Working time experiments introduced in 20 municipalities

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The Ministry of Labour has chosen 20 municipalities in different parts of Finland to participate in new forms of working time organisation on an experimental basis. Results so far have been favourable.

The aim of the scheme is to try to find applications based on patterns of reduced working time, by which employees will be able to prolong their working life and provide improved services. A condition of this Ministry of Labour scheme is that the municipalities must recruit unemployed people to work alongside those whose working time is reduced. The scheme will be financially supported by means of a Government subsidy covering 50% of the wage costs for a maximum of two years. In total, 1,800 people are participating in the scheme.

The majority of the participants are from the social and health sector; there are also employees from libraries, technical offices, education and from the arts and entertainment industries.

The European Social Fund has allowed the Ministry of Labour to initiate a three-year long pilot project called Flexibility through six-hour shifts in order to experiment with a "6 6" working time model. The total budget for the scheme is FIM 5 million. The European Social Fund supports 20% of the wage costs. Funds have also been set aside for a subsequent scheme.

Similar experiments in introducing new forms of working time have taken place in a number of Finnish enterprises. In particular, the "6 6" model is practiced in 12 small and medium-sized enterprises in various parts of Finland. In some cases, the pilot scheme is restricted to only one or two parts of an establishment and employees who take part in it work alongside others on conventional working time. Early indications suggest that the experiments have been successful.

The pilot scheme has no fixed time limit. Pay for workers covered by the scheme is determined within the individual enterprises. In the majority of cases, the earnings of those employees who are participating in the scheme have not suffered. It is estimated that the extra costs of recruitment and the reduced working hours are offset by increases in productivity.

In all, the Ministry of Labour is monitoring 37 active pilot schemes in the private and public sectors. A total of 2,080 employees are involved both in the municipalities and in the private sector, 570 of whom are in receipt of the government subsidy.

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