Insight

Welcome to our platform for insight into all the latest in law and business. We hope to inspire and share big ideas that make the difference driving your business forward.

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#MeToo: How Employers Should React To Reported Sexual Harassment and Inappropriate Behaviour?
4 Dec 2017 The #MeToo campaign in social media has given rise to discussions on the frequency of sexual harassment throughout the world, and also in Finland. As a result of the unprecedented media attention and changed attitudes, it is predictable that the number of claims related to harassment and inappropriate behaviour in the workplaces will increase in the short run. Employers should be prepared for such claims and situations where harassment or inappropriate behaviour is brought to discussion and to employer’s attention. Employers' Responsibilities Employers have a statutory obligation to take care of the safety and health of their employees while at work by taking the necessary measures in order to protect them against sexual harassment and unwanted behaviour. Accordingly, employers shall continuously monitor the working environment and implement internal guidance on how to proceed with the reported harassment cases. After becoming aware of the harassment or other inappropriate treatment of an employee, the employer has a statutory obligation to intervene in the situation. It is not clear, whether seeing a #MeToo posted by an employee in social media would create an obligation for the employer to ask whether the employee has experienced harassment in the workplace. In general, this would not alone constitute such obligation to the employer, as the harassment should be expressly reported to the employer on a more detailed level. "The employer has a statutory obligation to intervene after becoming aware of the harassment or other inappropriate treatment of an employee." The Finnish Employment legislation does not state, how employers should solve the reported harassment cases, as the necessary actions to be taken are determined on a case-by-case basis. It is important to train each superior in the required extent to face such situations in order to have an efficient knowledge and readiness on how to appropriately react to reported cases. Suggested Action Plan After Becoming Aware Of Harassment: 1Find out in an objective manner what has happened. Discuss with all the relevant employees involved. 2Take immediately all necessary measures in order to stop the undesired behavior in the workplace. Contact your legal advisor, if necessary. 3Do not forget to document in writing all discussions, possible warnings and instructions given to the employees. It is important to discuss the situation with the suspected employee as well. From the perspective of the suspected employee, the situation may lead to a warning or even to termination of employment on individual grounds. Next Steps and What to Keep in Mind It is evident that many new harassment cases will be brought out into employers' attention in the short term and that the number of claims raised in the courts against employers in the matters related to sexual harassment will also increase. In addition to new cases, the employers should be prepared for older ‘#MeToo’ complaints brought into the discussion as a result of the current attention of the topic. Employers should now: Open the discussion on sexual harassment in the workplace: encourage the employees to tell, if they have faced inappropriate behaviour at work in order to be able to solve such situations appropriately. Create and implement the missing internal guidelines regarding the behaviour at work: define what kind of behaviour is not appropriate and not accepted at work. Review and update the existing internal policies related to the next steps on how to proceed, when harassment or inappropriate behaviour is brought into employer's attention.   !For more information on employer's responsibilities in dealing with claims of sexual harassment or inappropriate behaviour in the workplace, please contact our Employment, Benefits & Pensions team.
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Recent Changes in Finnish Employment Laws
2 Dec 2016 Public discussion around the Finnish employment legislation has recently focused on the Government driven Competitiveness Pact, bypassing the less dramatic legislative changes that have already taken place. These recent legislative changes should not be overlooked. The changes affect the daily working life, HR-processes and even personnel costs of majority of Finnish employers. The Waiting Period for the Right to Postpone Annual Holidays due to Sickness Reintroduced The employees' right to postpone annual holidays due to sickness has been strictened as of 1 April 2016. If an employee who has accrued full annual holiday (at least five weeks) is incapacitated for work during holiday, he/she has a right to postpone the 'lost' holidays only after a waiting period of up to six days, unless the applicable Collective Agreement states otherwise. The six waiting days are calculated on annual basis, i.e., the six waiting days can consist of consecutive six days' period or up to six separate sick days. The Accumulation of Annual Holiday during Family Leaves Shortened As of April 2016, the employees accumulate annual holidays only during the first six months of paternity, maternity, and parental leave unless the applicable Collective Agreement states otherwise. The new, stricter rule is applied when the family leave begins after 1 April 2016. New Obligation to Prepare a Non-Discrimination Plan The New Non-Discrimination Act imposes a new obligation to prepare a Non-Discrimination Plan on employers employing at least 30 employees in Finland. The Non-Discrimination plan should be prepared by 1 January 2017 and it should cover, e.g., concrete measures for promoting equal treatment at the workplace. The Employees' Right to Job Alteration Leave Strictened Since January 2016, an employment history of at least 20 years is a precondition for job alternation leave instead of the former 16-year-requirement. Also the maximum duration of the job alternation leave is shortened in half to 180 calendar days. Dividing the job alternation leave to separate leave periods is no longer possible. New Obligations Related to Posting of Workforce The new Posted Workers Act applies to arrangements where a Finnish employer temporarily uses foreign leased workforce, foreign employees from the employer's group companies or foreign subcontracting. The New Act imposes a practically significant new obligation. The employers are obliged to notify the authorities in advance of the posting of workforce to Finland. This obligation enters into force during 2017. Key Insights These are interesting times. Material legislative changes affecting the core of the Finnish working life will take place shortly. The Finnish Pension Reform will enter into force in the beginning of 2017. (Read More on D&I Quarterly Q1 2016). Also the Competitiveness Pact introduces new regulatory elements to Finnish working life, such as the possibility increase the yearly working time by 24 hours by (in most cases) concluding a local agreement at the workplace. Finnish employers should explore this possibility without delay. We will continue following the development of the Finnish employment legislation and keeping You informed on the practical effects of the changing regulatory framework.

Dittmar & Indrenius