Fewer misunderstandings with employment contracts in English

The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) recommends drafting employment contracts for employees of foreign origin in English when this improves understanding.
24.10.2016 06:51

The employee rights advisory service for immigrants opened by SAK in March has received numerous requests to translate employment contracts into English.

“Contracts drafted in English would lead to fewer misunderstandings at work. Nobody’s interests are served when employees have to use an online translation engine to clarify their employment terms,” explains Anna-Liisa Häkkinen, a lawyer at the employee rights advisory service for immigrants.

Employment contracts are most commonly made in English by larger businesses in sectors organised by SAK. These companies already use English as a working language. Anna-Liisa Häkkinen feels that other employers could easily follow suit where necessary. Translated agreement templates can already be found in the collective agreements for some industries and on the website of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“Merely calling attention to a translated version can already help the employee to understand what has been agreed, so it may not be necessary to sign the final document in English.”

Besides employment contracts, the employee rights advisory service has responded to questions about wages, residence permits and pay arrears, and issues arising from hours of work and termination of employment.

“The problems encountered by immigrants at work are much the same as those faced by ordinary Finnish employees, but the language barrier makes them trickier to handle in practice. If the average Finn tends to be reluctant to raise important issues at work, then immigrants are often even less inclined to do so,” Häkkinen observes.

The employee rights advisory service for immigrants responds between 9 and 11 a.m. and between 12 and 3 p.m. on Monday to Thursday. A toll-free telephone service is available on 0800 414 004 and queries can be e-mailed to workinfinland@sak.fi. The service lawyer responds in Finnish or in English.

The SAK advisory service is part of the At Work in Finland project subsidised by the European Social Fund ESF. The project is co-ordinated by the City of Helsinki, with support from the City of Espoo, the City of Vantaa, the Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce, Uusimaa Employment and Economic Development Office, Uusimaa Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, and the Moniheli association. The ESF project plan continues until the end of August 2018.

The employee rights advisory service for immigrants has a page on the SAK website.
There is also a Facebook page.
A general employment contract template in English is available from the website of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.