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How we made an impact for entrepreneurs in 2018

Even though we’re reaching the end of the parliamentary term and most of the sitting government’s work has been done, in 2018 Suomen Yrittäjät still managed to push through significant reforms that affect the everyday lives of small and medium entrepreneurs. In addition, we offered entrepreneurs knowledge, peer support, help and entertainment.

Improved unemployment benefit for entrepreneurs’ family members 

In terms of unemployment benefit, the position of an entrepreneur’s family member who does not own any of the business is changing from ‘entrepreneur’ to ‘employee’. Following this change, an entrepreneur’s family member needs to own part of the business to be considered an entrepreneur. In other cases, the family member is legally an employee, including in terms of unemployment benefit. This means that he or she will not face unfair losses of rights due to being insured by the incorrect unemployment fund. Nor will he or she suffer because he or she has stopped working in a family business which continues trading.  

This change, which rewards the long, hard work of Suomen Yrittäjät, will come into effect in July 2019.  

Easier hiring 

One of the focus areas of Suomen Yrittäjät in 2018 was to ensure easier hiring by making dismissal on personal grounds easier. This would encourage small business-owners to hire workers. There has been intense debate on the matter. The government amended its bill twice and in November produced a bill that stressed the significance of the size of the employer’s business when assessing the threshold for dismissals. The change will help single-person businesses, for example, who want to reduce their workload and hire a second pair of hands.  

The change is set to come into force in July 2019. 

Bankruptcy Act set for overhaul – entrepreneurs must be given the chance for a fresh start

The government has proposed an overhaul of the Bankruptcy Act that would make the bankruptcy procedure simpler and faster. Suomen Yrittäjät demands other actions that would give a business that had gone through bankruptcy the opportunity for a fresh start. The organization sat on the working group that drafted the reform. The bill was good and will reduce long, drawn-out bankruptcies. The reform will reduce the maximum periods for the bankruptcy process and strengthen the trustee’s tools to monitor the administrators.  

The bill is intended to pass into law as soon as possible.  

Clear rules for zero-hours contracts  

Clear rules has been set for zero-hours contracts. The amended legislation concerns zero-hours contracts and other contracts with a floating, rather than fixed, number of working hours (e.g., 0–40 or 10–30 hours per week). The rules also apply to employees who are offered work on an ‘as needed’ basis. Suomen Yrittäjät succeeded in ensuring that work may continue to be offered on a zero-hours contract when the demand for labour varies.  

The changes came into force in June 2018. 

Help for new small business-owners: minimum capital for limited liability companies on the way out

A proposal from the Ministry of Justice would remove the current minimum capital requirement of €2,500 when registering a new limited liability company. The Ministry says the change is necessary to make entrepreneurship and running small businesses easier. Suomen Yrittäjät has long advocated such a change. 

If the bill is passed by Parliament, the change should come into force in July 2019.  

Broad overhaul of Trademark Act considers SMEs’ interests

A government bill, if passed, would see the enactment of a Trademark Act that would transpose the EU’s trademark directive into national law. The position of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) has been considered well in the bill. For SMEs, it is essential that the trademarks they register give them robust protection. Abolishing the study of consent-dependent obstacles would have weakened SMEs’ position, making it a good thing that it was not abolished. Suomen Yrittäjät was involved in preparing the trademark legislation as part of a working group of the Ministry of Labour and the Economy.  

The bill is intended to pass into law in early 2019.  

New trade secrets legislation comes into force – no new limitations on NDAs

The new Trade Secrets Act transposed the EU’s trade secrets directive into national law. The directive aims to improve and harmonize the protection of the trade secrets in the EU. Finnish protections of trade secrets were already strong, but the new law provides clarity and additional security for holders of trade secrets. Clear regulations were added to the Act on what a trade secret is and when it may not be acquired, used, expressed or revealed to a third party.  

The Act came into force in August 2018. 

Entrepreneur no longer forced to give up company shares during company reorganization

A Ministry of Finance working group proposed in 2017 that when a company is reorganized, reorganization debts should be allowed to be converted into debtor company shares without the business owner's consent, even in very small companies. Suomen Yrittäjät intervened and managed to prevent this change, which would have been detrimental for business-owners.  

