Section 8 of the Act on Co-operation lists those topics, on which the employer and the employee representative must engage in a regular dialogue.
The list is not exhaustive and the parties can include other topics to the dialogue and address in more detail issues that are considered important at the workplace in question. Ultimately, the topics are decided by the employer as the realisation of the dialogue is its responsibility. Nevertheless, the employee representative has the possibility of raising certain issues to be addressed in the dialogue.
1) Development prospects and financial situation of a company or organisation
First of all, the dialogue must concern the company’s or the organisation’s development prospects and financial situation. With regard to the financial situation, the employer’s task is to explain the company’s current situation and, at the same time, offer the employee representative an opportunity to ask questions and make observations about the company’s operations. In practice, the dialogue focuses on the company’s development prospects, challenges and opportunities. The dialogue can be held on the development prospects of the company’s production, competitive environment, service or other operations, employment, profitability and cost structure, among other things. Discussing the company’s development prospects may involve making preparations for foreseeable changes that are significant for the personnel structure, competence, relocation or a potential business transfer, for example. Preparations do not constitute, as such, an obligation to initiate change negotiations even if later developments might potentially lead to that. In any case, a shared understanding and mutual trust are assumed to improve the personnel’s preparedness for change with regard to the development of the company’s operations.
2) Workplace rules, practices and policies
Other dialogue topics include workplace rules, practices and policies. These may be related to, for example, working hours practices, the workplace’s rules of procedure, occupational health care, the granting of annual holidays, sick leave notification practices or remote work opportunities. The purpose of the dialogue is not to interfere with the employer’s right to make decisions on these matters but to create a forum in which the employer and the employee representative can discuss the up-to-dateness and development needs of the rules, practices and policies that are observed at the workplace.
3) Ways of using the workforce and the structure of the workforce
The dialogue should also cover the personnel structure and the way the personnel is used. The employer must provide information about, for example, how much fixed-term, part-time or external labour it uses. The use of external labour includes both temporary agency work and subcontracted work. Dialogue on the personnel structure may be associated with the number of employees and their division among the different operating units of the organisation, for example. In addition, the dialogue may address the age structure and the resulting future needs. Dialogue is needed especially when change needs emerge with regard to the personnel structure or the way the personnel is used. On the other hand, if the situation remains unchanged, this can be briefly noted in the dialogue.
4) Staff competence needs and competence development
Furthermore, dialogue must also be organised regarding the personnel’s competence needs and competence development. The employer and the employee representative must try to anticipate and analyse competence needs and assess what kinds of actions could be used to develop and maintain competence. If such needs are identified, options to be considered for developing competence include, for example, the acquisition and organisation of training and coaching, job rotation, independent studying or study leave arrangements.
5) Maintaining and promoting wellbeing at work
The scope of the dialogue also includes discussion on maintaining and promoting wellbeing at work as far as the topic is not addressed on the basis of other legislation. The Act on Co-operation’s dialogue obligation related to the maintenance and promotion of wellbeing at work is intended to complement the wellbeing at work provisions of the Act on Occupational Safety and Health Enforcement and Cooperation on Occupational Safety and Health at Workplaces (44/2006), the Occupational Safety and Health Act (738/2002) and the Occupational Health Care Act (1383/2001).
The dialogue obligation requires that the employer and the employee representative regularly assess the factors that influence the employees’ wellbeing at work and the actions that can improve wellbeing at work. Such factors include, among other things, the functionality of the work community, interaction in the work community, the flow of information, leadership, career advancement opportunities and work-life balance.
6) Matters related to other legislation
In addition, dialogue must be held on other legislation-based matters listed in section 12 of the Act on Co-operation if they are topical at the workplace.
The scope of the processing and the processing volumes may vary
The weight and significance of the above-mentioned topics may vary at different workplaces at different times. Consequently, it is not necessarily required to cover them in the dialogue to the same extent or at the same intervals at all workplaces. Furthermore, each topic does not need to be addressed in the dialogue in all quarterly or biannual meetings. However, each topic must be addressed at reasonable intervals.
A topic is also considered as having been addressed if it is noted that neither party has any specific observations regarding it.