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Working hours

iso_kello.jpgThe Working Hours Act applies to employment, including official posts, in both the private and public sector. It is a general act that applies to working hours. In addition, there are provisions regarding working hours in the Council Regulation on driving times and rest periods in road traffic, the Young Workers' Act, the Act on the Employment of Household Workers,  the Seamen's Working Hours Act and the Act on Working Hours on Vessels in Domestic Traffic.


Regular working hours

According to the Working Hours Act the maximum amount of regular working hours is 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week. The Working Hours Act does not include a provision regarding a five-day working week, so the regular working hours may, at least in principle, be arranged so that they cover six days. The regular weekly working hours can also be arranged in such a way that the average is 40 hours over a period of no more than 52 weeks.


The Act includes a list of companies and jobs in which the employer can decide to arrange the regular working hours in periods. In period-based work, the regular working hours are either 80 hours in two-week periods or 120 hours in three-week periods.



Derogations to the regular working hours may be made, as stipulated in the Act, either by collective agreements, or even by a contract between the employer and the employee. In these cases the regular working hours must, however, average 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week during the reference period.



The specific consent of the employee is required each time he is expected to work overtime. The employer can require overtime up to the maximum amount of 138 hours during a four-month period, though 250 hours must not be exceeded in a calendar year. However, it is possible to agree locally on additional overtime up to the maximum amount of 80 hours in a calendar year. The 138 hours mentioned above cannot, however, be exceeded.


The pay paid for overtime must exceed the regular pay. For the first two hours of overtime exceeding the daily working hours the pay is the regular pay plus 50 per cent, and for additional hours it is the regular pay plus 100 per cent. The pay paid for weekly overtime is the regular pay plus 50 per cent, regardless of the amount of overtime. By agreement, pays payable for additional work or overtime can also be partly or completely converted into corresponding free time during regular working hours.


Emergency work

In exceptional conditions, the employer may require the employee to work in addition to the regular working hours and overtime. Emergency work can be required when an unexpected event interrupts or seriously threatens to interrupt regular operations or to put life, health or property at risk. Emergency work can be required up to the maximum of two weeks.


The Working Hours Act allows for diverse flexible work arrangements, including flexitime, part‑time work, and part-time pensions.  In addition, the Act contains provisions regarding rest periods, night and shift work, Sunday work, work schedules, additional work, the employer’s responsibility to keep a record of working hours, different compensations and the peremptory nature of provisions.


In practice, working hours are also agreed through collective agreements based very broadly on this law.


Working Hours Act, brochure text, 2005

Page last updated: 21.03.2016

Further information

Guidance and supervision of  labour legislation:Occupational Safety and Health Admininstration (Osha), in English/Eesti keeles/По-русски


Kröger, Tarja

tel. +358 29 50 48937

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