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Ethical guidelines

Kela’s ethical guidelines are intended to ensure good management practices, prevent conflicts of interest, and to guarantee the impartiality of Kela’s staff members. The guidelines apply to all Kela employees.

They address such topics as giving and receiving gifts and other monetary considerations, accepting invitations, side employment, procurement, rules of investment, and recusal and other conflicts of interest.

The code of ethics is part of Kela's responsible operations. Kela emphasises responsibility, fairness, and transparency in its relations with all stakeholders. It is our duty to act reliably and honestly. We at Kela are jointly responsible for the reputation of our organisation and for ensuring that our honesty and integrity are not questioned. The aim is to encourage all actors to commit to openness, transparency, and accountability. Ethical conduct is about conformity regarding values and actions, and appropriate behaviour in all situations. The code of ethics is important for personnel as it creates a common culture that values honesty and responsibility, and it helps us to act correctly in different situations.

Responsibility also includes upholding equality in Kela's operations. Kela has two separate non-discrimination plans: Kela's non-discrimination plan and a non-discrimination and equality plan for working life. 

People working for Kela must avoid any actions that may cause a conflict of interest for Kela and the performance of their duties. If a conflict of interest arises, the person must notify their supervisor immediately.

  • A conflict of interest refers to a situation where a personal interest may influence or appear to influence the impartial and objective performance of obligations. 
  • Personal advantage refers to a financial or other potential benefit that benefits a person working for Kela. The advantage may also benefit the person’s family, relatives, or circle of friends and acquaintances. 

A supervisor decides on a case-by-case basis whether circumstances may undermine trust in Kela's operations as referred to in the Criminal Code or the Act on Public Officials in Central Government. However, a supervisor's decision does not exempt an individual employee or official from criminal liability; the preson must always also use their own judgement.

A person working for Kela must immediately notify their supervisor if they have been selected for a new position that may lead to a conflict of interest. The person must also report any conflict of interest that has arisen during their absence.

According to Chapter 2, Section 3 of the Constitution of Finland, the exercise of public powers shall be based on the law and in all public activity, the law shall be strictly observed.

People working at Kela exercise public authority, i.e., they decide on the interests, rights, and obligations of private individuals. Although the Employment Contracts Act applies to the employment relationship of Kela's clerical employees, Kela's employees act are subject to official liability when performing their public duties and exercising public authority. It includes both criminal and tort liability.

Criminal liability

Criminal liability in public office means that an act or omission contrary to official duty is punishable by law (Chapter 40 of the Criminal Code). This is the case, for example, if an official position is abused for profit, or if a public official accepts bribes. Offences in public office are subject to public prosecution and official liability is fulfilled when an official is prosecuted for his or her act.

Tort liability

In principle, as an employer, Kela is primarily liable for providing compensation for damages caused by an employee. As an employer, Kela is obliged to provide compensation for any damages caused by an employee error or negligence at work. The employee is obliged to provide compensation for the damages caused in an amount that is considered reasonable, taking into account the amount of the damages, the nature of the act, the position of the person who caused the damages, the need of the injured party, and other circumstances. Full compensation is awarded for damages caused intentionally, unless there is a special reason to reduce the compensation.

Kela's guidelines on the Administrative Procedure Act also contain information on official liability and liability for criminal offences and damages.

A disqualified person may not participate in the preparation, presentation, or decision-making of a matter. Disqualification arises if a person working for Kela has a relationship with the matter at hand or its parties that may jeopardise the persion’s impartiality.

Disqualification is not assessed solely in light of whether the impartiality of the person handling the case is actually compromised. It is sufficient if, in objective examination, impartiality may be deemed to be compromised. Primarily, everyone must assess disqualification for themselves without it being invoked.   

The grounds for disqualification are listed in section 28 of the Administrative Procedure Act (434/2003). More detailed instructions on the application of the provisions on disqualification can be found in Kela's internal guidelines issued on the basis of the Administrative Procedure Act.

As part of good management practices, Kela's customers can rely on the impartiality of Kela's operations and those of its employees. The purpose of restrictions on secondary occupations is to contribute to ensuring the implementation of good management practices.

Secondary occupation refers to a post and employment relationship with an employer other than Kela, as well as to self-employed persons practising a profession or trade. A person who is in an employment relationship with Kela must not be disqualified from their duties due to their secondary occupation. In addition, a secondary occupation must not jeopardise trust in the impartiality of the performance of duties or otherwise hinder the proper performance of Kela's tasks based on the employment relationship, for example, due to the strenuous nature of the secondary occupation.

According to the Employment Contracts Act, an employee may not perform work for another employer or engage in activities that, taking into account the nature of the work and the employee's position, could harm his or her actual employer as an act of competition.

