Working Time

Working time means the time used to work and the time during which the employee is obliged to be available to the employer at the work place. The time spent on commuting between home and workplace is not working time. It can be if it’s considered a work performance.

Travelling to work is not included in working time unless it is considered a work performance. You can agree on work carried out while commuting with the employer. In a job where you move from one client location to another, also the commuting between the work locations is considered working time.

Remember that you can deduct commuting costs in your taxation!

What is regular working time?

Regular working hours according to the law is no more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week.

In many industries, a shorter regular working time has been agreed in the collective labour agreements. (e.g. 37.5 h/wk)

When using the average working time, the regular maximum must be evened out according to the law and the collective labour agreement. It can be flexible on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

You can agree on flexible work with the employer, if at least half of your working time is such that you can independently determine the time and place for work. Flexiwork enables a more flexible use of working time and you can decide on the place for work more freely. The agreement does not increase the maximum working time, instead it is a question of a sort of extended flexible working hours.

The agreement concerning flexiwork must contain:

  • the days the employee can allocate working time to
  • the allocation of the weekly rest
  • a possible fixed working time (not 11 pm – 6 am)
  • the applicable working time after the contract is ended

Flexitime is suitable to duties where you are not expected to be at a fixed work station to perform your duties. In flexitime you record your working hours yourself and submit the information to your employer who will attach it to the records of working hours.

The employer and employee can agree on flexible working hours. Then the employees can determine the starting and ending time of their work day within agreed limits.

When agreeing on flexible working hours you need to agree on:

  • the uninterrupted fixed working hours
  • the flexible time band limit per day and how it is allocated
  • the allocation of rest times
  • the maximum accrual of bandwidth up or down

The maximum bandwidth by law is 4 hours. The weekly regular working hours can on average not exceed 40 hours within a follow-up period of four months. This can be higher or lower within the bandwidth limits. As the follow-up period ends, the accrual of exceeding time must no be more that 60 hours and the time under the regular hours not more than 20 hours.

The Working Hours Act contains provisions on the statutory working time bank. In addition, workplaces may have working time banks or similar arrangements in place that are based on the collective labour agreements. Workplaces can either use a statutory working time bank or one that is based on the collective labour agreement. Both systems cannot be in use simultaneously.

The working time bank as intended in the Working Hours Act refers to a system by which the working time, earned leaves or monetary benefits converted to free-time can be saved or combined with each other. The employer and primarily the shop steward can agree on the introduction of a working time bank in writing.

The agreement must include e.g. the following:

  • instalments that can be transferred
  • saving limits
  • termination of the working hours bank
  • principles and procedures concerning the leave

The working time bank can include extra and overtime hours and hours accrued in the flexible working hours system with certain limitations. In addition, the working time bank can have monetary benefits transferred to it that are based on the law or an agreement and have been converted into hours.

The wages paid for regular working hours must not be transferred to the working time bank. As far as the statutory system is concerned, more detailed provisions have been made on the time of taking a leave and how many times that can be done.

Shift work refers to work in which the work shifts change regularly and in periods that are agreed on in advance. Shift work can be performed in two or three shifts.

Agreeing on shifts
The employer decides on the allocation of working time, i.e. at what time and how long the shift is for each employee at any given time. The allocation of working hours can also be agreed in the work contract, if necessary.

Night work is performed between 11 pm and 6 am. The Working Hours Act defines the duties in which night work can be done regularly. It is allowed to have temporary night work done regardless of the industry. If night work is particularly risky or considerably hard physically or mentally, the working time is not more than eight hours per day.

The collective labour agreement provides for cases in which a separate compensation is paid for night work. Night work is often connected to shift work. In shift work, shifts must be changed regularly. Guidelines on shift work can be found in the field-specific collective labour agreements.


The employer must compile a work shift list in advance showing when an employee’s regular working time shall start and end. Furthermore, a work shift list must contain the times for daily breaks. The work shift list or roster is usually compiled for the same time frame as the plan for balancing out the working time, if the average working hours or the hours of period are used at the workplace.

The work shift list must be released for information no later than one week before the period starts. After this the employer can change the work shift list only for a justified reason or with the employee’s consent. If changes are made to the work shift list, they must be brought to the employee’s attention in person.

If the employer wants to give employees who work with changing working hours work shifts that exceed the minimum working time agreed in the work contract, the employees must have an opportunity to say, within a time limit, to what extent and on what conditions they can accept the work. The deadline must not be earlier than one week prior to compiling the work shift list. However, for work that has no change in the allocation of regular working time or that applies flexible working hours or flexitime, the work shift list can be submitted as being valid until further notice.

The work shift list may come up in the provisions of the collective labour agreement, too. The employer must consider the provisions of the collective labour agreement it follows. Some collective labour agreements stipulate e.g. that the employer must never change the work shift list unilaterally.

On call

The employer and employee can agree that the employee will be available in their free time so that they can be called to work. The time on call isn’t normally considered as work. The employee can spend “the on call free time” in the way they want. They don’t have to be in the workplace during the on call time. If the employee is called to work during that time, the work performed is naturally considered working time. In some situations the work can become so binding that even the time on call becomes working time. Being on call must not disrupt the employee’s use of free time unreasonably.

The working time is defined in the work contract.

Being on call must be included in an agreement in which the compensation for being on call as well as its other conditions are agreed. In ambiguous situations concerning being on call, you should contact the shop steward at your workplace or your own trade union.

Being on duty usually refers to the employer having ordered the employee to be at the workplace available for the employer for working. In the situation above being on duty is considered the employee’s working time.

Extra work and overtime

Extra work is the work performed in addition to the actual working time that does not exceed the legal maximum working hours, i.e. 40 hours per week. Work exceeding the maximum working hours as provided by law is overtime. The collective labour agreements can also agree on a lower limit for overtime.

Extra work and overtime are done by the employer’s initiative, but with the employee’s consent. Extra work may also have been agreed in the work contract. In contracts with changing working hours (e.g. zero-hour contracts) it is forbidden to give one’s consent to extra work in a work contract.

Extra work is paid for with the same wages as normal working hours and for overtime additional overtime compensation is paid on top of normal wages. Extra and overwork are usually agreed on in more detail in collective labour agreements.

The collective labour agreement provides for cases in which a separate compensation is paid for night work. Night work is often connected to shift work. In shift work, shifts must be changed regularly. Guidelines on shift work can be found in the field-specific collective labour agreements.