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    Know your rights

    Termination of the employment contract based on individual reasons

    In this article I will discuss the termination due to individual reasons, reasons that are related to the employee, not the employer.

    The Employment Contracts Act states that the employer shall not terminate an indefinitely valid employment contract without "proper and weighty reason". Serious breach or neglect of obligations arising from the employment contract or the law and having essential impact on the employment relationship as well as such essential changes in the conditions necessary for working related to the employee's person as render the employee no more able to cope with his or her work duties can be considered a proper and weighty reason for termination arising from the employee or related to the employee's person.

    This may mean for example that the employee is neglecting their work duties and is not doing some or all of their work.

    The employer's and the employee's overall circumstances must be taken into account when assessing the proper and weighty nature of the reason.

    The law does not state which reasons are considered proper and weighty, but lists a number of reasons that are not.

    At least the following cannot be regarded as proper and weighty reasons: 1) illness, disability or accident affecting the employee, unless working capacity is substantially reduced thereby for such a long term as to render it unreasonable to require that the employer continue the contractual relationship; 2) participation of the employee in industrial action arranged by an employee organization or in accordance with the Collective Agreements Act; 3) the employee's political, religious or other opinions or participation in social activity or associations; 4) resort to means of legal protection available to employees.

    This means that the law protects the employee in many ways. Taking sick-leave or maternity/paternity or child care leaves is not a reason for termination. If the employee loses their ability to work altogether, it is a different situation, however. Participating in trade union activities or expressing the employee's own personal beliefs whether they are political or religious in nature may also not cause termination nor may taking legal action.

    Employees who have neglected their duties arising from the employment relationship or committed a breach thereof shall not be given notice, however, before they have been warned and given a chance to amend their conduct. Having heard the employee, the employer shall, before giving notice, find out whether it is possible to avoid giving notice by placing the employee in other work. What is provided in subsections 3 and 4 need not be observed if the reason for giving notice is such a grave breach related to the employment relationship as to render it unreasonable to require that the employer continue the contractual relationship.

    Basically the employer must always give a warning and leave adequate time for the employee to change their behavior and avoid the termination. The employer must let the employee clearly know what it is that the employer is not satisfied with in the employee's behavior or actions.

    If the employer calls for a hearing to give notice or to end the employment contract, the employee is always entitled to have a shop steward or somebody from the trade union present. It is always advisable to use somebody's help in these kinds of situations. Trade unions also help members determinate whether there has been a legitimate reason for the termination of the employment contract.

    The notice times are the same as discussed before in the previous article.

    text Mia Weckman lawyer, the Finnish union of university researchers and teachers

    • Painetussa lehdessä sivu 38