Kuvaaja
Getty Images
Kirjoittaja
Anna Tikkanen and Kirsi Kemppi, Translation: Apropos Lingua

How the COVID-19 affects the summer jobs of students

The coronavirus situation may also impact the summer job prospects of students. On this page we maintain a FAQ that contains questions and answers regarding the issue.

Are you already TEK's student member?

If not, join now! If you are studying engineering, architecture, STEM subjects or computer science at a university, you can become a TEK member. TEK’s student membership is free of charge. Take a look at our benefits and services for students here.

Latest update: 1st April:

  • The temporary laws are now in force until 30th June 2020. Employers have a permission to terminate the contracts on the basis of the trial period also for the reasons related to financial or production situation of the employer. They can also lay off employees in fixed-term employment relationships regardless of them being someone’s substitutes or not.

Seeking a summer job

You should look for a summer job as usual despite the coronavirus. Job interviews will probably be held remotely as much as possible. You can send the draft of your summer employment contract to be reviewed by TEK’s legal services.

Termination/cancellation of a summer job contract because of the coronavirus situation

An employment relationship is formed when an employer and an employee enter into a contract of employment (e.g., orally or in writing). The moment when they enter into a contract of employment must be estimated case-by-case. If you are unsure of whether an employment relationship has been formed, contact TEK’s legal services. If a contract exists, it is binding to both parties. 

Despite the coronavirus situation, regular requirements apply to the termination of employment.

Trial period

If the employment contract contains a trial period, neither party can terminate the contract on the basis of the trial period before working has begun. 

In a normal situation, the contract may not be terminated on the basis of the trial period for reasons that are unrelated to the purpose of the trial period. Reasons related to the employer’s financial or production situation are an example of such unrelated reasons.

However, the Finnish Government has decided to make temporary changes to the law. The temporary law has given employers permission to terminate the contract on the basis of the trial period also for the reasons related to financial or production situation of the employer. The temporary law is now in force until 30th June 2020.

Termination of a fixed-term employment contract 

The employment contracts of summer jobs often have a fixed period of validity. Primarily, a fixed-term employment contract may not be terminated at all unless such an option has been specifically defined in the contract. 

Termination of a non-fixed-term employment contract 

However, if the contract in question does not have a fixed period of validity and it is in effect until further notice, the contract may be terminated even before working has begun.

If such a non-fixed-term employment contract contains a termination period that is longer than the period that is left before the employment relationship is to begin, the employee has an obligation to work and the employer has an obligation to pay wages for the overlap period. In other words, if your termination period is 4 weeks and you are terminated 3 weeks before your work is set to begin, for example, you will have the obligation to work for 1 week and your employer is obligated to pay your wage for that 1 week. However, in this situation the employee and the employer can agree to terminate the contract earlier so that the obligation to work and the obligation to pay are avoided. 

The employee does not have to announce any specific reason for the termination of the contract, but the employer does. The employer must have proper and weighty reasons for the termination. As a rule, an employer who employs over 20 employees must engage in cooperation negotiations before employees can be terminated for financial or production-related reasons.

Cancellation

The coronavirus situation does not grant employers the right to cancel an employment contract.

As a rule, an employment contract may only be cancelled in cases where one of the agreeing parties is in gross breach of the contract. The cancellation of an employment contract requires an exceptionally weighty reason that must be significantly weightier than a reason used to justify the termination of an employment contract. If an employment contract is cancelled, it expires immediately without a period of notice.

The employer may only cancel an employment contract effective immediately regardless of the contract’s term of validity or period of notice for a very weighty reason. Such a reason arises in the event that the employee is so grossly negligent or grossly in breach of their statutory or contractual obligations that significantly affect the employment relationship that the employer may not be reasonably required to continue the employment relationship even for the duration of the period of notice.

The employee has the right to cancel their employment contract effective immediately in the event that the employer breaches or neglects their statutory or contractual obligations that significantly affect the employment relationship to such a degree that the employee may not be reasonably required to continue the employment relationship even for the duration of the period of notice. 

Because the coronavirus situation does not result from the employee’s or the employer’s reproachable action, neither party has the right to cancel an employment contract because of the coronavirus. 

Termination via agreement

During the employment relationship and even before working has begun, the employer and the employee may enter into an agreement to terminate both fixed-term and non-fixed-term employment contracts. Entering into an agreement to terminate the employment contract is voluntary, which means it requires the consent of both agreeing parties. In other words, no one can force you to agree to sign an agreement to terminate your employment contract. Legislation does not contain specific regulations concerning these agreements, which means that the content of these agreements may be defined quite freely by the agreeing parties. 

The agreement to terminate an employment contract affects the employee’s right to unemployment allowance. As a rule, the agreement leads to a 90-day waiting period before the unemployment allowance may be granted, provided that you are eligible for unemployment benefits to begin with. If you are a full-time student, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits. This also applies to the summer holiday periods during your studies. If your studying is considered part-time or if you are close to graduation, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits and you should avoid entering into an agreement to terminate your employment contract. If you are unsure whether your studies are considered full-time or part-time, you can ask your local TE Office (TE-toimisto in Finnish).

Can a summer employee be laid off?

