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Union: Extending workers' overtime hours could result in fewer new hires

Proposed changes to laws regarding workers' overtime hours could encourage employers to not take on new staff, according to Finland's largest worker's union.

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Image: AOP

A government’s proposal to introduce measures it says will increase work flexibility could result in more people working overtime, according to the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK).

The proposed changes on how overtime work is calculated is an important question for Finnish society, because more people could be hired if those already employed worked less overtime, the union said.

SAK lawyer Anu-Tuija Lehto said workers must consent to work overtime, but in some cases it may difficult for them to refuse.

“It may be the policy of the employer that extra work is done as overtime, instead of hiring more work force,” she said.

If approved, the proposed law would increase the allowed overtime from 2,250 hours to slightly above 2,300 hours per year. Under the new rules, in a four-week period, the number of working hours could not exceed an average of 48 hours per week.

The last time laws on working time were updated in Finland was in 1996.

Union: Changes would increase flexibility but also risks

Under current legislation, some overtime work requires approval from shop stewards, but under the new law such approval be unneccessary. SAK said a law change will make it easier for employers to demand employees to work overtime.

The proposal will also see the creation of new flexible work time, where employees can decide when and where they work. In practice, this kind of arrangement would be available to professionals and experts in fields where their presence in the office is not always required.

Maria Löfgren from the public sector union Juko said there is a risk that if the flexible work legislation is approved, it will mean professionals will no longer qualify for overtime pay.

However, the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff, Akava, has a positive view on the proposal. “It is not common for professionals to get paid overtime anyway,” Lotta Savinko from Akava said.

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