21.9.2020 14:24

How do you start a business in a certain industry? What permits do you need? — See what permits are needed for restaurants, transport and electrical contracting

Many permits are needed to run a business in Finland, depending on the industry. A new service in operation since the start of September, Licensing and Supervision, promises to make some permit applications easier. We looked at the permits needed to start a business in the restaurant, transport and electrical contracting sectors.

Many professional organizations have information on their websites about the permits needed when setting up a business in those industries. In Finland, people are free to choose their profession, but some trades are subject to permit. In addition, a business owner may need other permits for his or her business, such as an alcohol licence or planning permission for outdoor seating.

Often, the processing time for a permit application is too long for an entrepreneur, or the processing times in different regions vary significantly. Suomen Yrittäjät has proposed a statutory maximum processing time. That would mean the law would clearly state the maximum processing time for each authority.

Suomen Yrittäjät Legal Affairs Manager Tiina Toivonen says, “The permits, notifications and related oversight required by law create costs for business owners, such as when a restaurant or cigarette sales are inspected.”

Types of business which are subject to licence include grocery retail, restaurants and cafés, social sector services, car repair, and health and beauty. Manufacturers and importers of products have “producer responsibility”: they are responsible for disposing of products at their own expense when the products reach the end of their service life.

Suomi.fi/company gathers business-related information in one place, including information about permits, and directs entrepreneurs to the right place. .

“Thankfully, we now have a one-stop shop for permits, combining building and investment project permits, such as environmental permits,” Toivonen says. “You can use it to apply for all your permits in one place. This makes life easier for business owners — they just need to upload their details in one place, where different authorities can then access them.”

Strong safety basis for permit requirements for electrical contractors

What permits and notifications does someone planning to start a business as an electrical contractor need? Here, we looked at the permits and notifications needed for this trade.

Esa Tiainen, Technical Director at the Electrical Contractors’ Association of Finland, STUL, says, “To work as an electrical contractor, you need to be listed in the contractor register of the Finnish Safety and Chemical Agency (Tukes). You can get on the register via the Tukes website once your company employs an electrical supervisor with the required qualifications. An electrical supervisor is responsible for electrical work that the company performs. If you install refrigeration devices, you must inform Tukes that you have the right qualifications and training for the job.”

Tiainen says that tradespeople who install fire alarms and repair lifts also need to register with Tukes. A new Act on Private Security Services came into force in 2017. Work in this area requires a police permit.

“Permits may also be needed to work in certain places, your clients might have their own requirements, or there may be certain obligations under law, such as when working on the Defence Forces’ premises,” Tiainen says. “There could also be additional requirements if the work involves specific hazards.”

Tiainen says that there is a strong safety basis for the permits and notifications needed by electrical contractors, and that permit issues do not create significant barriers to entry for new businesses in the sector.

Transport licence requirement designed to tackle the black economy

The transport sector has its own version of the “one-stop shop”: Traficom, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, is the permit authority for traffic and transportation. Traficom took over processing of transport licences from the ELY Centres two years ago.

In addition to company registration forms, a business providing haulage services with an articulated vehicle or other vehicle weighing over 3,500 kg needs a transport licence (Community licence) which conforms to the EU’s Road Transport Operator Regulation.

Ari Herrala of the organization Finnish Transport and Logistics SKAL says, “We think the requirement for a transport licence is necessary to tackle and monitor the black market and to guarantee quality.

“Road haulage companies must have a valid transport licence, that is, a Community licence for each vehicle used for professional haulage. Requirements for issuing the transport licence include good character, liquidity and professional qualifications. If a legal person, that is, a company or an organization, applies for the permit, it must give the name of the person responsible for transport services. This person must be of good character, professionally qualified, and manage transport operations. The good character requirement applies to the company itself and its key staff members,” Herrala says.

In addition to the company’s transport licence, each drive must be professionally qualified. There are also specialized qualifications which may be required by transport legislation.

“If a company offers haulage services with a vehicle weighing under 3,500 kg, i.e., with a van, the company must submit a notification to the licensing authority. It must do this even when it already holds a valid Community licence. In addition, a vehicle used for haulage must be registered for licensed use.”

The professional qualification requirement mentioned above does not apply to van drivers.

Restaurateurs must tackle the licensing jungle

Setting up your own business as a restaurant owner means getting a lot of permits in areas like building inspection, food safety, emergency services and music rights.

NewCo Helsinki has published a guide to operating in the restaurant sector. If the premises you want to open a restaurant in are not licensed for restaurant or café use by the building inspection authorities, those authorities will need to approve a change in use of the premises.

“Even if the company that used to operate in the premises had all the right permits, you should still contact the supervisory authorities to make sure,” the guide says.

There are many health, safety and environmental requirements related to running restaurants and cafés. A company uses an in-house control plan to monitor the safety and security of foodstuffs and to ensure that it is operating in appropriate conditions.

In Helsinki, for example, a restaurant or café should notify Environmental Services, per the Food Act, four weeks before starting operations.

Illustration: Getty Images

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