Timing of change negotiations

Terminations, lay-offs, reductions of the employment contract to a part-time contract and unilat-eral changes to essential conditions of the employment contract

Change negotiations must be initiated when the employer is considering measures that may lead to employment contract terminations, lay-offs or reductions of the employment contract to a part-time contract concerning one or more employees or unilateral changes to essential conditions of the employment contract for financial or production reasons.

The above consideration refers to the stage at which the employer is already able to identify the planned measure and the associat-ed personnel impacts in a manner that makes it possible to draw up a negotiation proposal and negotiate the questions related to the matter.

On the other hand, the measure must be under consideration only, that is, the negotiations must be held and also completed before the employer makes the decision on the measure.

When necessary, the employer must be capable of making changes to its plan of measures on the basis of matters that have come up in the negotiations. If the preparations for the measure have proceeded too far, the employer’s plan can no longer be actually influenced in the negotiations and the related discussion in the spirit of co-operation cannot be carried out.

Personnel impacts may be a consequence of the employer’s business decision. Having negotiations only after the business decision has been made may lead to the inability to exert influence on the questions that are associated with the decision. In this case, the negotiations must be held before the business decision is made.

If the relation of the business decision to personnel impacts is unclear and, as a result, the impacts cannot be estimated, the negotiations must be started when the employer begins considering changes targeted at the personnel.

However, before the change negotiations, there may be preliminary discussion already in connection with the dialogue.

Even if the need for the measure being considered by the employer emerged suddenly and no feasible alternatives could be found for it, having change negotiations is still significant. In this case, the negotiations can involve, among other things, discussion on the details of the implementation and means to alleviate personnel impacts.

Major changes influencing the position of one or more employees 

The basic principles concerning when to start the negotiations are the same for all changes.

If the employer’s business decision can be considered as leading to a major change in the employee’s duties or work methods or arrangements of work, work premises or regular working hours, the negotiations must be held before the business decision is made.

On the other hand, if the business decision leaves room for different personnel impacts, the employer may start the negotiations after the business decision before deciding on personnel impacts.

In other words, it is a question of whether the business decision actually means a decision on personnel impacts, too.

If the relation of a decision within the scope of the employer’s power of management to personnel impacts is unclear, the negotiations must be held when potential changes influencing the personnel’s position can be estimated and before they are decided.

Possibility to deviate

In certain exceptional situations, the employer may decide on a matter without preceding change negotiations. This is possible when there are particularly weighty unforeseen reasons harming the production or service operations or finances of the company, which hinder the change negotiations.

However, when these reasons no longer exist, the negotiations must be started without de-lay and the employer must then explain the grounds for the exceptional procedure.

The reasons entitling the deviation must be assessed objectively and separately for each concrete situation. In general, it can be said that the possibility to deviate must be interpreted – and also has in practice been interpreted – very narrowly.