Debt recovery-related employment traps removed

In February, the law on debt recovery was amended to make encouraging employment and the position of low-income, heavily indebted people easier. At the preparatory stage, Suomen Yrittäjät proposed to the Ministry of Justice that the law be amended to extend the opportunity to defer debt recovery to unemployed people who become entrepreneurs. This perspective was taken into account. The proposed amendment was changed to ensure that when a debtor became self-employed following long-term unemployment, the income from this source would not be subject to debt recovery.

Insolvency no longer to form bar to doing business

Failure to meet legally-required payment obligations can no longer be considered a basis for setting a ban on running a business, if the failure to pay was due to insolvency. A ban on doing business can only be applied in cases where the person carries some culpability. The amended Act came into force in January 2018. The amendment strengthens bans on doing business and monitoring of the black economy and clamps down on inappropriate business practices. 

Demolition extension construction becomes easier

The government has proposed amending the Limited Liability Housing Companies Act to make demolitions and new builds easier. If Parliament passes the amendment, infill and building extensions following demolitions will be easier, as a single property-owner in the housing company will not be able to prevent such a project. Suomen Yrittäjät supported the amendment. The bill is intended to pass into law in January 2019.

Hansel and KL-Kuntahankinnat to merge – a positive change for SMEs

Hansel Oy, the joint procurement unit, and KL-Kuntahankinnat, the municipalities’ joint procurement unit, are to merge on 1 January 2019. Suomen Yrittäjät had an impact on the preparations for the merger and thus managed to achieve SME-friendly changes. The new Hansel will concentrate on fewer and larger procurements than before, ones in which SMEs will not be the main participants. 

SMEs’ bank credit secured

Since 2015, Suomen Yrittäjät has called for a risk-weight supporting factor for SMEs under the Capital Requirements Regulation. This would ensure SMEs’ continued access to bank credit. Political consensus was achieved, as the result of many years of advocacy work, at the Council of the European Union in November 2018. As a result of our parliamentary advocacy, the European Parliament also supported a risk-weight supporting factor. Now, the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament are to enter so-called triilogue negotiations on the matter. They are expected to be completed quickly and a permanent risk-weight supporting factor for SMEs is expected to come into force as early as 2019.

New secondary school legislation improves school-business cooperation The new Act on General Upper Secondary Education offers secondary schools a path towards stronger cooperation with companies, employers and third-level education. It improves secondary school students’ readiness for further studies and the world of work. The emphasis on international contacts and entrepreneurship is also important.  

The new Act will come into force on 1 August 2019.  

Coming into force later

End to income source division 

The government has proposed doing away with the separate assessment of businesses’ income sources. This would mean that, as a rule, all of a business’s operations and incomes would be considered as coming from the same income source. The government’s proposal would see the new rules applied from the start of 2020. Scrapping the artificial division of income sources has been a long-term aim of Suomen Yrittäjät, as the organization thinks that a company should be able to calculate all its income and losses together. In addition, the rules have been open to wide interpretation, which has created uncertainty in taxation. The proposal still raises many questions about where boundaries are drawn, and matters that are open to interpretation, but in spite of this the government’s proposal is an improvement on the current situation, and thus worthy of support.

Amendment to the Competition Act makes competition between public and private sectors fairer

From the start of 2020, competition between public and private-sector businesses will be fairer, as the public sector will have to start separating its accounts.

Civil imprisonment for fine recovery being reintroduced to criminal law

Retailers have had to face an increase in shoplifting and petty thefts in recent years. The total cost of losses from theft has been about €550 million a year. That is why Suomen Yrittäjät and the Finnish Commerce Federation have jointly demanded reinstating civil imprisonment for the recovery of fines in criminal legislation. The matter has progressed quickly: Parliament is already discussing the proposed amendment. If Parliament passes the amended Act, it will come into force no later than 2021. 

Waste Act to change to encourage waste-sector entrepreneurs to invest

The Waste Act will be amended in 2020 to allow for better monitoring of municipal waste companies in tendered markets. The amendment will reduce the threshold for waste-sector entrepreneurs to invest in the sector. As the market diversifies, other companies can also benefit from the situation.

Suomen Yrittäjät has been a member of the working group preparing the amendment to the Waste Act. 

One-stop shop for environmental permits 

From 2021 an entrepreneur can deal with a single authority when he or she needs to apply for several environmental permits. Currently, an entrepreneur must deal with each state or municipal authority separately. The costs for small businesses, in particular, will be reduced and project timetables will speed up. Suomen Yrittäjät has been involved in the project. The one-stop-shop model is an excellent example of the efforts that have been begun on reducing costly red tape for businesses.

