Working hours - Maximum number of working hours

The maximum number of working hours sets the limit for the working hours done by the employee. Working hours include hours spent working as well as any hours that employees are expected to spend at the workplace at their employer’s disposal.

The working hours must average out at no more than 48 hours per week over a period of four months. Collective agreements for different sectors may contain provisions on the length of the adjustment period that deviate from those of the Working Hours Act.

Maximum number of working hours and working hours monitoring

The limit for the maximum number of working hours applies to total working hours. Thus, the limit does not apply to the maximum number of overtime hours only.

The ceiling for total working hours applies to all work regardless of how working hours are organised, including, for example, flexible working hours schemes and flexible working time arrangements. The ceiling is calculated on the basis of all hours worked, regardless of whether they are regular working hours, additional work, overtime, emergency work or handovers.

It is important to keep in mind the definition of working hours and only record the actual hours worked in an unambiguous manner. Records of working hours and payroll records must be kept separate.

Tool for monitoring maximum working hours

To track maximum working hours, one option is to use the simple Excel tool below.

Download the maximum working hours monitoring tool (Excel)

Watch a video on how to use the tool: Tool for monitoring maximum working hours (YouTube). The video is in Finnish, but you can watch it with English or Swedish subtitles.

Maximum number of working hours during each adjustment period and per year

The provision on the absolute maximum number of working hours is mandatory in nature, so the maximum number of working hours cannot be agreed otherwise under any agreement. Working hours are calculated per employee and across adjustment periods the length of which must be determined in advance.

What is an adjustment period?

Pursuant to the Working Hours Act, the rule of thumb is that employees’ total working hours, including any overtime, must not exceed an average of 48 hours per week over a four-month period. Each of these four-month adjustment periods are treated as separate entities.

However, national collective agreements can be used to agree on extending the adjustment period to six months or, for technical or practical reasons, up to a maximum of 12 months. Correspondingly, the maximum number of hours that employees can work depends on the length of the adjustment period, which can thus vary from 4 to 12 months. The right of agreement is restricted for motor vehicle drivers.

The Working Hours Act does not specify a time as of which adjustment periods must be observed or the way in which the start dates and lengths of adjustment periods should be regulated by national collective agreements. The starting point of the adjustment periods can thus be agreed in whichever manner is the most practical in the sector in which the employer operates.

From the perspective of compliance with the Working Hours Act and keeping track of employees’ working hours, the starting point should be that the maximum working hours are monitored over regular four-month periods. The hours of any temporary workers must be monitored from the beginning of their contract.

Considering the provisions of the Annual Holidays Act on the granting of annual holiday, the maximum number of hours that employees can work each year on the basis of the Working Hours Act is approximately 2,300 hours (48 hours x the number of working weeks).

Practical implementation of monitoring maximum working hours

In order to comply with the provision of the Working Hours Act, the employer must systematically monitor maximum working hours. Monitoring can be part of or separate from the record of working hours. The employer may choose how the monitoring is carried out. Maximum working hours may be monitored in at least the following ways:

Model 1

The employer will start monitoring on the 1st Monday of the year and continue it in 16-week periods (4 months x 4 weeks). In that case, the monitoring period for the holiday period may be extended by the amount of the annual holiday (4 weeks). Holidays exceeding this, or sick leave absences, for example, should be recorded as hours corresponding to regular working hours in the monitoring system for maximum working hours. In this way, 16 weeks are used as the divider for each monitoring period.

Model 2

The employer will start monitoring on 1 January and monitor working hours over a period of four calendar months. In that case, all holidays and other leave which must not increase the number of maximum working hours must be recorded in the monitoring system as hours in regular working hours. The divider in the monitoring period should be 17.3 weeks (17.3 weeks x 3 monitoring periods = 52 weeks = 1 year)

In models 1 and 2, working hours must be adjusted so that the they may not exceed 48 h/week during the period.

Model 3

Model 3 is based on the idea that work exceeding regular working hours is exclusively overtime. This means that the model applies only when emergency work or start-up and finish work is not performed or when the question is not of flexible working hours. In that case, the maximum number of overtime can still be monitored. The maximum allowable overtime for a four-month period is then 138 hours, while 330 hours may be considered as the annual limit. Working hours will thus be adjusted "automatically" to a maximum of 48 hours per week.