The conditions of service for teachers of all levels and types of education are agreed on in a collective bargaining process and in the relevant legislation. The collective bargaining is conducted between the Trade Union of Education (OAJ) and the employers’ organisations, in the case of municipal early childhood education and care (ECEC), pre-primary, basic and upper secondary education with the Local Government Employers at intervals of 1–3 years.
The degree of organisation among Finnish teachers is very high in international terms. Nearly 95% of full-time teachers are members of Trade Union of Education, which represent teachers from ECEC to higher education.
Social pedagogues and childcarers in ECEC are represented by their own employee organisations in the collective bargaining. Similarly, private ECEC and education providers have their own employer organisations and collective agreements.
The present salary system was implemented for education staff in 2007. The aim of this system is to improve the performance of the municipalities, motivate staff and to ensure the competitiveness of municipal salaries.
The status of teachers is regulated by a number of acts:
Act on Local Government Employees’ Employment Security
State Civil Servants Act
Contracts of Employment Act
Local Government Act.
The bargaining procedure is governed by acts on collective agreements for state and municipal civil servants and by the Collective Agreement Act and it has been agreed in the main contracts of employment between labour market organisations. Furthermore, the local authorities have educational regulations and general official regulations. Both state-owned and private institutions have their own regulations.
Anticipation of teacher needs has been carried out at least since the 1960s. Anticipation was particularly active when the comprehensive system of basic education was introduced in the 1970s. Work on the anticipation of teacher needs is today done regularly. The latest projects have anticipated the changes in teacher needs until 2025 and the need for teachers with migrant backgrounds.
Anticipation also meant that statistical data on teachers had to be kept up-to-date. During most of the 1990s, however, there was a break in the collection until a regular collection was begun in 1999. This data collection is today done every 3 years.
The data collection on teachers and principals feeds into the anticipation process. The quantitative targets of teacher education are based on data on:
age structure of the profession
In addition to these data on group sizes and changes in instruction time are used as well as data on teacher attrition.
Entry to the profession
In Finland, education providers are responsible for employing their teaching staff. They also determine the types and number of posts needed. The recruitment is an open process and the vacant posts are advertised in newspapers, professional journals and relevant websites.
Each local authority, joint municipal authority or private maintaining body may decide which of their bodies is responsible for appointing new teachers. It may be the education committee or another equivalent committee, the municipal board, the school board or – especially in the case of temporary and short-term substitute teachers – the principal.
When selecting teachers, education providers set the criteria to be observed as part of each selection procedure. No selection criteria are imposed on local authorities or other education providers separately; instead, the aim is to select a person who is both qualified and suitable for each particular assignment.
For most school forms, teaching qualifications are laid down in the Decree on the Qualifications of Educational Staff (986/1998) (in Finnish). The qualifications of ECEC staff are regulated by the Government Decree on Early Childhood Education and Care (753/2018) (in Finnish).
In Finland there is no national programme or regulations for induction of new teachers. Induction is, however, recommended. The local education authorities are responsible for the types and content of in-service education. Induction programmes are organised at local level and funded by the local authorities.
Most teachers work full time and hold tenured posts as municipal or state officials or employees. Some teachers work part-time. When the total number of lessons amounts to less than 16 per week, the teacher is considered to work part-time.
Teaching is generally a secure job. A permanent teacher position is very rarely discontinued. As most teachers are employed by municipalities, teachers are transferred in case a school is closed or merged with another.
For periods of long-term illness or leave of absence, education providers aim to recruit qualified substitute teachers. Substitute teachers are either advertised in newspapers or found on lists kept by many municipalities. Those interested in substitute positions, such as teachers without permanent posts and students, may sign up to be included on these lists. With replacement measures lasting less than twelve months, the appointing authority is usually the principal of the school in question. There is no time limit for appointing substitute teachers, except in the case of unqualified substitutes. In these cases the maximum time of appointment is 6–12 months.
In sudden cases of illness, education providers use the same lists, wherever possible. In emergencies, for example, sudden and very short-term cases of illness, it is also possible to use other teachers from the school. In such cases, another teacher will temporarily increase their teaching hours and will receive payment for these extra lessons.
In problems relating to teaching, teachers may turn to their school’s principal or special needs teacher. If a teacher requires the support of a special needs teacher for an individual pupil for an extended period of time, they will need to apply for this support either before commencement of school terms or teaching periods. The crucial issue is the pupil’s needs, which also play a decisive role in making the decision on support from the special needs teacher. In acute cases, help is available according to each particular situation without the need for any formal applications.
Teachers are also assisted in the classroom by special needs assistants. Disabled pupils are entitled to be assigned a special needs assistant, who helps them cope with their studies. A special needs assistant may be a personal assistant or may be shared by several pupils. Pupils with mental problems are also entitled to have a special needs assistant.
Many schools also have learning assistants who circulate in the classrooms supporting teachers and pupils.
When teachers have personal problems at work, they may turn to occupational health care services. Such help is available during working hours and is free of charge.
