31.1.2023 14:10
Press release

Our action on behalf of business owners in 2022

In spring 2022, society began to recover from the Covid pandemic. Restrictions on business activities were abolished. However, new troubles arose in February, when Russia invaded Ukraine and war broke out in Europe. The prices of commodities, transport and energy rose. Once again, companies had to adapt to a new environment. Suomen Yrittäjät, the Finnish SME association, supported, advised and updated business owners in their daily lives throughout the year and advocated strongly on their behalf at the local, national and European levels.

Monetary compensation for business closures and large fuel bills

We demanded and achieved Closure Compensation and Business Cost Support

Due to Covid, the Finnish state continued to support SMEs by continuing its Business Cost Support in 2022 for a fifth and sixth round. We made a strong impact on the criteria for each round.

Thanks to our lobbying, the state also granted Closure Compensation to companies who could not operate due to legislation or a government agency’s order. Closure Compensation was an essential aid to companies who had no opportunity to adapt their business or prepare in advance for a prohibition on short notice.

Infectious disease sickness allowance lightened employers’ load

A temporary provision was added to the Health Insurance Act which entitled an insured person to infectious disease sickness allowance if he or she had been reliably tested positive for Covid and work was not recommended for infection reasons.

This right was also granted to the parent or guardian of a child aged under 16.

This meant that applying the temporary provision did not require a decision on absence from work, early childhood education or school or a quarantine or isolation order based on the Infectious Disease Act. This simplified the processing of Covid-related absences from workplaces and lightened employers’ burden in this issue.

We achieved relief for sharply increased fuel costs

Our demands were heard, and businesses were helped with sharply increased fuel costs through the fuel support for haulage and machinery companies.

We also lobbied to ensure the share of renewable fuels distributors must distribute was temporarily reduced for 2022 and 2023. This significantly lowered the price of diesel.

In addition, the Ministry of Finance began preparing regulations on professional diesel we had strongly lobbied for.

The commuting tax credit was also increased.

Legislative improvements to benefit entrepreneurs every day

We achieved a new financial instrument for exporter SMEs

Our advocacy work of many years progresses when SMEs get a new financial instrument for export. Finnvera can now grant an export credit to foreign purchasers even in small-scale export trade.

The small trade export credit for foreign purchasers, a result of years of advocacy by Suomen Yrittäjät, improves smaller businesses’ export opportunities and ensures that our trade financing is competitive compared to our key competitor countries.

We demanded the right to a bank account and basic banking services for businesses

Many new business owners’ operations hit the obstacle of being unable to open a bank account due to issues such as a poor credit score. Thanks to our proposal, the Government finally began to investigate business owners’ problems in accessing banking services. The investigation will be used when decisions are made on small businesses’ right to access banking services that are essential for business.

Businesses’ debt recovery fees reduced as we had hoped

In accordance with our goal, maximum euro amounts were set in law for the recovery of businesses’ receivables. This is a significant change: we have found that SMEs have in the worst case been charged up to hundreds of euros in recovery fees for debt recovery letters. Reasonable fees are also beneficial for business owners who have lent money, as their debtors are able to repay their debts more quickly when debt recovery fees are more moderate than before.

Corporate debt collection rationalized according to our demands

Corporate debt collection (“tratta”) is a harsh collection method for businesses and their owners, as it results in a payment default entry. In line with our goals, corporate debt collection was made more reasonable. The law was changed to give a debtor more time to react before corporate debt collection could be used. The fees arising from corporate debt collection were also brought down to a reasonable level.

Shorter retention periods for payment default entries

We want to guarantee business owners that have liquidated their companies a fresh start and the opportunity to keep making a living by themselves. Payment default entries prevent or at least complicate the registration of a new business. In future, payment default entries will be removed from the register one month after the relevant debt has been paid off. Previously, an entry could have remained in a company’s and business owner’s credit score for years, even if the debt had been paid.

