A postcard from... Finland

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Our 'postcard from' series keeps your updated on key HR areas in different countries

Economic briefing

You could be forgiven for imagining an economy reliant on elves making toys for Christmastime. But this EU state’s biggest industry is electronics, and its largest company Nokia.

Demographics

Around 5.4 million people live in Finland, with the largest clusters around cities such as Helsinki and Turku. When major trading partner Russia experiences economic problems Finland tends to suffer too, so the past few years have been tough; unemployment figures reached a high of 11.8%. However, this has dropped to around 7.8%, hinting at a recovery.

No minimum wage

One of the biggest differences between UK and Finnish employment law is the lack of a statutory minimum wage. However, most employees are covered by legally binding collective agreements that specify minimum pay rates for various sectors. “Collective agreements in different sectors provide for more flexibility, but that suggests to me that some employees are entitled to a higher minimum wage than others. Such ‘value judgments’ are always subjective, and would be quite unpopular over here,” says Tom Stenner-Evans, senior associate at UK-based law firm Michelmores.

Working week

There are also differences between the maximum number of hours worked per week compared with the UK. “There are rest break rules enshrined in the Working Time Regulations in England and Wales, but the Finnish system appears to be far more rigid,” Stenner-Evans says. Regular working hours must generally not exceed eight hours a day and 40 hours a week in Finland.

From the HR frontline

Hannele Jakosuo-Jansson, SVP human resources and safety at oil company Neste, says: “We Finns, like other Nordics, are considered to be straightforward and trustworthy, having clean, green values.

“Finland is known for its high standard of living and education system, as well as for high-tech international businesses such as renewable energy... Doing business in Finland has some special characteristics; Finland, like many other European countries, has a strong trade union movement heritage that sets certain requirements for bigger companies.”

Heading for a ‘Finleave’?

In April lawmakers held a debate on whether Finland should quit the Euro after 53,000 people signed a petition to force the issue into parliament. The deputy prime minister of Finland’s coalition government and leader of the Finns Party, Timo Soini, is an outspoken critic of the EU. But Finns Party MP Kaj Turunen tweeted: “In this situation an own currency doesn’t have any chance.” So it seems unlikely that Finland will hold a referendum on leaving any time soon.

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