Teachers’ salaries are agreed nationally as part of collective agreements for state and municipal civil servants for the educational sector. The agreement is renewed every 1–3 years. The collective agreement covers teachers in municipal ECEC and basic and upper secondary education.
Teachers' salaries are based on the tasks and their requirements and the results of the work, the professionalism of the staff and work experience. There is also room for local flexibility. In addition, a bonus can be paid based on the result of the school. The use of bonuses is, however, not very common. Extra duties, such as being responsible for the language laboratory and school choir, are also compensated. Years of service in public administration and teaching experience lead to increments.
Finnish municipalities have been divided into two financial capacity classes according to the cost of living; salaries in the first financial capacity class, including major cities and remote areas, are about 1% higher.
The actual annual salary of teachers varied from 33 000 euro in pre-primary education to 56 000 euro in general upper secondary education in 2018. More specific data is available in the Eurydice report Teachers' and School Heads' Salaries and Allowances in Europe.
Working time and holidays
Most teachers’ working hours are based on teaching hours. Teaching hours vary between 16 and 24 weekly 45-minute lessons according to the type of institution and subject. At vocational institutions, the teachers commonly have an annual teaching duty of 798 lessons. In some vocational fields the teachers have overall working hours. This means that the hours devoted to teaching and other activities are defined within an annual number of 1 500 working hours.
Some teachers and most principals follow overall 'office hours'. This refers to the public administration office hours (8.00 a.m.–4.15 p.m.) These are deviated from according to the grounds stipulated in collective agreements, in other words, overall working hours are followed where applicable, bearing in mind the special nature of teachers’ and principals’ work.
There are 185–190 school days in a year. Teachers are not obligated to be at school on those days when they have no lessons or other particular duties. Teachers are also not required to work without a specific reason during school holidays.
In general education, the school year begins in August. The starting date may be defined at the municipal or even institutional level. The school year ends on the last working day of week 22. At vocational and adult education institutions, the dates often differ from those mentioned above and the school year may be somewhat shorter.
In addition to teaching, the tasks of teachers include planning of instruction and pre- and post-class work. Furthermore, the school’s internal development tasks and cooperation with colleagues, homes and other partners, such as staff in pupil welfare services, social welfare services, the local family counselling clinic, the police, business life, form an integral part of teaching work. An allocation of 138 hours of work per year has been determined in the collective agreement for teachers in basic education and 119 hours in for teachers in general upper secondary education.
Teachers may usually take their holiday when their pupils are on holiday. There is no defined annual leave, except for at those institutions, which follow overall working hours. The annual leave of teachers who have overall working hours is determined as the annual leave of civil servants.
The working time of education and care staff in ECEC is not based on teaching hours. They have a weekly working time of 38 hours and 15 minutes. An average of 13% of the working time (5 hours) must be reserved for duties other than working with the groups of children.
In addition to the time devoted to planning, evaluation and development tasks, sufficient working time must be set aside for parent meetings and the ECEC centre’s multi-professional teamwork and expert meetings.
In pre-primary education for 6-year-olds provided in schools, the teachers' minimum teaching time is 23 45-minute lessons per week. These teachers also have the same 114 hour scheduled non-teaching hours as primary and secondary level (ISCED 1-3) teachers. Less than 20% of pre-primary education for 6-year-olds is provided in schools.
Teachers do not have many opportunities to advance their careers by applying for a position higher up the salary scale, unless they decide to apply for a principal’s post. In some municipalities teachers may be appointed coordinating teachers in their subject.
Mobility and transfers
Teachers are in most cases employed by a municipality. Consequently, they can either apply to transfer or be transferred to another school if the circumstances so require. This is, however, not very common. If the teacher wants to teach in another municipality, they must go through the regular recruitment process.
Teachers may be dismissed for economic or productive reasons, if their workload decreases significantly and permanently. However, dismissal on the grounds of economic or productive reasons is only possible if the employer is unable to offer the teachers another job or train them for a new position. Teachers may also be dismissed if they are unable to carry out their duties adequately or if they continuously neglect them, or for another legitimate reason. The reason may not be illness unless the person’s working capacity is significantly and permanently reduced, pregnancy or childbirth, or participation in industrial action decided by the trade union, political or religious opinions, social activities or membership of associations.
The term of notice for holders of permanent posts depends on the duration of service. A teacher holding a permanent post in the service of a local authority and a permanent hourly paid teacher may be dismissed in accordance with the term of notice varying between 1 and 6 months, depending on the duration of service. A temporary employee (substitute teacher, temporary holder of an unfilled post) may be given a 14 calendar days’ notice. A temporary contract of fixed duration may be terminated with 30 days notice. For state employees, the corresponding terms of notice are 2–6 months for permanent and 30 days for temporary employees under contracts of fixed duration. In the private sector, the term of notice is, according to the collective agreement, 1–6 months depending on the duration of employment.
Retirement and pensions
Retirement is at 65 years of age for those who entered service on or after 1 January 1993. For those who were employed before that date, retirement age alternates between 60 and 65 years. The pension replacement rate for those employed on or after 1 January 1993 is no more than 60% of the salary. For those employed before that date, the replacement rate is 60-66%.