresses of each party, the following details: when the employment started, salary and working hours, location, length of contract, grounds for fixed-term contracts, the length of the trial period (max 6 months / half the total length of the contract), job description, the collective agreement applied, traveling expenses, and any other special terms. Even if the contract is made verbally, the terms should still be presented in written form.
What characteristics define employment in Finland?
Contractual employment can usually be distinguished from other types of work by the fact that the employer leads and supervises the employee’s work. If this is not the case, and the employer does not give instructions regarding the time and place of working, the work may not be a form of employment covered by labour law.In employment, the following issues need to be agreed upon in a contract:
If these factors apply, the relationship qualifies as employment, and labour laws duly apply.
What does the payment of a salary reveal about the nature of employment?
Not much, really. The quality of the employment and the way payments are made are two different things. A salary may refer to hourly pay, piecework pay, monthly pay, daily pay, payment by the minute, or a lump sum payment. The way in which salary payments are made does not reveal whether an employment contract is fixed-term or open-ended.
A fixed-term contract is valid only for a certain specified period – from a couple of hours to several months, or even years. There is a set beginning and end for the employment, and the contract cannot be canceled without a separate agreement. There needs to be a lawful basis for why for the contract is fixed-term. Example include temporary positions or project work like a movie or a single performance.
Open-ended contracts, contrastingly, are valid indefinitely until something different is agreed upon. Such a contract has to include a starting date, but no end date. Open-ended contracts can, however, be canceled or discontinued by either party giving due notice in line with the related legislation. Employees do not have to give any reason for their wish to discontinue the contract, whereas employers must.
What if you don’t get paid?
If an employer is insolvent or for other reasons unable to pay, an employee should not wait around for payment for ever. In such cases employees can apply for pay security. The application for pay security should be submitted within three months of the payment being overdue. The application can be withdrawn in case the employer is again able to pay the employee.
Trade unions can assist their members with such applications. More information can be found on the website of the Public Employment and Business Services:
How long can a work day be in Finland?
Finnish law does not specify any maximum number of hours for a working day. However, the Working Hours Act and the industrial safety authorities provide the following guidelines about the need for rest periods:
- An employee has the right to a rest period of 11 hours each day. This means a maximum of 13 hours may be worked on a single day (24-11=13)
- In periodic work the minimum rest period is 9 hours per day
- Additionally, an employee has the right to a weekly rest period of at least 35 hours each week.
In Finland scheduled work shifts are typically 8 hours long.
Working hours are quite flexible in Finland. Collective agreements and the Working Hours Act include different kinds of templates, but the 8-hour figure is the rule of thumb, and deviations from this must be justified and lawful.
Can overtime pay be included in the salary?
No, it cannot. Employees need to be compensated for working overtime according to the law or their collective agreement. Employees can only be assigned to work overtime with their own consent, and overtime hours cannot be agreed upon in advance.
According to the law, compensation for overtime should be paid as follows:
- For overtime worked on a single day, the hourly pay rate is increased by 50% for the first 2 overtime hours, and for subsequent overtime hours by 100%.
- For overtime worked in relation to total normal weekly working hours, the hourly pay rate is increased by 50%.
- If the salary for an 8-hour day is 80 euros (10 euros per hour), the salary for a 12-hour day is 150 euros: 80 + 15 (for the 9th hour), + 15 (for the 10th hour), + 20 (for the 11th hour), + 20 (for the 12th hour).
- The salary for a 10-hour day can easily be counted by adding 37.5% to the daily salary, 80 + 37.5% = 110.
Employees can also agree to have additional time off work instead of being paid for overtime.
Different collective agreements include various regulations about calculating overtime pay for weekly working hours. Different calculation systems apply to periodic work.
Can employers avoid paying holiday compensation?
No, they cannot. An employee has the lawful right to annual leave, which they earn even during a short period of employment.
During short, fixed-term employment, there is no time for annual leave, so employees instead receive compensation calculated as a percentage of their salary. According to the law this percentage is either 9% or 11.5%, depending on the length of the employment contract.
Different collective agreements also include different regulations regarding holiday compensation percentages. In the film industry the figure is 13.5%, while in the theatre industry it is either 12% or 12.5%.
Does working on a Sunday increase your salary?
Yes. Working on a Sunday increases your salary by 100%.
