As of tomorrow, 1 June 2023, new amendments to the Finnish Occupational Safety and Health Act will enter into force. The aim of these amendments is to e.g. promote the work endurance and well-being of employees aged 55 and over. The amendments consist of specifications to the employers’ occupational safety and health obligations, and the legislative changes aspire to prevent incapacity for work and improve employees’ chances of being able to work longer and remain capable of work.
The employer’s duty to exercise individual care
Going forward, employers must consider the personal circumstances that affect the safety and health of their employees. This includes the fact that all employees have different abilities to perform at work and that these abilities may vary at different stages of the employees’ careers, which means that work duties and working conditions may need to be adjusted on an individual level.
As such, general occupational safety and health measures might not always be sufficient to protect each individual employee. However, although legislation requires for employers to consider the needs of its employees individually, employers must conduct a documented risk assessment of the workplace on a general level as employees’ health information and personal details must not be reflected in the overall risk assessment.
The new amendments also introduce specifications to the work of employees who have given birth. Formerly, employers were obliged to assess whether work duties or the working conditions might pose a specific risk to a pregnant employee, but the new amendments have now extended this duty to cover employees who have recently given birth or who are breastfeeding. If their work duties are deemed to pose a risk to these groups of employees, the employer must take necessary preventative measures.
The employer's obligation to conduct analysis and assessment of hazards at work
The Occupational Safety and Health Act imposes an obligation on all employers to conduct an analysis and assessment of hazards at work, taking into account the age, sex, skills, and personal circumstances of their employees. As of 1 June 2023, ageing will be added to this list – an addition that applies to the changes associated with ageing, such as changes in work capacity and vision.
By conducting these analyses and assessments, employers can take necessary measures to improve the working conditions of their older employees in terms of ensuring their safety and health, as well as promptly take individual health and safety measures.
Furthermore, the Act currently obliges employers to prevent their employees from being exposed to the psychosocial burden of an excessive workload. However, whether the workload can be considered heavy has traditionally been assessed from the perspective of the dangers posed by the physical work environment.
The new specifications to the Act require for employers to monitor for novel psychosocial workload factors, which include elements related to the content and organisation of work duties as well as the work community overall. Practical examples of such elements are an excessive workload, constant interruptions, and poor communication.
The employer's obligation to provide instruction and guidance to employees
Employers have a general duty to provide their employees with adequate information on the hazards and risks at the workplace. So far, any introduction, guidance, and training provided by the employer has had to take into account the employees’ professional knowledge and experience. Going forward, employers will need to consider the employee’s other personal circumstances as well, which may include the employee’s language skills and age.
If you have any questions concerning the amendments to the Occupational Safety and Health Act or need assistance with matters regarding occupational safety, please contact the undersigned or other members of our Employment team.