We demanded a Bill to limit long payment terms

In line with our goals, the Ministry of Justice prepared a Bill that would restrict long payment terms between companies and establish a supervisory agency. The Bill is good and ready to be put before Parliament. The goal of Suomen Yrittäjät is for the amended to be enacted during the next parliamentary term.

The background to the Bill is the question of prohibiting payment terms of over 30 days between companies unless the parties have explicitly agreed to such a term. Typically, however, a larger company demands a long payment term for itself from a smaller contractual partner without the agreement required by the law. Our own investigations have found that in over 50% of cases where the payment term was longer than 30 days, the law had not been followed. One in four liquidations stems from a company not getting its receivables in time from its contractual partners.

We acted to grant business owners easier access to debt restructuring without winding up their businesses

A sole trader in payment difficulties has the right to apply for debt restructuring without winding up their business. However, in practice the criteria have been so strict that this new opportunity has barely been used.

In line with our goal, almost all sole traders will have the right to enter sole trader debt restructuring in future, as the barriers in the form of business scope and employment of several people have been removed from the law.

We ensured faster debt restructuring for business owners who have gone through liquidation

In line with our proposal, the Act on the Adjustment of the Debts of a Private Individual was amended: a former business owner no longer needs to wait for 18 months to enter debt restructuring. The other criteria for entry to debt restructuring have been loosened and the opportunity to enter the procedure following liquidation has been speeded up. In future, debt restructuring will generally last three years.

Efforts to finally ease access to business restructuring

Business restructuring is a way of continuing viable business operations in spite of payment difficulties. In practice, however, it is such an expensive procedure for businesses that it has not actually been an option for smaller businesses. In accordance with our demands, the Restructuring of Enterprises Act is being amended: in future, the procedure will enable a faster and cheaper procedure for businesses.

We helped scam victims

We found that almost half of SMEs have been objects of a scam or attempted scam. Typically, scammers approach businesses over the phone or online. We help business owners who have fallen victim to scammers by advising them on how to proceed. At the same time, we inform other business owners about scams and guide them on how to avoid them.

Action on business capture through legislative amendment and supervisory oversight

In recent years, criminals have been able to capture businesses by using the Trade Register. However, the Trade Register Act will be amended in line with our goals to enable prevention of these captures. The Patent and Registration Office has also beefed up its supervision of notifications made to it.

Government invested in better business regulation

The legal protection of business owners and companies is being improved through the reduction of legal fee risk. The Ministry of Justice is investigating, in line with the goals of Suomen Yrittäjät, the possibility of legislating for a small claims procedure.

We want to lessen the obligations and costs arising from legislation for SMEs. In line with the goals of Suomen Yrittäjät, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy has drawn up an SME test which helps drafters of legislation create more rational regulations for smaller businesses.

The Ministry has also created a tool to help drafters of legislation, with the purpose of reducing the burden and costs for businesses arising from legislation.

We prevented a zoning Bill that would have slowed down investment

The Government has set itself the goal of overhauling the Land Use and Building Act. The draft Bill concerning zoning would have further slowed down investment in Finland and had a negative impact on entrepreneurship. That is why we considered it important that the amendment did not progress in this parliamentary term. In the next parliament, zoning and permits should be streamlined and thought given to how to develop review requests in a direction that supports investment.

We eased small businesses’ access to waste service competitive tenders

We were involved when the Ministry of the Environment wrote a guide aimed at advancing small businesses’ opportunities to participate in and win competitive tenders for waste services. The guide is based on the scheme required by Parliament to improve the standing of small businesses. Meetings have been held around the country and online regarding competitive tendering of waste services. In future, procurements must as a rule be divided into lots and a market analysis must be conducted.

We ensured corporate responsibility regulation was made rationally

We prevented the creation of overlaps in corporate responsibility regulation between Finland and the EU. We lobbied to ensure that while we wait for an EU proposal on corporate responsibility, Finland does not start drafting overlapping national corporate legislation. Finnish legislation would have only applied to Finnish businesses and thus endangered equal competition between companies in the EU.