Sundays, religious holidays, the First of May, and Finland’s Independence Day are marked red in the calendar. These days are national holidays. If you work on a national holiday, your salary is doubled (increased by 100%), in accordance to the Working Hours Act.
The Church Code says the following about religious holidays: “Religious holidays are Christmas Day, the Second Day of Christmas, New Year’s Day, the Twelfth Night, Good Friday, Easter Day, Easter Monday, Ascension Day, Whit Sunday, Midsummer’s Day and All Saints’ Day”.
Collective agreements may also include additional days. For example, Christmas Eve and Maundy Thursday are not, according to the law, national holidays, but collective agreements may categorize them as such. Check your collective agreement to confirm which days are included.
Does your journey to work count as working time?
The time it takes you to travel to and from work is not counted as working hours, if your journey doesn’t involve completing a work task. Employees may however be compensated for the time they lose on their journey to work through a daily allowance. Different collective agreements have different regulations regarding business trips, official journeys and other work-related travel. A recent change is an hourly pay rate of 75% paid for 1-12 hours of commuting time in the film and television industry. This enables employees to be compensated for their lost time.
Does your lunch break count as work time?
For working days longer than six hours employees should be offered a rest period of at least one hour. Employers and employees can, however, agree on a shorter rest period, but it can be no less than 30 minutes.
If an employee is free to leave the workplace and run personal errands during their lunch break this period is not counted as working hours. If the employee is in the workplace and available for work during the lunch hour, this period counts as working time.
Why are there so many different practices regarding the payment of traveling expenses?
This is because procedures vary, and they may not be clearly agreed upon before a business trip or project. You can discuss these points (daily allowance, journey, and accommodation if needed) and find out what kind of practices your employer usually follows. It is a good idea to include them in your employment contract as well.
If an employer sends an employee on a trip to a different city, for example, they need to pay a daily allowance as well as traveling expenses to cover the cheapest public transport option.
For information on tax-free travel expenses see the Finnish Tax Administration website vero.fi.
What if you sign an unlawful employment contract?
Any unlawful part of any contract will not be legally binding even if you have signed it. However, other parts of the contract may still be binding.
For example, if a contract states that no overtime payment will apply, this part of the contract is unlawful and will not hold if the employee asks for it to be corrected, even after the contract has been discontinued.
Employees may ask their trade union to review their employment contract before signing, if the content of the contract seems unclear. An unreasonable contractual stipulation can always be mediated, even if the rest of the contract may remain binding.
2. UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS AND SOCIAL SECURITY IN FINLAND
Social security is a broad concept that relates to the protection of people’s livelihoods and their quality of life. During challenging times such as unemployment, illness, incapacity to work, old age and parenthood, society supports its individual members.
Social security includes pension security, paid sick leave, unemployment benefits and maternity allowance, among other forms of support. In Finland, social security is funded mainly from tax revenue and in part by contributions paid by employers and employees. You can find good basic information about this subject on the website of the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela).
When am I entitled to unemployment benefit? All individuals from ages 17 to 68 living in Finland are entitled to unemployment benefit. Finland has two different types of unemployment benefit: the basic unemployment allowance paid by Kela, and an earnings-related higher allowance paid by unemployment funds. In addition to these allowances unemployed persons may also be eligible for labour market subsidy, an allowance paid by Kela to assist job seekers who are entering the labour market for the first time, or who have been unemployed for a long period of time.You are eligible for earnings-related allowances if you fulfil these three conditions:
These conditions are usually fulfilled if a person has been employed for 26 weeks while simultaneously being a member of an unemployment fund and paying the agreed membership fees.
You can verify your employment by showing your salary slips. Each week during which you worked 18 or more hours can be counted as a working week (except in teaching, where a smaller amount of hours is often enough). Employment periods do not necessarily have to be continuous for 26 weeks, or in succession.
The work, however, does need to be a “real” job covered by an employment contract. Working on a grant, for copyright compensation, or doing voluntary work does not qualify.
Earnings-related allowances are calculated according to your previous earnings. The sum varies from 42 to 150 euros per day.
Guide to unemployment fund benefits 2018: http://www.tyj.fi/fin/materiaali/etuusopas/ https://www.tyj.fi/fin/lomakkeet_ja_opas/etuusopas/
The basic unemployment allowance paid by Kela (42 euros per day in 2018) on Kela’s website: http://www.kela.fi/web/en
Why do you not earn unemployment benefit if you invoice through a billing service?