SME-friendly amendments to social and healthcare reform legislation

Suomen Yrittäjät has done advocacy work for years to ensure that the social, healthcare and provincial reform currently being prepared is as SME-friendly as possible. This would help improve service provision. Indeed, specifications have been added to the relevant legislation that support SMEs. For example, the requirement for an obligatory employment relationship between a social and healthcare centre and a social advisor is being scrapped. If Parliament passes the laws, the social and healthcare reform would gradually come into force in 2021 and 2022. 

Events offer knowledge and peer support for entrepreneurs 

In 2018, entrepreneurs got to network and learn new things at numerous local, regional and national events. Below are some summaries of selected national Suomen Yrittäjät events. 

Help for finding professional staff: Educational Management Forum in Helsinki

A dearth in skilled workers is already hindering business growth. For that reason, Suomen Yrittäjät cooperates closely with education providers. The first Educational Management Forum was held on 8 February in Helsinki. It brought together over 200 entrepreneurs and educational sector professionals to talk about the best ways to develop education to ensure young people could become employed and entrepreneurs could find the workers they needed. The Suomen Yrittäjät project, “Osaavia opettajia – yrittäviä nuoria” (“Knowledgeable teachers – entrepreneurial young people”) has organized teacher training sessions for 1,600 teachers in 2018. This is promising for the future, as students will learn more about entrepreneurship.

The much-awaited Entrepreneur Cruise returns!

The Suomen Yrittäjät Entrepreneur Cruise was held for a second time, by popular demand, on 14 and 15 April 2018. Over 1,100 entrepreneurs from around Finland set sail on the cruise. The programme included inspirational speeches from entrepreneurs and fun socializing.  

Photo: McWhirter Photography

Even better cooperation between municipalities and businesses

The traditional Suomen Yrittäjät Municipal Leadership Seminar brought together over 1,200 entrepreneurs, city and municipal councillors and municipal employees in the Tampere Hall on 23 and 24 May 2018. As many as 250 municipalities were represented. At the event, the results of a survey on business policy indicators. The survey is an important tool for improving cooperation between businesspeople and municipalities. Thanks to everyone who responded to the survey!

Photo: Mika Kanerva

Swedish-language meet-up in Hanko

The national Swedish-language meet-up in Hanko in June brought together over 50 Swedish-speaking Finnish entrepreneurs from up and down the coast. At the two-day event, participants learnt about the history of the host city, Hanko, on both land and sea.

Next year, the national Swedish-language meet-up will be organized according to a slightly different concept. The traditional two-day event will be divided into three evenings. In 2019, that means there will be three national Swedish-language meet-ups, with the first as early as 27 February!

Photo_ Pauliina Rokman

Stadi vs. Lande packs a tent at Suomi Areena 

In July, business was front and centre at the Suomi Areena event, organized by the City of Pori and Mediahub Helsinki. The Suomi Yrittäjät edition of the Stadi vs. Lande (“city vs country”) game show was the fourth most popular of the roughly 200 events held over the week. On stage was a host of entrepreneurs, famous politicians and well-known TV actors and performers. 

Photo: Eeva Ketvel

Young Entrepreneurs’ Get Together discusses entertainment as a business

The Young Entrepreneurs’ national networking event, Get Together, brought about 200 young entrepreneurs from all over Finland together in Hyvinkää on 24 and 25 August 2018. The theme of the event was “Entertainment as Business”. There was also the opportunity to make new friends and get support from peers. Lasse Saarenpää and his company Laten Kone Oy won the title of Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2018. 

Photo: Students from Laurea

Young Entrepreneurs’ Nordic Meetup brings young Nordic entrepreneurs together

At the start of November, the Young Entrepreneurs’ Nordic Meetup offered a brilliant opportunity for young Finnish and Swedish entrepreneurs to get to know each other and to network. The event is organized every year, alternating between Stockholm and Helsinki.

This year, the event took place in Stockholm and during 36-hour boot camp young entrepreneurs were given the chance to learn new things about the Swedish start-up world, pitch their ideas to experienced business angels, spar on the development of their own business development and network internationally. 

National Entrepreneur Days bring 1,600 entrepreneurs together 

One thousand six hundred entrepreneurs came to Turku in October for the National Entrepreneur Days to hear speeches from entrepreneurs, attend the Entrepreneur Gala and applaud entrepreneurs who received awards. The general assembly of Suomen Yrittäjät set the goals and parliamentary election approaches for the coming year, called for respect for democracy, and elected the chairperson and vice-chairpersons for the organization.   

