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    The Finnish labor legislation – an introduction part 6

    General collective agreement for universities — the 1600-hour-rule
    In this text, I will discuss some of the common problems researchers and teachers may face when encountering the working time system of teachers and researchers, or, “the 1600-hour-rule”, as it is also referred to.

    The work plan

    The total annual working time of teachers and researchers is 1600 hours. The collective agreement requires that a work plan should be done for the full working year. According to the collective agreement, the working plan should be compiled in cooperation with the employee and the supervisor before the next academic year begins. If need for revision appears, for example due to a longer period of sick leave, the work plan must be altered so that it reflects the changed situation. The problem, however, often seems to be that the work plan has not been made at all. Consequently, there is no work plan to modify, if the need for this rises. And if there is a work plan, it is often the case that the employer/supervisor has neglected to revise it even when there has occurred a need to do so. Since the work plan, and also revising the work plan when required, are mandatory, the employer is in violation of the collective agreement if these matters are not in order. The shop stewards may advice and help teachers and researchers on these occasions.

    Free time vs. holiday

    The collective agreement allows for a lot of flexibility for the employees in organizing their own working hours. Basically, the employees may work when and where they want. There are some restrictions to this right, of course, such as the possible lab hours, teaching or scheduled appointments. But other than that, the employer may not oversee or make decisions concerning the working hours or the place where the work is done. Orders, or “guidelines” such as “the employee must be present at the work place for 3 or 4 days per week”, are not allowed and constitute a breach of the collective agreement. In the 1600-hour-system, the employees are themselves personally responsible for taking the equivalent amount of free time that they would have as a holiday (2-2,5 days per month). They are not under obligation to negotiate or ask for holiday from the employer (of course, teaching and such things must always be considered and performed according to the study plan).

    The problem with the 1600-hour-rule system is that it is not entirely equivalent with the Annual Holidays Act. The Annual Holidays Act provides the employees with a certain amount of work-free days (holidays) per each working month. If there is a case where the employee has not been able to have all of their holidays before the employment contract ends, the rest is always paid out in money. However, the general collective agreement for universities appears to be at odds with the Annual Holidays Act concerning this issue. It does not provide the same monetary compensation for those working under a 1600-hour contract. If the employee has not had all of their holidays when the contract ends (due to a fixed-term contract ending or a termination of the employment contract), according to the collective agreement, no money is paid out to compensate for the lost holiday/free time. Therefore, the employee must always make sure to have their holiday/free time fully used before the employment contract ends.

    For further information please visit: www.sivistystyonantajat.fi/ tiedostopankki/158/General_collective_agreement_for_universities_1_April_2014_31_January_2017.pdf.

    text Mia Weckman
    lawyer, the finnish union of university researchers and teachers

    • Painetussa lehdessä sivu 42