Checklist for new workers
Below you find a general description of some key issues connected to working life in Finland. You get more information from the shop steward of your workplace, from your own trade union and through the links on this page.
Join a union
It’s a good idea to join a trade union when you come to work in Finland. Most employees in Finland belong to the trade union for their industry.
The union will help you if you have problems with your employer, and it will also negotiate improved terms and conditions of employment on your behalf. Unions also administer unemployment funds that pay earnings-linked benefits if you lose your job.
The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) maintains an English language website at tradeunion.fi that will help you to find the right trade union.
A job always involves making some sort of employment contract with an employer. Oral contracts and tacit agreements are binding, but it is always a good idea to make a written contract, as it is easier to settle any disputes when you can show what was originally agreed.
Before signing an employment contract you should check that it specifies at least the following:
The parties to the contract:
The name and domicile of the employer and the employee
The length of any agreed trial period:
A trial period gives both parties an opportunity to consider whether the employment contract meets their expectations in practice. This period is normally no longer than six months. During this period both the employer and the employee are normally free to withdraw from the arrangement and cancel the contract without observing any period of notice.
- Is the employment regular (“open-ended”) or temporary, or is this a trainee position?
- The reason for the time limit in temporary employment
- The time when the work begins and the duration of any temporary employment
- The place where the work will be done
- The nature of the duties
The pay, benefits in kind and payment period:
The pay specified in an employment contract may not be lower than the collective agreement rate for the industry. Remember that employees in Finland are also entitled to sick pay.
Full-time work in Finland means a five-day week and a working day of about 7.5 to 8 hours. Although day-to-day working hours may vary in work that has been arranged in periods, the total average working time must correspond to the collective agreement for the industry.
Special bonuses are paid for overtime and weekend work in Finland.
If you agree to do a part-time job, then try to make sure that you have enough working hours to make an adequate income. Try to avoid signing any employment contract for weekly working hours that vary between zero and some specified upper limit. Such a contract may leave you with no work or income in some weeks.
- The collective agreement that applies to the work and regulates the employment contract
The period of notice:
Both the employer and the employee must respect the period of notice. Instant dismissal is not normally possible after completing the trial period. The employer must always have substantial and pressing grounds for dismissing an employee.
The employer may not terminate a temporary employment contract prematurely. Nor may the employee resign from such an arrangement before it ends, although it is often possible for the employer and the employee to negotiate a solution in such cases.
There is no statutory minimum wage in Finland, but collective agreements establish minimum wage rates for almost all industries. The wage rates specified in the collective agreement apply equally to all employees, including employees of foreign enterprises on temporary assignment to Finland and foreign agency workers.
Collective agreements also specify many other minimum terms and conditions of employment. There is no need for individual employees to negotiate on these points, as they have already been settled between the union and the employers' federation.
Wages are generally paid into the employee’s bank account. Arrangements to pay cash in hand should be viewed with suspicion, as they often mean that the employer has not made all of the deductions and contributions required by law.
You will need a passport or other official proof of identity in order to open a bank account. This is also easier to arrange if you already have a Finnish identity number.
Everyday life in Finland (in Finnish and English)
Official deductions from pay
You should check your first pay slip to ensure that the correct taxes and social security contributions have been deducted:
Your withholding tax percentage is shown on a tax document that you should obtain from the tax authority. You will also need a Finnish identity number to obtain this document. You should give the tax document to your employer when your work begins.
Employee’s pension contribution:
Your work in Finland will entitle you to an earnings-related pension. The employer is legally required to deduct pension contributions from your pay.
- Unemployment security contribution
Your trade union membership fee will be deducted from your pay if you have agreed this with your employer, but you may also decide to make your own fee payments to the union. Depending on the union, the total membership fee will generally vary between 1 and 2 per cent of your gross pay.
An employer must familiarise the employee with conditions at the workplace, safety regulations, and the operation of any machinery and appliances. The employer must also arrange insurance covering losses and damage caused to employees or their families by accidents and occupational illness arising at work.
Details of working and unions in various industries
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration publishes annual guides to terms and conditions of employment and pay scales for pickers of cultivated berries in several languages.
Wages and terms of employment applied in berrypicking (in Finnish and English)
Some facts about the electrical industry and the Electrical Workers’ Union (in English, Estonian, Polish, Romanian, Russian and Turkish)
Information on the metal and technology industries and the Finnish Metalworkers’ Union Metalli (in English and Russian)
Information on the public sector and the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors JHL (in Finnish, English, Russian, Estonian and Spanish)
Other useful links for foreign workers in Finland
The In To service point in Helsinki specialises in assisting people who come to work in Finland. This joint service of Kela and the Finnish Tax Administration provides advice on social security, taxation and public authorities dealing with immigration in Finland.
There is an information pack for foreign workers in Finland on the central website of the Employment and Economic Development Offices.
The website of the Institute of Occupational Health provides basic information on working in Finland in 13 languages.
The Infopankki service provides practical information for immigrants in 12 languages.
SAK website includes entry-level guidance on the world of work in nine languages: Estonian, Russian, Arabic, Somali, Chinese, Thai, French, German, and Spanish.