Laying off means that working and the payment of wages ceases on the employer’s initiative while the other terms and conditions of the employment relationship remain in effect. The employer may not terminate the employment if the amount of work is only temporarily reduced. A lay-off can be in effect for a fixed period of time or until further notice. In any case, the aim is that it is only a temporary solution.

If a company regularly employs at least 20 employees, the employer must begin cooperation negotiations when considering lay-offs. 

In a normal situation, as a rule, an employee in a fixed-term employment relationship may only be laid off in a situation where the fixed-term employee is working as a substitute to a regular employee and the employer would have the right to lay off that regular employee if they were at work. Summer jobs are often fixed-term employment relationship. 

However, the Finnish Government has decided to make temporary changes to the law. The temporary law will give employers permission to lay off employees in fixed-term employment relationships regardless of them being someone’s substitutes or not.  The notice period and the negotiations period of lay-offs has also been accelerated to five days.The temporary law is now in force until 30th June 2020.

You should not agree to lay offs because there is a risk that your unemployment fund places a waiting period on your unemployment allowance because you have become unemployed by your own agreement. If you are a full-time student, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits. This also applies to the summer holiday periods during your studies. If your studying is considered part-time or if you are close to graduation, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits and you should avoid agreeing to being laid off.

What happens if I am laid off? Can I work or seek employment elsewhere? 

Laying off does not prevent an employee from seeking and accepting other work for the duration of the lay-off. In other words, the employee has the right to enter into another employment contract for the duration of the lay-off. However, the employee may not breach the statutory prohibition of competition or cause direct damage to their employer. Furthermore, the employee may not reveal their employer’s business or trade secrets to third parties during the lay-off. The period of notice for the new accepted job is 5 days, which allows the laid off employee to quickly return to work once the lay-off is over. Your employer must notify you of the ending of your lay-off 7 days before it ends. 

Terminating an employment contract during lay-off

An employee may terminate their employment contract during lay-off without a period of notice regardless of the contract’s duration. If the employee knows when their lay-off is to end, this right does not exist for the 7 days prior to the ending of the lay-off. During these 7 days the employee has the right to terminate the employment contract with adherence to the period of notice.

Termination/lay-off and earnings-related unemployment allowance for part-time students and those who have just graduated

If you are a full-time student, your unemployment fund cannot pay you your earnings-related unemployment allowance. This also applies to the summer holiday periods during your studies. If you are a part-time student and you are a member of an unemployment fund, you are eligible for earnings-related unemployment allowance, provided that you meet the payment criteria. Your TE Office (TE-toimisto) issues a statement to the unemployment fund on whether your studies are full-time or part-time. 

If you are a member of the unemployment fund and you have already graduated, you are eligible for earnings-related unemployment allowance in the event that the employer terminates your contract or lays you off, provided that you meet the payment criteria.

If the employer terminates your contract or lays you off, register as a job seeker at your TE Office on the first day of unemployment or lay-off at the latest: unemployment allowance is not paid retroactively. The unemployment fund pays earnings-related unemployment allowance by application. If you are a part-time student or recent graduate and do not belong to an unemployment fund, you may apply for unemployment allowance from Kela.

Primarily, full members of TEK are ensured in case of unemployment by KOKO, the Unemployment Fund for the Highly Educated. If you are employed, you may join the KOKO fund even if you are still a student. Join the fund via TEK by emailing us at member@tek.fi when your first summer job begins, for example. By joining the KOKO fund while you are still a student you can secure your income and focus on job seeking in peace once you graduate. You begin to accumulate hours towards the previous employment requirement of the unemployment allowance on the day you join the fund, not before. 
 
Are summer workers also affected by the co-operation negotiations (YT-neuvottelut)?

If the co-operation negotiations concern all employees of the organisation, the negotiations concern also the summer workers. 

Summer studies as an option 

If the employer terminates your contract or lays you off, you should also review your options regarding summer studies and possible student benefits from Kela.

What if my summer job and my delayed studies overlap? 

If there is a scheduling conflict between your summer job and mandatory studies, you should negotiate with your employer and seek an agreement. Many workplaces adhere to flexible working time practices that may allow you to both work and study at the same time. 

What if my job at an event is cancelled because of the coronavirus? Can I get compensation for lost earnings?

These situations are evaluated on a case-by-case basis and it depends on the situation and the reason why the work has been cancelled. According to the Contracts of Employment Act, unless otherwise agreed upon, an employer is obligated to pay an employee their salary in full if the employee has been at the employer’s disposal as agreed but they have not been able to conduct the work for reasons resulting from the employer. If an employer decides to close an office or limit its operations, for example, and orders an employee to go home without laying them off, the employer’s obligation to pay the employee’s salary remains in effect for the entire time that the employee has been available for work as agreed but has been prevented from doing the work.

The spreading of the coronavirus may also lead to a situation where working can be considered to be impossible for reasons unrelated to the employer or the employee. According to the Contracts of Employment Act, in the event that an employee is prevented from conducting their work as a result of a fire or unusual natural event at their workplace, or for other reasons unrelated to the employee or their employer, the employee has the right to their salary for the duration of the disruption for a maximum period of 14 days. 

Here you can find further information for all TEK members regarding the coronavirus situation.