Civilian service has been a legal option in Finland since 1931. An average of about 2,000 young males annually performs a civilian service.
Applying for the civilian service
Military conscripts may apply for civilian service at call-up or at any time thereafter, including during military service. Applying is done by completing a special application form and submitting it to the call-up committee, during the military service to the Commander of the Division, and at other times to either the army regional office or the Lapinjärvi Civil Service Center. A paper application form can be obtained from the above locations and the Union of Conscientious Objectors.
By signing the application, the applicant declares that his beliefs prevents him from performing military service. However, there is no investigation into beliefs during peacetime, so in practice it is just a notice. Applications must be dealt with immediately by the authorities, even if the application has been lodged with the military.
Civilian servant may also be exempted on health grounds or on the grounds of being a dual citizen living abroad.
How long does it take?
The duration of civilian service is 347 days.
Any military service performed before the commencement of civilian service shall be redused from the period of civilian service by applying certain coefficients. The multiplier is obtained by dividing the civilian service time by the army service time, that is, for those who complete 165 days of service, each day of service in the army compensates for civilian service 347 days / 165 days = 2.10 days.
Civilian service begins with a four-week training period at the Lapinjärvi Civil Service Center. There are four different types of orientation during the training period: citizen influence, rescue and civil protection, environment and society, and violence prevention. The starting point is that the civilian servant can choose which group to go to. After the training period, about 10.5 months of employment will begin.
The weekly working time of a civil servant shall not exceed 40 hours or less than 36 hours. Weekends are free at many places of employment. However, work can also be done on weekends, when there equal amount of freedays during the week. In addition to the weekly days off, Civilian servants have right to personal holidays (18 days) and paternity leave (12 days), as well as the opportunity to apply for a personal leave (180 days) or a health leave (20 days).
When can I start civilian service?
The Civilian Service Act says that an applicant for a civilian service must be ordered to commence service "during the year of approval of the application or two calendar years thereafter" if he is not temporarily or permanently exempted from service.
You can express your wish in the application form when you would like to start doing civilian service. There will be eleven training periods in the year 2020, and each one will be assigned several months in advance. A cancellation point can be obtained even at short notice. If you want to civilian service quickly, you may want to contact the Civilian Service Center yourself.
If you are ordered to commence service at an unsuitable time for you, you may apply for a deferral of up to three years at a time, up to the end of the year in which you reach the age of 28. Based on your studies, you should get it fairly easily. Other personal reasons (eg financial situation) may also be invoked as grounds for deferral.
Getting a civilian service place and starting a civilian service
In principle, the assignment of the place of civilian service is a matter for the authorities, but in practice almost all civilian servants apply their civil service jobs themselfes. Getting a civilian service place is like any job search. If you can find a suitable place for a civilian service, you will almost certainly get one. The Civilian Service Center maintains a list of suitable civilian service places.
Civilian service cannot be done by your own employer, you cannot be in the same place at the same time at work and doing civilian service.
The place of service can be any public body (state, state-owned enterprises, state-owned state institutions, public-law associations, municipalities). Non-profit organizations governed by private law (not intended to make a profit) and religious communities are also eligible under certain conditions, but not business organisations.
In practice, the most common places for civilian service are social and health care institutions, agencies, schools, universities, libraries, cultural institutions and organizations. The range of possible civilian service places and the jobs they provide is therefore very wide. Usually doing civilian service resembles normal work, with the difference, of course, that you are not paid salary.
It is a good idea to start looking for a place for civilian service before you start your service. However, the date of commencement of service cannot be agreed with the place of civilian service until he has ensured from the Civilian Service Center that he has access to the training period and has obtained an entry order there. However, the existence of a place for civilian service is by not a condition for applying for or commencing civilian service.
If you do not have a civilian service place at the end of your training period, you may be offered to take a personal guilty leave (HSL) after your training at the Civilian Service Center. However, taking it is voluntary. HSL is intended for personal affairs, not for solving problems caused by lack of civilian servant places.
Subsistence allowance, meals and health care
The place of civilian service is required by law to provide accommodation, meals, health care, daily allowances and travel. The tax-free allowance is the same as for conscripts (0-165 days 5.15 €, 166-265 days 8.20 €, 266-347 days 12.00 €).
It is the duty of the place of service to provide meals on service days and holidays during which the civilian servant is staying in the accommodation addressed by the place of service (but not on days off when he is elsewhere). The service place is required to organize breakfast, lunch, dinner and evening meal each day. Meals can be arranged either by providing food or by paying the food allowance. The service place can also arrange some of the Meals and pay the rest in cash. If no meals are provided, the food allowance is € 13.50 / day.
The place of service is also required to provide the health care. Free medical care for a civilian servant includes, during the term of service, the medical services necessary to perform the service such as necessary treatment and medicines.
Each place of service is required by law to provide accommodation and to pay the cost of living during service, of which the State shall reimburse to the place of service the amount prescribed by law.
The accommodation may be - and often is - in the same apartment where the civilian servant had lived before he began his service. In this case, the reimbursable housing arrangements include rent / compensation, water, utility electricity, sauna fee and home insurance, if taking out home insurance is a condition of the lease. If the place of employment is pointing you to live somewhere else, you may receive a housing allowance from Kela to maintain your own apartment during the service. However, the allowance is not paid for the apartment to which you have been assigned by the place of service during the period of civilian service, since its payment is legally required by the place of employment. As a general rule, to qualify for a housing allowance, you must have lived "on your own" (outside your parents' home) for at least three months before starting civil service.
Refusing accommodation provided by the place of civil service is a problematic solution even if you wish to live elsewhere, as refusing to do so will adversely affect civilian servants rights (no holiday pay, no food allowance, etc.). The accommodation provided by the place of civilian service is in fact only required to be present when "it is essential for the performance of the service".
There have been problems in arranging accommodation for civilian servants, which have been somewhat relieved since the state's started to share of the cost of accommodation.
Problems with the place of service?
If your place of service does not fulfill its obligations as required by law or you otherwise encounter problems with it, contact the civilian service enforcement authorities. If this does not help, contact the Union Of Conscientious objectors. AKL will also provide you with legal assistance if you are charged with a civilian service offense or are subject to disciplinary action.
Liberation from the army in case of war
All those recruited for civilian service have been released from military service during both peace and crisis. The criterion is explicitly the acceptance into civilian service, not its execution: also those who have been applied for civilian service but have been exempted, and those who have applied for civilian service during peace but have not begun execute it, are exempt from military service in all circumstances.
In the current civilian service law, only those who applied for civilian service during wartime may be required to conduct a conviction investigation. Those approved to civilian service may be ordered to perform civilian service during a crisis under the leadership of civilian authorities. Recruitment is the responsibility of the Civilian Service Center.
The lenght of the civil service is punitive
In July 2013, the UN Human Rights Committee stated that the duration of civilian service is still punitive and in violation of the Convention on Civil and Political Rights which binds Finland. Since then, the situation has not been remedied. Amnesty International has stated that it will continue to treat Finnish total objectors as prisoners of conscience, as it also sees the lenght of service as punitive.