Position and service relationships of senior management

Competent and ethically upright senior civil servants is a national asset, serving the government and the entire country. The government’s abilities to secure public services and a well-functioning central government depend on senior civil servants’ expertise and commitment to common objectives. This commitment is strengthened by consistent political guidelines and a good working relationship between senior civil servants and political leaders.

Good administration is built upon a common vision of what good management should be like. Good management is achieved by developing good managers and providing them with the conditions that are conducive to success. Apart from well-functioning work communities, key factors include managers' positions and employment relationships, their selection, coaching and performance management, and the combined effect of all the above. First of all, management positions must be attractive, and the central government must be able to recruit into management positions either already competent managers or those willing to develop themselves for such positions and careers using sufficiently uniform grounds and procedures. Another target is that development targets and paths are clearly shown and that managers receive support for career management and professional development. Thirdly, evaluation of managers' performance supports both management results and the managers' development. Management's performance and mobility is also promoted by means of an appropriate structure of positions and duties, in which the temporary nature of management duties is a key element. 

Common to all managers

It is important for the central government as an employer to be able to employ competent managers and to encourage them to succeed in their work. This is promoted through the mobility of the senior civil servants and with the support provided for their professional development. Fixed-term managerial positions are a typical feature in the way posts and duties of especially the most senior civil servants are structured. 

The rights and responsibilities of a civil servant to be appointed or already appointed to a senior managerial post are determined according to the Act on Public Officials in Central Government. In principle, they are the same rights and responsibilities as those of other civil servants. 

As a rule, the senior managerial posts are filled on the basis of a public application procedure. The competence (president, government, ministry or agency) to appoint a person to a managerial position is deter-mined according to the type of the position. More information on the principles followed when filling offi-cial positions in the central government is available in the Ministry of Finance guidelines on the principles followed when filling official positions (in Finnish)

Under the Act on Public Officials in Central Government, civil servants must act in the manner required by their position and duties. Especially the obligation concerning behaviour is stricter for the most senior civil servants than for other civil servants. It also applies to their free time. Read more about civil service ethics here (in Finnish). 

Provisions on the grounds for terminating the service contracts of managers are laid down in the Act on Public Officials in Central Government. The public-service relationship of a civil servant ends without a termination of the service contract or any other measure to end the public-service relationship at the end of the month in which the civil servant reaches the age of resignation. The age of resignation is 68 years for persons born before and in 1957, 69 years for those born between 1958 and 1961, and 70 years for those born in 1962 and after that.

Position and mobility of the most senior civil servants 

The most senior civil servants include the permanent secretaries, permanent state under-secretaries, heads of department and other officials in corresponding positions in the ministries, and the directors of government agencies. The most senior civil servants comprise approximately 130 officials.  

As a rule, the most senior civil servants are appointed for a fixed term of five years, unless there is a special reason to appoint them for a fixed time period shorter than this. For a reason that is justified for the agency’s operation, the term can be extended by a maximum of one year. There are no restrictions for appointing a person for another five-year-term based on a public application process. If a civil servant is appointed for a second five-year-term, they are considered to have resigned from their possible previous public-service relationship from that date, unless otherwise decided for a special reason by an authority. 

The purpose of the fixed-term service relationships is to increase the mobility of the senior civil servants and subsequently their professional development and availability in different areas of the central government. The Ministry of Finance encourages senior civil servants to apply for opening positions and supports them in the process. The information on the end dates of the fixed-term appointments of the most senior civil servants is available on this website. (see the link at the end of the page). 

Before they can be appointed, the person proposed for appointment to the most senior posts in the central government must provide an account of their business activities, ownership in companies and other assets, duties unrelated to the post in question, secondary employment, and other private interests that may have an impact on the person’s ability to perform the duties of the post to be filled. To the extent they are public, the private interests of the appointed most senior civil servants are published in the public information network on the Ministry of Finance’s website Private interests of the most senior civil servants.  

If necessary, a waiting period agreement is concluded with the person to be appointed to a public post if the person will in their post, duties or position have access to such secret information or information protected by regulations otherwise restricting its publicity that can essentially be used to the person’s own benefit or to the benefit or harm of another person in the new service relationship or activity. More information on the waiting period agreement is available in the Ministry of Finance’s instructions for a waiting period agreement (in Finnish)

Other information (in Finnish)

Information on the most senior posts opening in the central government, situation on 1 October 2020 (in Finnish) 
Most senior central government officials in numbers, April 2018
Report of the commission on civil service ethics
Civil service ethics, commission

Contact information 

Ari Holopainen
Senior Ministerial Adviser, Financial Affairs
Tel. +358 295 530 520
[email protected]