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Working group examined grounds for updating labour legislation to promote work-life balance

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment
Publication date 14.12.2021 8.45
Press release
Father and his two children walking on a street

A tripartite working group prepared a number of legislative amendments for the implementation of the Work-life Balance Directive and the Finnish family leave reform. In addition, the group compared the current labour legislation with the Government’s objectives to improve gender equality at work and in families.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment appointed the working group for a term from 3 December 2019 until 31 December 2021. The group submitted its report to the Ministry on 14 December 2021. It does not propose any legislative amendments based on the Government Programme. However, the report includes a dissenting opinion and a supplementary statement.

Family leave reform promotes gender equality in working life

The working group was assigned to prepare the legislative amendments for implementing the Work-life Balance Directive that fall within the mandate of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. The Directive lays down provisions on paternity leave, parental leave and carers' leave, on flexible working arrangements for parents or carers and on legal protection for those using the right to flexible working arrangements. The provisions are minimum requirements designed to achieve gender equality in working life and facilitate the reconciliation of work and family life.

In Finland, the Directive will be implemented alongside the family leave reform. The family leave reform will enter into force on 1 August 2022. It aims to increase gender equality both in the daily lives of families and in working life. The position of women in the labour market will improve when family leave is divided more equally between the two parents. This will affect attitudes, which in turn can reduce discrimination against women in working life.

Flexible working hours and protection for employees returning from family leave under review

In line with the Government Programme, the working group reviewed the legislation regarding

  • flexibility in working hours to support work-life balance and coping at work
  • protection against discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy for temporary employees
  • protection against unjustified termination for employees returning from family leave.

The working group states that part-time work is already possible under the current Finnish labour legislation. The implementation of the family leave reform and the Work-life Balance Directive will further improve the opportunities to part-time work for parents with small children.

The current Employment Contracts Act already offers stronger protection for pregnant employees and employees taking family leave. Stronger protection applies even to employees who return to work from family leave. The Act on Equality between Women and Men bans gender-based discrimination and prohibits treating employees less favourably than others on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or parenthood.

The working group had differing views on whether provisions banning discrimination on grounds of pregnancy and family leave should be included in the Employment Contracts Act. However, it does not propose any such amendments to the Act. Discrimination can be best prevented by changing attitudes and practices at work. The needs to amend the Act on Equality between Women and Men will be reviewed by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

Seija Jalkanen, Chief Specialist, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 295 048 952

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