The Coronavirus pandemic has affected the whole world this spring severely. A lot of employees in the private sector have been temporarily laid off or have had to use their vacation days etc. to try to cope with the situation after a lot of work places have been temporarily closed due to the spread of the coronavirus.
The university sector has been able to maintain their operationality especially well and, according to the answers given to the survey FUURT sent to their members in May, almost all FUURT members have been able to continue working remotely from their homes.
The survey results showed that the university sector has been able to cope with the situation exceptionally well thus far and both teaching and research staff and other staff have been able to fulfil their work duties well during the remote working time. However, possible cuts in future funding for the universities and the research sector may affect the universities and their employees from next year on.
To tackle the pandemic and its consequences, the Finnish government issued several fixed-term changes to the Employment Contracts Act and the Unemployment Act in April. The fixed-term changes to the Unemployment Act came into force retroactively from March 16 on. The changes will be in force until June 30 for both laws, but the changes may also be lenghtened until December 31st with a new decision this spring.
The biggest changes to the Employment Contracts Act were the shortening of the notice period for temporary lay-offs to 5 days, shortening the cooperation proceedings negotiation time to minumum of 5 days. And also, it is now, for a fixed-term, possible to temporarily lay off an employee who is working on a fixed-term employment contract and to terminate an employment relationship during the trial period on a collective basis. However, the employer’s responsibility to re-hire a terminated employee, was raised back up to 9 months.
The employees’ situation was equally considered in the changes made to the Unemployment Act. The five-day waiting period has been abolished and unemployment benefits will be available from the first day of unemployment. Days on which someone is laid off temporarily do not count against their maximum eligibility for unemployment allowance.
The work requirement for qualifying for unemployment allowance has been reduced temporarily from 26 weeks to 13 weeks. And Kela can now pay self-employed persons labour market subsidy, if their full-time employment in their business has ended, or if their income from self-employment, because of the epidemic, is less than 1,089.67 euros per month.
Some other legislative changes may also be introduced by the government later this year.
The trade unions inform their members on their websites, Facebook, Twitter and membership letters about the current situation. Remember to always contact your local shop steward or the union lawyer if you are temporarily laid off or your employment relationship is terminated.
text Mia Weckman
lawyer, The Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers
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