We speeded up the digitalization of limited companies

Amendments were made to the Limited Liability Companies Act in 2022 which primarily confirmed the regulatory changes made during the Covid pandemic. The goal was to make it easier to arrange and attend Annual General Meetings held both in a physical location and virtually. In addition, the regulation permits the arrangement of hybrid meetings in future.

We made sure restrictions on businesses ended

We ensured that the sections of the Infectious Disease Act which severely restricted business activities were not continued after June 2021.

We secured the continued distinction between entrepreneur and employee

We worked to ensure that the established clear division in Finnish labour and social insurance legislation between work done on an employment contract and as a business owner continues to remain in force in its present form, and that the established criteria for employment in the Employment Contracts Act are not amended. Amendments will not be made to legislation that would lead to people who currently operate as independent business owners being reclassified as employees.

We acted to prevent salary snooping

We lobbied strongly to ensure that amendments to the Act on Equality between Women and Men, which would have led to so-called compulsory salary openness and allowed any employee the right to receive any other employee’s salary information, were not enacted.

We prevented overregulation in the implementation of the Working Conditions Directive

We ensured that only the minimal amendments required by the Directive were made to the Employment Contract Act and Working Hours Act. The danger was that even stricter regulation, such as on probation periods and employee’s other employment, would be added to labour legislation. In addition, regulation on varying working hours could have been stricter than the enacted law and contained measures that were harder for employers to take, such as giving advance notice of upcoming shifts.

We ensured work permits for Ukrainian refugees were streamlined

When the war in Ukraine began, the Temporary Protection Directive was implemented quickly. That gave people who fled Ukraine the right to work once they had registered. People fleeing Ukraine also have the right to run businesses in Finland.

We lobbied to ensure staff funds can also be established in smaller businesses in future

The criteria for setting up staff funds are being lightened in April 2023. A fund can be established if the number of regular employees of a company or its income unit is at least five and the turnover or equivalent yield would be €100,000 when the fund is established. The employee headcount requirement was previously ten and the turnover requirement €200,000.

We ensured that the amendment to the Entrepreneur’s Pension Act improves business owners’ standing

Following criticism from the Finnish Financial Supervisory Authority, in the autumn of 2021 pension providers began to observe the Entrepreneur’s Pension Act (YEL) more precisely than before. This led to a threshold for starting a business and the threat of the pension providers raising existing business owners’ YEL incomes without limits. As a result of our strong advocacy work, the YEL income provision was adjusted in a way in which evaluation of a business owner’s labour contribution considers the financial indicators of their operations, particularly regarding new business owners. In addition, the transfer of existing YEL policy holders to the statutory YEL income level is gradual and predictable. This change has been in force since 1 January 2023.

We demanded justice in climate action

We want our emissions reduction actions to be as effective as possible while at the same time benefiting the national economy and companies’ competitiveness. We have made business owners’ voices heard in the drafting and implementation of national climate policy, such as at the Climate Policy Roundtable and the National Commission on Sustainable Development. We also made an impact by stressing predictability of businesses’ investment and operating environments in the drafting of legislation as a requirement for a just green transition.

We looked out for SMEs in the Whistleblower Act

We made an impact on the drafting of the Whistleblower Act to ensure that internal whistle-blowing channels are not required in all companies. Businesses run by sole traders are outside the scope of the Act, regardless of size, and companies within the scope of the Act on Preventing Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing can as a rule use the notification channel intended by that Act, instead of setting up a separate channel in accordance with the Whistleblower Act.

We also advocated so a notification channel does not need to be technical; simple solutions also suffice. We lobbied for the implementation of the Whistleblower Directive only as far as is necessary, not extended to all legislative areas, for example.

Tax incentive for R&D, property tax reform postponed

Permanent tax incentive achieved for research and development

We made an impact to establish a permanent tax incentive for the payroll and service procurement expenditure of research and development. Inclusion of subcontractors’ services in the incentive is particularly important for smaller businesses, which seldom have dedicated R&D employees on their staff.