Permission is always required from the employer if a secondary occupation is carried out during daily working hours (8.15am to 4.00pm.). If an employee carries out significant secondary occupations outside working hours, they must inform their employer so that the employer may consider whether the secondary occupation jeopardises the performance of the salaried employee's primary occupation. Minor work of a hobby nature or occasional minor activity that cannot be considered to have an impact on the performance of the primary occupation is not considered a significant secondary occupation.

The provisions of section 18 of the Act on Public Officials in Central Government concerning secondary occupations apply to the director general and directors as secondary occupations. By law, the director general and directors may not accept or hold a secondary occupation that requires working hours to be used to perform the duties of the secondary occupation, unless authorised by the chair of the board of directors or, in the case of directors, by the director general. When considering whether to grant permission for a secondary occupation, attnetion must be paid to the fact that an official may not be disqualified from their duties due to a secondary occupation. In addition, the secondary occupation must not jeopardise confidence in the impartiality of the performance of a task or otherwise impede the proper performance of the task. Furthermore, it must not cause harm to the employer as an act of competition. In the case of secondary occupations other than those referred to above, the director general shall notify the chair of the Board of Directors and directors shall notify the director general. The acceptance and holding of such a secondary occupation may be prohibited on grounds laid down in law.

The director general and directors shall report on their business activities, holdings in undertakings and other assets, as well as on their non-official duties, secondary occupations, and other interests that may be relevant to the assessment of their ability to perform their official duties. The report must include information on income from secondary occupations.

The director general and directors shall immediately report any changes in the abovementioned information and any shortcomings found. In addition, they must declare any external duties performed by virtue of their official position and any income received from them.

A person working for Kela may not request, receive or accept gifts, financial advantages, or other advantages for themselves or another person. Nor may they accept promises or offers of gifts or advantages that are in any way related to the duties or duties entrusted to them.

A member of Kela's personnel has the right and option to refuse a gift or advantage offered to them in connection with the performance of their duties. As a rule, only advertising or other gifts of negligible value should be accepted from private persons or individual companies. Gifts worth less than 50 euros can usually be considered acceptable.

The distinction between an acceptable and unacceptable advantage is ambiguous, so the primary recommendation is to refrain from accepting. The most important thing is to assess whether accepting a gift or other advantage could undermine trust in the impartiality and independence of Kela's operations, or whether it aims to influence a person employed by Kela.

When assessing whether receiving, accepting or demanding an advantage could affect the impartiality of operations, the position and duties of the person working for Kela and their ability to influence the processing of the affairs of the party giving the gift or advantage must be taken into account above all else. Even if the gift does not involve any attempt to influence the recipient's subsequent actions, such a procedure may raise doubts about the impartiality of Kela's operations.

In legal practice, when assessing the acceptability of an advantage, attention is paid to issues including the following:

  • matters submitted to the authority concerning the party giving the gift or advantage
  • the scope of influence of recipient
  • the objectives of the party giving the gift or advantage
  • the ordinariness of the advantage
  • the significance of the action
  • the status of an employee or public servant.

In addition, attention should be paid to the nature and value of the advantage, its recurrence, and other circumstances of the case. It also matters whether the advantage is offered to a larger group or to an individual.

In the following situations, there is special reason to refrain from accepting advantages:

  • performance of a control and inspection task
  • preparing and deciding on procurement
  • making a decision on the organisation of services.

The Chancellor of Justice has urged everyone in situations where hospitality is offered to ask themselves:

  • Why am I being offered such an advantage?
  • What are my motives for accepting the offer?
  • How would this be perceived by the public? 

Accepting cash for an act that is part of the duties of a job can always be considered illegal. A gift card is comparable to cash.

Factors that jeopardise trust are generally not related to the normal advantages offered in cooperation between a government agency and institutions or authorities of the European Union.

If a gift or financial advantage is accepted, it must be ensured that the procedure is transparent and does not give rise to any debt of gratitude towards the giver. The gift or financial advantage may not otherwise affect the person's impartiality or independence.

Meals paid for by third parties

Attendance at a normal and reasonable lunch paid for by a partner operating in the public, private or NGO sector is acceptable. Attendance is not permitted if the participant knows that Kela has an ongoing matter concerning the cooperation partner and an outsider may think that the person working for Kela can influence the handling of the matter. In any case, the number of lunches should be limited to a maximum of a few per year with each partner.

When Kela's representatives go on visits that increase their professional skills or attend benchmarking events, for example, they can participate in a shared meal that is served to the whole travelling party. A lecturer may attend a regular lunch in connection with a training event. 

Ceremonial events, cultural events, sports competitions, and similar events organised by partners

It is polite and justifiable to attend parties related to the partner's own activities, to which stakeholder representatives have been invited. An example of such events are events organised in honour of an anniversary of activities or in celebration of the opening of new premises.