Unemployment benefit can only be earned only through employment covered by contract. Billing services like Eezy and Ukko are not legally employers for those people who invoice through them. In legal terms they are more like accounting firms. As they are not employers, they also do not have the same kinds of responsibilities as employers concerning calculating overtime hours, paying for accident insurance, or hiring substitutes when an employee is ill. Unemployment funds cannot accept billing services or small co-operatives as employers if their main purpose is invoicing.
What are social insurance payments?
Social insurance payments are statutory. In Finland, they are paid by employers and employees together. The employer deducts a certain percentage from the employee’s salary and accounts for it.
Employer’s contributions:Pension contribution; unemployment insurance contribution; group life insurance, accident insurance payments, social security insurance payments.
The costs of these social insurance payments for the employer amount to about 25% of the employee’s salary.
Employee’s contributions: Pension contribution, unemployment insurance contribution, health insurance payment (included in income tax). Social insurance payments amounting to about 6% of total salary, depending on their age, are deducted from employees’ salaries in addition to income tax.
In addition to the payments listed above, employers are responsible for holiday pay, paid sick leave, and hiring substitutes, as well as payments related to occupational health care, training and other expenses. These additional costs typically increase the total expense of employing personnel by about 35-50%. These payments vary yearly and depending on the field in question.
To find out which of your previous employers in the private sector have paid pension contributions for you, you can ask for a copy of your personal record from the register of the Finnish Centre for Pensions (ETK). If anything in the register is unclear, you can ask ETK to look into it: http://www.etk.fi/en/service/home/770
3. SPECIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF WORK IN THE ARTS
What is the difference between a freelancer and a self-employed person?
A freelancer is one category of self-employed person. In Finland, freelancers usually work in creative fields. They usually work as contracted employees with short, fixed-term employment contracts. Centuries ago the term “free lance” was used to refer to a mercenary soldier available for hire. Nowadays in the 21st century freelancers are temporary workers who may have as many as twenty short-term jobs per year. However, the word “freelancer” does not itself say anything about the job or its nature. A freelancer can be employed by contract, or work independently by commission. The same applies to self-employed individuals, who may work as an entrepreneurs, invoice clients directly (without a company of their own), or be employed in their own projects, etc.
In example 1 the scriptwriter works under an employment contract that is covered by labour law. This means that he/she has a salary and earns annual leave and unemployment benefits. In addition to this, the employer takes care of their statutory duties, such as accident insurance and pension security payments.
In example 2 the scriptwriter does not earn any employee benefits, because he/she is not under an employment contract. He/she is self-employed and thus does not earn unemployment benefits or pension security. He/she is nevertheless required to pay taxes. Basically the job description is the same, but the situation is different in terms of social security.
What does it mean to give up copyrights?
As a creative artist you need to negotiate concerning the extent to which you surrender copyrights, and how you are compensated for this. If these terms are not discussed, the copyrights remain with you as the creator of the work. Giving up all copyrights is rarely necessary, as often the right to use the work in question is enough for the employer or producer. Teme’s position on this is that when an employer wants to own part of the copyrights, they should always pay for them accordingly. According to the law, giving up all copyrights is not even possible. This is because some fundamental “immaterial rights” cannot be given away. When the rights are itemized, it is a good idea to make sure that the immaterial rights (mainly the right of attribution, to be acknowledged as the creator, as well as the right of integrity) and the so-called Kopiosto (Copyright Society) compensation (including private copying levy) are not included in the copyrights that are being given up. More information about copyrights can be found on the Kopiosto website http://www.kopiosto.fi/kopiosto/en_GB/
Do artists have fixed working hours?
Both Finnish law and collective agreements view artistic work as a regular job that is agreed upon by contract. The job is done at a certain time in a certain place. According to the law, regular working hours amount to eight hours per day and forty hours per week.
In the film industry work is divided into three periods: pre-production, filming and post-production. Also here the starting point is that employees should work 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week. In the theatre industry artistic work is often counted in total working hours, with the total number of hours worked then divided into working weeks of 38¼ hours (5 working days of 7 hours 40 minutes).
Please contact Teme's office for help and support in regards to your professional life:
Theatre and Media Employees Finland, Teme
Meritullinkatu 33 A 31,
Tel +358 40 675 2787
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