This blog post is done in collaboration with Game Makers of Finland.
Earlier this autumn, We in Games Finland, Game Makers of Finland, and IGDA Helsinki collaborated in organising an online talk on the labour laws in Finland and the rights of employees. The event was specifically targeted to games industry employees.
This blog post includes questions sent anonymously for the event and after that. These questions cover some typical cases discussed in the games industry, so we believe that the answers will benefit all.
Answers are written by Maria Jauhiainen, lawyer and social impact specialist from Insinööriliitto. Please note that as the cases may vary, it is advisable to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further advice in the event of a dispute.
As IPR rights are an important part of the games industry, there will be a separate post about IPR rights coming up!
Q: Can I download the slides?
A: Yes, totally. And I hope you got them already 🙂 (Editor’s note: slides of the Labor Law event can be found from here.)
Q: Can an employer intervene in an employee’s leisure activities, for example, if a person wants to stream their play? Or make their own game with own computer and or programs?
A: In principle not (the employer cannot intervene, that is), but there can be some limitations. A person cannot engage in anything that would compete with the employer’s activities or how the company makes money or harm the company in any way. Anything else is in principle – like said – allowed, but for that, you cannot use the company’s devices, ideas you sort of get from the company, your working time, or the company’s programs for this unless you get permission from the company.
Q: What are the employee’s rights to his/her own idea or artistic work (like graphic art)? What is a fair agreement for all parties on the use and rights of this work?
A: This is quite a complex question, but in principle, the work that you do in order to fulfill your working duties, the result of your work – all the results of your work – will belong to your employer. The rights that will remain with the employee are the so-called fatherhood right (to have your name mentioned in connection with the work) and the right that the work is not changed without your permission. The right to use the work for commercial purposes and to disseminate it belong to the employer. If the work has been done without an actual connection to one’s working duties and if you have not gotten “inspiration” for it from fulfilling your working duties, then the chances of it belonging wholly to you, are greater. There will be a separate post about IPR rights coming up!
Q: Non-competition agreements: Are they even legal in Finland for non-executive positions?
A: Unfortunately, yes. They usually rule out only shop-floor level/blue collar workers, and if you do something a little bit “brainy” work where you are involved in the company’s core work and that you get to hear the company’s trade and business secrets, it’s very likely to be legal in your case.
Q: If you are on unpaid leave (lomautettu) for over 6 months, can you disregard your 6-month non-competition agreement and start at another company immediately?
A: After the 200 days of furlough (laid-off) and if you are let go by the company or if you resign yourself, that is true: the non-competition agreement doesn’t apply to you anymore.
Q: If I have a fixed-term contract first (6months) after which I get an open-ended contract immediately, do I still need to go through the probation period?
A: No. Once is enough for one employment and for the same tasks.
Q: Quite many game companies in Finland are co-founded by a bunch of friends, how does union serve entrepreneurs – and does it at all? Or what is your suggestion for the entrepreneurs where they should get the support if/when needed?
A: Yes, we do serve entrepreneurs! Just send your questions to our Customer Service email@example.com, and we will try and find you all the answers you need.
Q: What if, due to lack of resources, I am asked to take up other responsibilities in addition? Do I really need to have an addendum to my contract? What if initially asked temporary, but they become a more permanent part of my working day? Can you be let go off if refusing to take up responsibilities initially not mentioned in your contract?
A: My advice would be to make a temporary agreement about the new duties and yes, write them all down. And temporary so that it will start and end, especially if the employer just tells you “to fill in for a little while” without extra payment. And make it clear to the employer that if the extra tasks become a permanent part of your working duty, they also have to pay you more. In that case, you can also call our Customer Service (see contact info below) and ask them to connect you to our salary advisors as to how much more you would deserve extra money for the new tasks. But if you start doing the new tasks without anything written about above and you have been doing the work for a long while and then refuse to do them anymore, then yes, you can end up in trouble with the employer. Since refusing to do your work can be seen as a big neglect on employee’s part in the eyes of the law.
Q: I don’t live near Helsinki. If I have to move to Helsinki area because of my work, do I have a right to a better salary because of the increased cost of living, or am I meant to just suck it up?
A: Unfortunately, there is no direct right, but it can be used as a powerful negotiation tool, because where you live or have to live will have a big effect on your living costs. The best way is to call our Customer Service first and ask them to connect you to our salary advisors so you can come up with a precise sum of what to ask for when negotiating about the move with the employer.
Q: How well all of these Finnish laws transfer to other EU/non-EU countries?
A: Sadly, mainly only to the other Nordic Countries, not elsewhere. The employment laws are at their best in the North of Europe.
