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.

insight
#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.
alert
The Finnish Pension Reform has entered into force – Will the pension liabilities increase in your company?
9 Jan 2017 The New Year ushered in several amendments to private and public sector pension Acts. Among the main amendments were an increase to the general retirement age and harmonization of the accrual percentage of employment pensions. This may have an effect on an employer's pension liabilities if the employer has promised employees a certain kind of pension benefit. Now is the time to check the contents of the pension promise especially if the employer has a supplementary pension arrangement that improves the statutory pension. The most significant change of the new Employees' Pension Act (69/2016) is that the minimum general retirement age will rise after a transition period. The risk is that the diminished statutory pension and a supplementary pension are not sufficient to cover an employer's pension promise under the new Act. The supplementary pension supplements the statutory pension and normally entitles an employee to retire prior to the statutory retirement age. The statutory pension and the supplementary pension together form the employee's overall pension security. If the employer has promised the employee a certain amount of overall pension, the employer may be liable to compensate the employee if the overall pension coverage is not fulfilled regardless of the statutory provision or the employer's agreement, for example, with a life insurance company on the arrangements of the benefit. The law does not contain separate regulations on employers' compensation liability. On the contrary, amendments concerning the statutory pension may entitle the employer to make amendments to its supplementary pension arrangements. The deciding factor is whether the level of the overall pension coverage is binding on the employer. If the employer has committed itself to a certain level of pension benefit,, this affects the employer's ability to change the contents of the pension arrangement and limits the employer's ability to influence its pension liabilities, for instance, by changing the terms of the pension arrangement to reflect the changes of the mandatory pension legislation. An employer's pension promise can be based on an express agreement, on the employer's unilateral announcement, commitment or on a long-lasting established practice. Therefore, it is important to clarify what kind of pension promise the employer has made in practice to its employees who are entitled to a supplementary pension benefit. Has the supplementary pension or the level of the supplementary pension been agreed on? Do the employment contracts contain terms on the pension benefit? How has the entitlement to the supplementary pension been communicated to the employees? It is worth checking these facts as they may lead to a situation where it is not possible to influence the pension liabilities just by altering the terms of the supplementary pension, and the compensation liability arises on grounds of the binding pension promise.

Dittmar & Indrenius