Persons working at Kela must carefully consider their possible participation in cultural events, sports competitions, or other similar events for which they would normally have to buy an entrance ticket if this is at the expense of private individuals, companies, or organisations. In particular, restraint should be exercised when a staff member or official may, by virtue of their position, have influence in making decisions or procurements concerning, for example, the party giving the gift or advantage. On the other hand, for example, personal activity in the activities of a sports organisation offering the advantage, or a recreational event offered by a spouse's employer to the families of their own employees may be acceptable grounds for participation.

In some situations, the event may be part of a cooperation meeting organised by the partner and it may take place, for example, between or after meetings. In such cases, participation in the event is more acceptable than in a situation where there is no meeting associated with the event. When assessing the matter, attention must also be paid to the price of the ticket normally purchased for the event, as well as to the location of the event, i.e. whether travel is required to participate in the event.

Before participating in meals, events or other similar events, it is always advisable to discuss the acceptability of participation with your supervisor.

If travelling is required to participate in an event related to work duties, Kela will pay the employee's travel and accommodation costs. If the invitation also applies to a family member working for Kela living in the same household, the family member must pay any non-minor costs. If participation in the event requires accommodation for both family members, the travel service will book accommodation in a double room, but Kela employees will first pay for the hotel room themselves and invoice half of the room price retrospectively.

Lecture fees

A person working for Kela may not receive remuneration for lectures or speeches given as a representative of Kela. Any reward belongs to Kela.

A person working for Kela may only give gifts to third parties at Kela's expense when it is related to an established and accepted practice. Moderation must be observed when giving gifts, and the value of the gift should not exceed 50 euros. Gifts may be given in similar situations and in similar forms to which they may be received.

The catering arranged for partners must be of an ordinary and reasonable standard in accordance with the purpose and nature of the event.  Kela's funds may only be used for representation purposes to show ordinary hospitality or courtesy to Kela's stakeholders and at training courses, celebrations or other similar events for Kela's own personnel. When choosing a venue, Kela's own facilities must be utilised.

As a rule, alcohol may only be served at events organised on Kela's own premises. As a rule, only mild alcoholic beverages are served at such events. Permission to serve alcohol is granted by the head of the business unit or operational unit. 

Kela's employees must ensure the proper implementation of procurement procedures by observing the principles of equality, impartiality, and fairness, and by acting openly. Employees must refrain from accepting any offers of gifts or advantage before, during and after the procurement procedure.

Inside information related to investment activities refers to information related to a publicly traded security that has not been published, that has otherwise not been available on the market, or that has a material effect on the value or price of said security. Anyone with knowledge of unpublished information can be a holder of insider information. Insider information may concern both the securities of one company and the securities market in general. The use of insider information for one's own advantage or for the advantage of another person is prohibited. Insider regulations may not be circumvented through related parties.

The intentional or grossly negligent misuse of insider information is a punishable offence. Attempted intentional crime is also a punishable offence.

A member of the target group that is defined in the insider rules in the investment plan and who has received insider information must refrain from participating in the preparation, processing and decision-making concerning the security in question. They shall also refrain from dealing with security in question on their own and on another’s behalf, and from giving investment advice in respect thereof. It is prohibited to circumvent this restriction by making transactions on one’s own behalf in the name of a related party or through other intermediaries.

Kela's insider rules and their application, as well as the target group of the rules, are defined in more detail in the investment plan approved annually by the Board of Directors.

The persons referred to in the insider rules of the investment plan submit to Kela an insider notification based on the Financial Supervisory Authority's guidelines on insider notifications by pension insurance companies. Notifications are stored in the resources and financial management team of the Management Support Unit.

If there is any doubt as to how any of the ethical rules set out in this code of ethics are to be applied in practice, contact the Management Support Unit to ensure the consistent application of this code of ethics.

Supervisors are responsible for supervising compliance with the code of ethics. If the code of ethics is breached, the guidelines for investigating internal misconduct and the HR guidance for issuing a reprimand or warning and terminating an employment relationship shall be applied depending on the nature of the violation.

Ethical principles governing insurance medicine evaluations

The physician medical advisors employed by Kela

  • carefully examine claimants’ health status, fitness for work and functional ability on the basis of the available or requested documents and information relevant to the matter at hand.
  • follow the laws and regulations which apply to benefits with medical eligibility criteria
  • carefully and impartially evaluate the information included in documents and consider it in light of the applicable legislation
  • make the insurance medicine evaluation on the basis of evidence-based information and sound medical practice and do not let their personal attitudes or their own interests or those of another person affect their judgment
  • recognise situations in which outside consultation is needed to supplement their own expertise
  • settle conflicts professionally, respecting the client and other parties
  • recognise that they are not impartial when it comes to the client or the attending physicians and recuse themselves from the process of reviewing the client's claim
  • keep their expertise up to date by seeking education and other ways of improving their proficiency
  • comply with Kela’s guidelines on privacy protection and handle client data confidentially.

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