Q: When you say that the collective agreements usually give better benefits for employees, could you make sure you also mention that most game studios give much better benefits than any collective agreement to their employees?
A: I will remember to do that 🙂
Q: There are many creative artists working in the games industry. Part of an employment contract should mention Intellectual property. However, many people are uncertain of their rights in this area. This is especially relevant as the EU Digital Single Market Copyright Directive comes to force. Can you confirm that it is actually the employee who is first owner of copyright in an employment relationship and there is no regulation in the copyright act that compels an employee to give up complete ownership of their copyrights (exceptions to software).
A: Unfortunately, I cannot.
There will be a separate post about IPR rights coming shortly.
Q: In Finland it is common for firms to exploit loopholes in the law and hire professionals under “työharjoittelu” agreements (work-based training). This is where they can exploit professionals who are job seekers trying to get a ‘foot in the door.’ Can you confirm that it is illegal to commercially exploit creative work made by an “intern” who is actually receiving benefits from Kela rather than wages or other remuneration.
A: This is a little bit tricky, since the companies can get people who fulfill the requirements for työharjoittelu or työkokeilu and it’s legal unless otherwise proven. We are aware of some exploitation happening there, but since it’s Kela and the employer involved in this equation, the real exploitation cases seldom reach our ears. My best advice is to contact Kela if it’s obvious that the employer is just making improper use of the system without any real intention of hiring these people afterwards. When you let Kela know, it is more likely that the company will not get the subsidized trainees anymore.
But combining this question and the previous question, there is one major difference related to internship:
The intellectual property rights apply when the work has been accomplished in a working relationship, meaning when the employer actually pays the employee money. In an internship, the money is coming from Kela in this case, so all the (copy)rights will remain with the maker.
Q: I work in a game industry company, and my work contract is a full-time and fixed term. The employer made my full-time work to part-time in the middle of my fixed-term contract, based on financial and production-related grounds. At the same time, the employer has hired other employees, full-time and part-time, also for the same and similar tasks that I do.
The employer has emphasized that the change is not a lay-off but a permanent part-time job. No other employees will be changed to part-time or laid off. The employer has also emphasized that I have not been offered or will be offered any other job and no job other than this part-time job is available.
Thus, my working time has been reduced from full-time to part-time, which has a significant impact on my livelihood, but the employer has hired other employees at the same time. Since the contract is fixed-term, I have been under the impression that the employer must provide work until the end of the contract, and offer the other possible vacancies for fixed-term employers before the others.
Has the employer violated the Employment Contracts Act or the information sector’s collective agreement, and if so, what are the consequences? How are such violations generally monitored? For example, by Game Makers? What rights do I have as an employee?
A: The essential terms of the employment relationship may only be changed while the ground for dismissal is in force and therefore instead of and as an alternative to dismissal. Substantial change means, in particular, changes in working hours and pay, both of which are realized for you here. A fixed-term employment contract may not be terminated at all, unless otherwise agreed in the employment contract; of course, a mere mention of the period of notice which the employer must also comply with in the case of a change before the change enters into force is sufficient. And by law, there is no ground for dismissal if a new person has been hired or is hired after the dismissal procedure for work that the person could do. In addition, the employer must, in accordance with the law, offer a person working part-time, if he or she so wishes, more jobs if they occur. In other words, it would seem that there are matters that need to be settled with your employer.
On 1.4.2020, some changes in the law came into force on a temporary basis. According to these changes, the employment relationship can now also be terminated during the probationary period based on financial and production-related grounds if those actually exist. Normally this cannot be done. The employer cannot rely on this directly in your case either, because there have been and then apparently still is jobs.
In these kinds of matter, please contact our customer service (firstname.lastname@example.org) or directly to me (email@example.com), and we will find out more and contact the employer if necessary.
Q: What are the employee’s rights to his / her own idea / artistic work (eg graphic artists)? What is a fair agreement for all parties on the use and rights of these works?
A: In these cases, the contract options are quite limited, although of course there are some contract options. In the case of a computer program and / or a database, there are no contractual possibilities, and in other cases, the commercial rights to the work (ie the right to make copies of the product and to place them on the market and for sale) always belong to the employer, but in principle – again for non-computer programs – right to modify and right to forward can be separately agreed. Moral rights, the parenthood right and the right of respect, always remain with the employee.
Take a closer look to our upcoming blog post about the IPRs, and contact us for a possible agreement!
These questions were answered by Maria Jauhiainen, lawyer and social impact specialist from Insinööriliitto. For further inquiries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or have a look for Game Makers of Finland’s website.