Property tax reform postponed to next parliament

We played our part to ensure that the Bill on valuation as part of the property tax reform was not presented to Parliament in the form it took following committee opinion. The Bill would not have fulfilled the framework terms set for the reform in the Government programme of preventing unreasonable changes to anyone’s property tax. The tax could have risen significantly in places, and the Bill’s impact assessments were incomplete.

The Government decided that, with consideration for the general rise in the cost of living, there was no need in the current situation to go forward with the reform, which would have inevitably led to financial uncertainty.

No Bill on economic employer status

We played our part to ensure that no Bill on the economic employer status was put before Parliament. The proposed legislation would have created obligations for the formal foreign employer of temporary or transferred employees in Finland, for the employees themselves and for the Finnish party commissioning the work who would have been considered the economic employers.

No Bill on capital gains tax

Suomen Yrittäjät made a strong impact to ensure that no Bill was put before Parliament on a capital gains or so-called exit tax. The proposed tax would have been aimed at taxing the calculated income based on increased value of property when changes occurred in a person’s tax liability status or tax residency country. We objected to the implementation of the exit tax under the draft Bill because of the numerous faults and deficiencies it contained.

Strong EU lobbying in Brussels

SMEs get EU decision makers’ attention

We advocated to make SMEs a priority for the highest levels of EU leadership and the work programme for 2023. The European Commission, one of the main legislating bodies in the EU, has started preparing an SME Relief Package, which will be published in 2023.

EU intervention in excessively long payment terms

We reached one of our goals when the European Commission decided to begin re-examination of the Late Payment Directive. Reform of the regulation is aimed at improve compliance with and oversight of statutory payment terms and to prevent SMEs from experiencing payment difficulties when their contractual partners fail to pay on time.

Lightening the EU regulatory burden

We worked strongly to ensure the burden for SMEs from EU regulation is better evaluated and lightened, if possible. In 2022, the Commission fully adopted the “one in, one out” tool when drafting EU legislation. When it proposes new EU legislation, the Commission will aim to remove an existing regulatory burden in the same area as the proposed new regulation.

Attention for SMEs’ ownership transfers in the European institutions

We made an impact on making SMEs’ ownership transfers part of the conversation in the European institutions. We were involved in drafting an opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on ownership transfers which proposes several recommendations for promoting ownership transfers in the member states and at the EU level. There is now increased awareness and visibility at the EU level of the significance of ownership transfers in the securing of the continuity of SMEs, and a discussion on follow-up measures has begun.

Finnish entrepreneurial perspective brought to EU decision making

Our Chairperson, Petri Salminen, is also the president of the European SME association, SMEunited, and through that we were able to shape EU policy on SMEs via high-level dialogue, panel discussions and contributions. We also brought a Finnish entrepreneurial perspective to the key EU decision making tables. In addition, last year we played a strong role in reforming our European umbrella association, such as by updating internal rules and through strategic work.

Business owners’ skills kept visible

Third-level students’ appetite for business ownership on the rise

We reinforced the significance of enterprise education at all educational levels. The latest findings show that third-level students’ appetite for owning their own business has risen. In addition, we arranged continuing professional development for teachers to support enterprise education. The Yksityisyrittäjäin Säätiö sole entrepreneurs’ foundation made this training possible.

Second-level qualification in entrepreneurship began with new curriculum

We had already made an impact on the curriculum of the qualification, and the first classes under the new curriculum began in 2022. The new curriculum takes issues such as ownership transfer into better consideration. In addition, our experts lectured about these subject areas in the schools.

We secured a funding model for vocational training

The Government wanted to change the current funding model in a way that would have reduced the funding for continuous learning. We lobbied prominently with other stakeholders to prevent these hasty changes. The Bill did not proceed during this parliament.

