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The Finnish Government must ensure the publicity of wages of the future health and social services counties


In a letter sent to the Prime Minister Sanna Marin, the Ombudsman for Equality presented his concerns about the publicity of wages in the future health and social services counties. It seems that the publicity of wages in the public sector will not be extended to the health and social services counties established in connection with the health and social services reform. In practice, this means that the wages of nearly 200,000 employees transferred from municipalities and joint municipal authorities will be secret instead of public. The Ombudsman for Equality asks that the Finnish Government take the necessary measures to extend the publicity of wages to apply to the personnel of the future health and social services counties, too.

Wages of 173,000 employees transferred from municipalities and joint municipal authorities will be secret instead of public

According to section 7 of the Administration Act (Nimikirjalaki, 1010/1989), information concerning the share of pay of a public official, local government officeholder or the holder of a post or an employee determined based on personal performance or on an otherwise personal basis, the placement pay grade or pay corresponding to the job classification category or other potential share of wages as well as the total amount of wages is public. According to the Administration Act, the publicity of wages applies to the State, municipalities, joint municipal authorities and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.

At different stages of the health and social services reform, the Ombudsman for Equality has brought attention to the fact that the application of section 7 of the Administration Act is not being extended to the future health and social services counties. The Ombudsman for Equality has issued statements both to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in September 2020 (TAS 257/2020) and to the Employment and Equality Committee of the Parliament in March 2021 (TAS 126/2021). In fact, in its statement to the Social Affairs and Health Committee (TyVL 5/2021 vp), the Employment and Equality Committee of the Parliament noted: “The Committee considers it important that the publicity of wages be extended to apply to the wages of the personnel in the future health and social services counties, too.” The Social Affairs and Health Committee did not give its opinion on the issue in its report.

If the legislation will not be changed – by either expanding the scope of application of the Administration Act or changing the legislation on health and social services counties – the information on the wages of officeholders and employees of the health and social services counties will not be public. In that case, the wages of the 173,000 employees transferred from the service of municipalities and joint municipal authorities will be secret instead of public.

The Government Action Plan of the Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Government, Inclusive and competent Finland, has emphasised the importance of pay openness. The Government Programme states that the elimination of unjustified pay differences and pay discrimination will be promoted by increasing pay openness through legislative means. Unjustified disparities in pay between women and men will be addressed more rigorously than at present. In addition, the Government Programme states that the Act on Equality between Women and Men will be amended to incorporate rights and meaningful opportunities for staff, staff representatives and individual employees to access pay information and address pay discrimination more effectively. In the view of the Ombudsman for Equality, the wages of nearly 200,000 employees becoming secret is in conflict with these good and commendable goals of the Government Programme.

The openness of information on wages is important with regard to complying with the principle of equal pay and promoting pay equality between women and men. It is important for Finland to keep promoting pay openness in the future, too, or that at least no steps back will be taken, unlike what would seem to happen in this reform.

The publicity of wages is important when investigating suspected pay discrimination

Section 8, subsection 1, paragraph 3 of the Act on Equality between Women and Men prohibits the application of the pay or other terms of employment in such a way that one or more employees find themselves in a less favourable position based on their gender than one or more other employees in the employer’s service.  The investigation of suspected pay discrimination and realisation of the principle of equal pay requires the availability of effective legal remedies to those who suspect discrimination, and the right to be informed of the pay of possible individuals in equivalent positions. For its part, section 7 of the Administration Act has made this possible for the personnel of municipalities and joint municipal authorities. If the Administration Act is not changed, the position of the personnel of the future health and social services counties will differ significantly from the position of other personnel in the public sector. 

The Ombudsman for Equality asks the Government to take what has been said above into consideration and take the necessary measures to extend the publicity of wages to apply to the personnel of the future health and social services counties, too.

31.08.2021