Finland — a Partially Paid Leave for One Year

Bosses trust their employees, and the latter demonstrate zeal to prove that they deserve this trust.

In 2000, being a student, Minna Maria Zupan met her future husband in France, and in 2002, she moved from Finland to Slovenia. At home, she graduated from the Academy of Textile Design, and then undertook an internship in a Slovenian company with a creative design project. She supervised the crafts workshops for children.

“Immediately after rehousing, I signed up for the Slovenian language courses for foreigners. I earned money by teaching the Finnish language, and later wrote the first Finnish-Slovenian Dictionary,” she recalls her first steps in Slovenia. When studying, the Finns do not need to work, because all of them receive scholarship upon reaching the age of 19 years after graduating from secondary school and entering into adult life. When Minna was a student, the scholarship amounted to 440 euros, which was enough to pay for housing and studies, and during the summer holidays, she worked at a post office together with her mother.

“By providing students with scholarships, the government seeks to ensure that all could have equal opportunities — those who live in the far north of the country, and those who live in cities. It is also true that it is very difficult to enter a faculty. For this, you need to have very good grades. I failed, so I had a year to accumulate points in order to enter the preliminary needlework courses. Thus, a person is able to prove that he or she was really interested in the desired study program. After passing a two-day entrance exam, to which 70 out of 150 announced candidates had been invited, I became one of 15 students enrolled for the first year,” Minna says.


We must work hard

In Slovenia, the same as in Finland, she was welcomed with open arms. However, when looking for work she had to face some difficulties. “I had to sweat in order to find a job and meet competition. We are engaged in manufacturing and selling wooden toys for the brain. It is hard to find buyers now.”

However, as Minna says, the fact that a person has to work hard, to work with zest and for the benefit of an enterprise is something, which is taken for granted. In Finland, this is the case — everybody aims at holding down jobs and omitting the list of social benefit recipients. In Slovenia, as our interlocutor points out, workers sometimes devote too little time to their work. She was a bit shocked when a tradeswoman threw her the change directly to the counter. Besides, she was overwhelmed with the fact that at 3:00 PM employees are already outside the office given that the working day should last from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Minna described these two examples as both illegal in Finland.

It is also true that in Slovenia, the tradition, when an employer praises his or her employees and distinguishes their faithful work, is less common. In Finland, there are much more mutual respect and trust within one company. “Thus, employees are more satisfied and try to prove their trustworthiness by demonstrating zeal to their employers,” Minna says and praises the Slovenian openness, — “Here people speak very quickly if something goes wrong, and I love it. At least you know in which direction you are moving, while in Finland, it is common practice to keep one’s opinions to oneself.”

Do the employers of this state place any emphasis on the health status of their staff? “When I worked at the post office in the summer, we had an 8-minute break per each hour. After 52 minutes of work, we had to get up and go for a break. Actually, it disturbed me a little bit, since it seemed to me that each time I managed to enter the working rhythm, I had to interrupt it again and again. It took us three minutes to reach the coffee room, a couple of minutes to drink a cup of coffee, and three more minutes to return to our workplace,” Minna says and notes that employers are aware of the importance of caring for the health of their personnel.

“They came to the conclusion that this was the only opportunity for people to retire being in good health and good trim after 65 years of work. At the post office, for example, employees can choose whether they will work standing or sitting; much attention is paid to ergonomics; a company provides its staff with an opportunity to do gymnastics and offer a personal trainer. Such companies also provide personal growth. For example, when a person reaches a certain age, he or she can take a year under a partially paid leave (several tens of percent of an actual salary) to study or travel — according to one’s own discretion. Meanwhile, you reserve your workplace. During this year an unemployed person works instead of you, and the company thus receives a subvention.”


It is difficult for foreigners to live here.

What is the attitude of the Finns to foreign workers? The state is going through tough times. The level of unemployment is high, and therefore the attitude to foreigners leaves much to be desired. An ordinary citizen is particularly concerned about the fact that someone came to his or her country to take advantage of the local social system, while such behaviour is against the Finnish mentality. Most of workers tend to come from Estonia and are engaged in construction business, while the most requested professions are medical workers, human care assistants, IT-specialists, etc. It is also important to know the language, she adds.