Advocacy by Suomen Yrittäjät in the new well-being service counties and vibrant municipalities

Business owners considered in the 2025 employment and business service reform

We took an active stance on the TE2024 reform, in which employment services are being transferred from the state to the municipalities in 2025. The reform must not be allowed to mean an emphasis on employment policy at the expense of business policy. Enterprise agencies must not fall into a secondary role in the reform, either. Similarly, the role of private employment services as part of the reform is important to take into account. We are continuing our advocacy for a reform that is as favourable as possible from an SME perspective.

We played an active role in creating the entrepreneurship principle programme

In the spring of 2022, the Government published its entrepreneurship principle programme. We made an impact on the content of the programme and stressed as early as the drafting stage that stiffer international competition demands more agility of businesses and enablement of that by legislation. Our message about the programme was that opportunities such as workplace-level agreement must be increased, a fresh start for business owners secured, business regulation streamlined, and administration made even more customer-centric. In addition, we said that the state must invest in employment-based immigration and companies must be incentivized to develop skills.

We asked the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority to investigate trickery with in-house companies

With the Confederation of Finnish Industries, the Finland Chamber of Commerce and the family business federation, Perheyritysten liitto, we submitted a request to the FCCA in November 2022 regarding whether public sector bodies breach procurement legislation when they order services from in-house companies without competitive tendering. As a result of our request for action, the FCCA decided to investigate the legality of such actions. We are actively monitoring the situation.

We were involved in founding an enterprise group of MPs

In December 2022, on the initiative of our association and of MPs, we founded an enterprise group of MPs in Parliament. Around 80 MPs are members of the group. We bring entrepreneurial expertise, messages and needs to the group.

Growth and international expansion pilot launched with VTT

We decided to work with VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland to support SMEs’ international expansion. The first pilot in the project is being launched in North Karelia, where a group of companies aiming to expand internationally is being formed around a forest machinery cluster.

Municipal Barometer attracts over 10,000 responses

More than 10,000 business owners all over Finland responded to the Suomen Yrittäjät Municipal Barometer in the spring of 2022. The Barometer has a strong position in the municipalities. It is used as a tool for business policy and to monitor municipalities’ vibrancy.

We advanced the harmonization of service vouchers in the well-being service counties

We advocated to ensure the levels of service vouchers matched the real cost structure. For example, in North Ostrobothnia, the well-being service county examined its local situation when Suomen Yrittäjät brought the matter to its attention.

We took an active stance on reform of public procurement legislation

We took an active stance in the drafting of the Act on Public Procurement and Concession Contracts. We formed our own proposal on how the Act ought to be updated. We brought our message to our parliamentary parties, and the National Coalition Party, for example, adopted several points into its own political programme work.

We lobbied for SMEs to also be allowed to provide healthcare and social services

We made a powerful impact in ensuring that SMEs also have the opportunities to provide healthcare and social services in the well-being service counties. We have advanced the matter at the national and county level, as well as in the discussion about cuts to Kela co-payments.

We advocated for service vouchers to cut waiting lists

In 2021, we published a service voucher study, and in 2022 we brought the service voucher message to the Government in response to various requests for statements. In addition, we made an impact on the increased use of service vouchers in strategic documents related to the well-being service counties.

We accelerated business impact assessment in the municipalities

We published our business impact assessment handbook in January 2022. It was published in cooperation with our own regional associations and the municipalities. After the handbook was published, many municipalities have increased their assessment of impacts on businesses.

We offered public procurement counselling for businesses

We continued our public procurement activities into 2022. Our public procurement counselling helped guide procuring entities build procurements to include SMEs. In addition, we provided SMEs with information about public procurements and encouraged them to take part in competitive tenders.

We offer valuable benefits to our members

We offer our members valuable member benefits which we constantly improve. In 2022, we launched new member benefit partnerships with companies such as MobilePay, Lumme Energia and Oma Säästöpankki. The most popular benefit is our free legal counselling.

Earlier assistance for financial difficulties

Our business owners’ financial assistance service is now available nationwide. It helps business owners get through their financial difficulties as early as possible. Thousands of businesses receive help from the service annually. We have been part of the project in cooperation with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and the ELY Centre.

