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Study: Executives and sales directors put in most overtime

Regular overtime work is common in many occupations in Finland, with some managers, machine workers and teachers putting in eight hours of extra work weekly.

Image: Mikko Airikka | Yle

This spring saw a string of overtime bans in the construction, health care and retail sectors, among others, as employees and their employers negotiated the terms and conditions of their working agreements for the next few years. Labour unions often use an overtime ban as a weapon to secure better salaries and working conditions for their members.

But just how common is overtime work in Finland? And in a country with a highly regulated work climate like Finland, does it ever reach excessive proportions?

The Finnish Broadcasting Company asked the state-owned number cruncher Statistics Finland to compile a list of data it had on overtime work by occupation from 2017.

In terms of number of hours per week that people work overtime, metal smiths, tool makers and shop machine operators come in first with a weekly average of 11 hours of overtime.

They are followed by electric installers and repairers and plant machine operators at nine hours weekly. Machine installers and repairers join workers from close to a dozen other professionals that report an average of eight hours of overtime weekly.

Health and social care workers misrepresented

Health care professionals tend to call the most attention to the amount of overtime they are required to do, but figures from Statistics Finland show that at least a dozen occupations put in more hours of overtime each week than physicians, nurses and midwives.

Both teachers (8-hour average) and restaurant workers (7-hour average) are located higher up on the list of weekly overtime hours than doctors (6–hour average) and nurses (5-hour average), for example.

The Tehy union for health and social care professionals in Finland says that this is because the current system dictates that an employee working extra hours to replace a sick colleague, for example, is normally given a day off two or three weeks later in return. This work is not considered overtime and therefore is not eligible for any additional compensation.

"This is a huge problem in the social and health care field," says Tehy's advocacy director Else-Mai Kirvesniemi.

Overtime part of the package as a manager

In terms of the percentage of workers in a certain field that put in regular overtime, however, management positions come out on top. Close to one in every three business executives and administrative directors, or 30 percent, report doing an average of 7 hours a week of overtime.

Sales, marketing and development managers come in second, with slightly more than one in five, or 21 percent, of people that work in such positions saying that they do an extra 8 hours of work weekly. Third place goes to work supervisors in Finland's mines, industry and construction, where 20 percent do 8 hours of overtime. In practice, this means that these executives are putting in an entire extra day of work each week.

Annina Ropponen, senior researcher for the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, says working overtime is acceptable as long as it doesn't happen all the time.

"If someone's work week continuously exceeds 50 hours for long periods, the chances of health risks arising increase. There could be long-term repercussions for that person's wellbeing," she says.

The figures from Statistics Finland indicate overtime hours reported by workers in various professions that are both paid and unpaid. Why would anyone do extra work that they are not compensated for? Petri Böckerman from the Labour Institute for Economic Research in Finland says it often pays off:

"Over a longer period of time employees can potentially get a good return on their unpaid overtime because it shows they are motivated and loyal. This can help them advance in their careers."

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