Farmers' holiday and stand-in scheme
In Finland, the farmers' holiday and stand-in scheme enables agricultural entrepreneurs to take breaks from their work for annual leave, recreation or because of illness. The arranging of farm relief workers to act as holiday substitutes and temporary stand-ins for farmers is based on the Farm Relief Services Act and the Farm Relief Services Decree. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health ultimately supervises the provision of relief workers in agriculture. The Farmers' Social Insurance Institution (Mela) is the administrator of this service, while local units, composed of one or more municipalities, handle the practical arrangements and employ an adequate number of relief workers.
The farm relief services include substitute assistance, an annual leave entitlement of 26 days, subsidized help for 120 hours each year and additional services at full price. Farmers may receive the different parts of the relief services on certain conditions. According to the relevant legislation, to receive any part of the service the farmer has to have a currently valid insurance policy as referred to in the Farmers' Pensions Act (MYEL).
Farmers who practise farming full-time and have at least six animal units (as defined in the Farm Relief Services Decree) are entitled to an annual leave of 26 days and an additional 120 hours of stand-in assistance. The annual leave is free of charge and the additional 120 hours are charged at a subsidized price.
Farmers practising animal husbandry can receive substitute assistance. To be entitled to substitute assistance the farmer has to have a compelling need for help. Before obtaining substitute assistance the possibility that others on the farm could stand in for the farmer has to be considered. Part-time farmers may in some cases obtain substitute assistance, if the work task is urgent or cannot be delayed. The substitute assistance is charged mainly on the basis of the farmer's MYEL income as defined in the Farmers' Pensions Act.
Substitute assistance may be granted, for example, for the following purposes:
- In the case of sickness and disability; 7 days at the most without a doctor's certificate, 20 days at the most with a doctor's certificate ;(as defined in the Farm Relief Services Act), 300 days at the most with sickness allowance  and 3 years at the most with temporary disability pension as defined in the Farmers' Pensions Act.
- For the duration of rehabilitation and occupational health activities.
- In the case of temporary child care leave; a maximum of 7 days in order to care for a sick child under age 10. Assistance can also be given for the duration of special care of a sick child under 16 years old whose parent takes part in the treatment or rehabilitation arranged for the child according to the benefits of the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela).
- For the duration of maternity leave and paternity leave according to the benefits of the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela).
- In the case of day-care of a child under age 3; year after parental allowance is no longer paid, parents can take a child care leave to look after a child under age 3 for 100 days each year.
- In the case of permanent disability pension or the death of the farmer; a maximum of 60 days of assistance.
Tasks of a relief worker
The farmer's stand-in carries out the necessary cattle husbandry work on the farm, for example milking and feeding of the cattle, manure removal, looking after calves and young cattle, and general cleaning work. If all the people on the farm are on holiday, the stand-in has to be able to work on his or her own. Relief workers work either as itinerant workers or in the service of a ring of farms. In the former case, the workers work on several farms, moving on from one farm to the next at fairly short notice. In the latter case, the worker works on a regular basis on 4-6 farms, which form a ring.
The length of the farm relief workers' day is determined according to a calculation model. In the case of farms with two entrepreneurs and less than 20 animal units, 20 days of the annual leave must be taken concurrently.
In Finland, the system of providing farmers with farm relief workers was created to enable full-time farmers obligated to look after domestic animal production to take breaks from their work for holidays, recreation or because of illness. The first piece of legislation concerning the arranging of farmers' holidays was passed in 1974.
At the present moment, the arranging of farm relief worker services is based on the Farm Relief Services Act and the Farm Relief Services Decree. In accordance with this legislation, the provision of farm relief worker services pertains to arranging a substitute for farmers to facilitate their annual holidays.
Organisation and financing
The overall leadership, control and supervision of the relief worker service provision lie with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Mela is responsible for the implementation of the service.
Municipalities have borne the responsibility for the implementation of the farm relief worker system at the local level. At the municipality level, an appointed person in charge (farm relief worker allocation secretary) makes the decision on the arranging of the service. A necessary number of farm relief workers are employed to maintain the service or, alternatively, these services are contracted from private or public producers of services. Farmers can also purchase services from service provider. The cost of the service purchased is reimbursed to the service provider.
The costs of providing the farm relief worker services are covered mainly by the national budget. Farmers themselves participate in the financing of the farm relief worker services in two ways. Firstly, some of the costs involved are considered part of the agricultural income received by the farmers. Secondly, the farmers themselves are charged some of the costs in connection with the substitute assistance fee and in connection with the provision of the chargeable farm relief worker service.
Development of the number of farmers, the number of monthly-salary-based farm relief workers, and the costs of providing the farm relief worker services in Finland during the period 2000 - 2015
|Year||Number of eligible farmers||Monthly-salary based farm relief workers||Relief-work days, million days||Goverment's share of costs of relief worker services, million euro|
|2000||45 254||4 900||1.59||150|
|2005||34 197||4 900||1.48||190|
|2010||25 785||4 500||1.22||200|
|2011||24 637||4 500||1.17||201|
|2012||23 144||4 500||1.12||202|
|2013||21 909||4 200||1.00||188|
|2014||20 881||3 900||0,99||176|
|2015||19 800||3 700||0,93||169|
For more information, please contact Pia Lahin, tel. +358 29 435 2313, pia.lahin(at)mela.fi