Our communications help entrepreneurs keep up to date

The Suomen Yrittäjät newsletter in English goes out to our members every month. It tells our member business owners about current legislative amendments, news and tips to improve their business.

As a member, you can also keep up to date with other new developments affecting your business by following the other Suomen Yrittäjät channels: news on Yrittäjät.fi, the Suomen Yrittäjät podcast, the Yrittäjä member magazine and our social media accounts. In addition, members can order the Yrittäjä Plus magazine.

Subscribe to Yrittäjä Plus here >>

Over 100 mentors part of the mentorisi.fi service

Our mentorisi.fi member service already has 170 mentors on board. Our mentors’ coffee mornings four times during the year have attracted large numbers of mentors who have listened and shared their thoughts about current topics.

Find a mentor, or sign up to become one >>

We drew attention to ownership transfers and offered practical support

For the first time, we ran an ownership transfer week, which featured events and offered information to buyers, sellers, the next generation of business owners and experts around Finland. The events took place in ten locations around the country and attracted over a thousand visitors.

In addition, we were involved in the Rural Business’ Ownership Transfer Service project. The surveys it conducted provided a clearer picture at the regional level, and the cooperation between the regions is now even deeper. The project also included an ownership transfer barometer for rural businesses.

The Uusimaa ownership transfer project, for its part, reached thousands of business owners through its communications and educated several hundred business owners planning to buy or sell companies in its webinars, which discussed various acquisition-related topics. The project also arranged two acquisition events, in which company buyers and sellers could meet each other and experts in the sector.

We offered information based on surveys

We run numerous surveys every year. The responses in 2022 were dominated by the effects of the Covid crisis and Russia’s war of aggression, which the Yrittäjägallup survey followed regularly. The traditional SME barometer also charted the effects of the crises.

In addition, we engaged in survey cooperation about the need for additional regulation on the market and practices related to small business financing, in order to tackle debt problems.

To support our advocacy, we commissioned a broad survey about businesses’ views on pension insurance and the pension system. The results of this survey showed clearly that our advocacy and policy to reform the system are in the right direction.

We conducted our Municipal Barometer in 2022, as a result of which we awarded the best municipalities by size. We ran our single-person business survey, which we conduct every three years.

We highlighted the development of business owners’ skills

We want to develop business owners’ skills, and in 2022 our emphasis here was on corporate responsibility and its significance for SME owners.

Our key skills development tools are the National Entrepreneur Days, the Yrittäjät Academy and numerous expert webinars and seminars.

We advanced digital and corporate responsibility skills through training

During the year, the Yrittäjät Academy reached almost 3,000 business owners. The Academy’s operations are built on the virtual and contact learning models. The main themes were corporate responsibility and digital marketing.

We brought up to 8,000 business owners together to network

The National Entrepreneur Days attracted 1,600 business owners and delegates interested in entrepreneurship to Tampere. The event was particularly praised for its excellent seminar programme and the opportunities for networking with fellow business owners.

A sign of the appreciation for the awards at the event was the invitation by the President of Finland to the award recipients to the Independence Day reception at the Presidential Palace.

One of Finland’s largest municipal, regional and business influencer events was held in Vaasa in May. The event was attended by around 1,000 delegates from around Finland. The topic in 2022 was growth and vibrancy. The key results of the Municipal Barometer were also announced at the seminar.

The Entrepreneur Cruise, for its part, attracted around 200 entrepreneurs from around Finland. The cruise enabled a new kind of networking and meeting colleagues, as the Influencer Forum association event was held at the same time. The cruise programme focused on business owners’ well-being.

In addition, the Education Management Forum in April is a significant and esteemed meeting arena for business owners and the education world. Last year, the event attracted 160 education professionals. The Forum focused on corporate responsibility and the circular economy.

In total around 8,000 business owners and societal influencers met in the skills development environment provided by Suomen Yrittäjät.