Photo: Vesa-Matti Vaara

Business Unplugged brings immigrant entrepreneurs together 

Immigrant entrepreneurs and people who work with immigrants met in Turku and Helsinki in November. The events, which were run in English, included interesting entrepreneurial stories and were a great opportunity to learn new things and to network.  

Photo: Eeva Ketvel

Other help and support for entrepreneurs

Valuable member benefits for member entrepreneurs

Suomen Yrittäjät offers its members valuable member benefits. The most popular one is the free legal advice service. Member benefits were given another overhaul in 2018. 

Single-person businesses get their own network

Over half the members of Suomen Yrittäjät run their businesses alone. Because the nature of single-person businesses is somewhat different from the work of employers, Suomen Yrittäjät set up a single-person business network to think about how the organization could even better sup-port its members who run their businesses alone. The network started up at the beginning of 2018. The network was expanded with new members at the end of the year.  

New guides to help entrepreneurs’ everyday lives – GDPR, starting a business, digitalization, working internationally

In 2018 Suomen Yrittäjät published a number of guides designed to help entrepreneurs in their daily lives. The first and by far the most popular one was a guide to data protection for entrepreneurs. In addition, the organization published guides to setting up a business, the entrepreneur’s first year, digitalization, and services and funding for international growth in 2018. The next guide to be published will be about the income register. In addition to the guides, the organization offered its members templates for forms they need to comply with the GDPR.  

SMEs go global tour offers information about working internationally

The “Pk-yritykset maailmalle” (“SMEs go global”) tour got entrepreneurs excited about expanding to international markets and told them about the services of Business Finland and the Team Finland network. The target group of the tour was businesses who were considering expanding internationally or had just begun to do so. The five events on the tour were attended by 450 participants.

Getting to know the vocational education reform

The vocational education reform came into force at the start of 2018. The Suomen Yrittäjät experts, Terhi Haapaniemi and Merja Paloniemi, toured Finland throughout the year telling entrepreneurs about the reform. The latest Yrittäjägallup entrepreneurial survey shows that their work was successful: entrepreneurs are already well informed about the reform, which helps them find qualified labour.

Mentor programme supports young entrepreneurs

The Young Entrepreneurs’ mentor programme is aimed at entrepreneurs of the younger generation who wish to grow and develop in business under the mentorship of a more experienced adviser. The mentor programme was organized for the first time in autumn 2017, when 60 young entrepreneurs were connected with experienced professionals. The aim was for both parties to learn from each other and for the young people to make progress with their business operations. The mentor programme was run in cooperation with Boardman and was so successful that it is being run again in 2019. 

A new network for immigrant entrepreneurs

Suomen Yrittäjät has decide to set up a new immigrant entrepreneur network. The aim is to bring entrepreneurs with an immigrant background working in Finland together in a network. The organization also wants to develop an offering specifically for them, boost the position of immigrant entrepreneurs and the conditions for doing business, and to think about solutions to advocacy questions that concern them. 

Help for businesses going public 

The new Suomen Yrittäjät growth entrepreneur network got off to a fast start. In 2018, a training session on how to be floated on the stock exchange in a year was prepared up to help entrepreneurs. The training session will be held in early 2019. At the “Kasvun tiellä” (“On the road to growth”) seminar in Espoo in November it was revealed that a full 27 companies had applied to attend the training session.

Digischools help entrepreneurs improve their digital skills

The “Yrittäjän digikoulut” (“Entrepreneurs’ digitalization schools”), aimed at SMEs, brought digi-talization to entrepreneurs in an extremely practical way and with the help of inspiring examples. The digischools were organized all over Finland with our partners Fennia, Elisa, Holvi and Elo. Participation was free for entrepreneurs. 

Suomen Yrittäjät communication helps entrepreneurs keep up to date

Entrepreneurs can keep well-informed about changes to legislation and other changes affecting their businesses by following communication from  Suomen Yrittäjät. Member entrepreneurs are sent the Yrittäjäsanomat member magazine and a newsletter. We also publish the top entrepreneurial news daily on yrittajat.fi. You can find entrepreneurial info on social media on the Suomen Yrittäjät Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. On Instagram, we concentrate more on creating a warm entrepreneurial mood. What’s more, you should consider subscribing to our Yrittäjä magazine, in which we concentrate on longer entrepreneur stories.