Today we have the huge privilege of interviewing kind Finnish lawyers on employment law in Finland! 🙂 The intention of this interview is to initiate an online discourse that provides some brief information on employment law to expats and immigrants in Finland.
We hope that the following interview helps illuminate employment law in Finland a bit better. If you have any questions, the professional lawyers at FLE would be more than happy to clarify your doubts.
Feel free to leave a remark in the comments section to this blog post, or make an appointment with them if you ever encounter any employment woes or disputes!
WW: Hello lawyers! Can you tell us more about FLE and yourselves?
FLE: Finnish Law and Economy Ltd (FLE) was founded in 1996 and is located near good connections in the Technopolis premises in Otaniemi, Espoo.
FLE specializes in continuous risk management for small and medium-sized businesses and solving problematic situations in a manner that is most cost-effective for the client. FLE also offers services relating to the various life situations of private persons.
We welcome challenging civil and criminal offence cases, both in and out of court. We are passionate about our work and driven by the desire to win even the most challenging cases. We make the goals of our clients our own, and use all possible legal measures to obtain these goals.
At our office, results are more important than being formal!
Currently, our Trainee team comprises of Lauri Miikkulainen, Nico Mesiäinen, Ville Peurasuo, Julius Autio and Jouni Aarnio. Emiljan Ceci is our project manager.
Our Lawyers are Jukka Autio and Pekko Linnanmäki.
WW: It is a popular belief that Finnish labour unions are amongst the strongest in the world, with unions doing collective bargaining on the employee’s behalf. What are some customer profiles of the clients who approach your firm then–do they fall through the cracks of being taken care of by labour unions?
FLE: There are major differences between legal services which are offered by labour unions and private practices. Labour unions focus mostly on consulting their members about general issues. Due to large amount of cases and limited number of lawyers within labour unions, it is not possible for them to handle many litigation cases.
In most cases private practices handle litigation cases instead of labour unions. Indeed, it is common for labour unions to suggest their members to seek legal consultation from private practices.
It is necessary to have a lawyer who is licensed to represent clients in litigation cases, something that the labour unions usually lack.
WW: It has often been said that “Finns are honest”. What do you think about this statement in relation to employment in Finland?
FLE: Employers usually respect the rights of employees.
WW: What are some of the most memorable cases your firm had fought and won when it comes to employment law?
FLE: Our firm has mostly represented employers, for example the Finnish Real Estate Management Federation, when it comes to employment law.
However, during the past few months we have received several assignments for example from immigrants, who do not have a clear understanding about Finnish jurisdiction and are in need of legal consultation.
WW: How can an employee in Finland tell a reliable lawyer apart from a lawyer who is not so reliable? Are there any subtle cues to look out for?
FLE: The Finnish Bar Association has established a code of conduct for all lawyers practicing in Finland in order to guarantee that clients rights are respected and that lawyers follow high professional standards in all assignments.
WW: It sometimes happens that employees are not offered written contracts, with them blindly trusting their client/employers with a verbal agreement.
However, when the job is completed, the employers might come up with a long list of reasons for non-payment, and the employees would then have no choice but to write the payment off as bad debt.
Do you have any tips for employees to avoid this situation? For example, some employees might not know how to request politely about the written contract.
FLE: Oral agreements are legally binding. The employee only needs to prove that he/she has been working. However, employees should always ensure that they have written contracts, as it is for their benefit.
WW: What is the one law regarding employment you think most employees in Finland don’t know, but should?
FLE: Especially immigrants are not aware that there are strict rules when it comes to questions that concern terminations of employment.
WW: If you have the opportunity to make Finnish employment law better, what is the one thing you would like to change?
FLE: That asylum seekers would have better opportunities to live and work in Finland.
WW: Can you tell us more about legal aid in Finland, and who is entitled to it?
FLE: Mostly natural people who reside in Finland are entitled to legal aid if they do not have the necessary funds to pay the legal cost themselves. Students are often in such situation.
If one is granted legal aid, the State covers the cost fully or partly. Companies and other entities are not entitled to legal aid.
WW: What happens if the hours for legal aid is used up? Would legal costs after that be astronomical?
FLE: One can apply for more legal aid if necessary and if certain criteria are met. It is possible to charge up to 110€ per hour when it comes to legal aid.
WW: It is a popular belief that it is usually the weaker party who initiates the lawsuit against the stronger party, because the latter only needs to threaten. For example, when an employee wants to bring his employer to court, his employer might countersue for libel, and the employee might therefore be forced to back off.
How do you think employees can deal with this?
FLE: These kind of cases are very rare in Finland.
WW: How can the employee know if the lawyer he approaches has any affiliation with the company he is suing?
FLE: Lawyers have to follow the Finnish Bar Association’s code of conduct, which is regulated and supervised by the Association.
Therefore one cannot take a case if one is disqualified in a certain matter.
WW: In Finland there is such a case as “paid thesis” for students in the top Finnish schools, such as Haaga-Helia, Aalto University and Helsinki University, to name a few. In the event that students do not get paid for their thesis work done, or is paid less than the promised amount, can they seek resolution in spite of the small amount?
FLE: It is normal to get money from writing a thesis. If one is not paid for writing a thesis, and it was agreed that one would be, it would be a breach of contract. It is possible to start a litigation process in situations where there has been a breach.
WW: In addition, even if contracts are signed sometimes for thesis work, there might be deviations from the scope due to differences in academic and practical approaches, or the company could simply pick on the rigour of the students’ work and deny payment. What is your advice for students on this?
FLE: The contract has to be clear, mutually agreed and exact in detail.
WW: Some employees are offered a “fixed term contract”, renewable yearly, for an extended period of time. What is your advice for them–since they might be stuck in a double bind as not wanting to lose their jobs/ create legal conflict, yet wanting to be offered a reasonable and fair renumeration/compensation?
FLE: Fixed term contracts have to be justified, as permanent contracts are more common.
We hope you find this interview informative! If you are facing an employment dispute, please do not hesitate to contact the lawyers here or visit their website / facebook page. Stay educated and informed! 😉