Self-employment and unemployment benefits

Who is considered an self-employed?

Self-employment is work that is not carried out as an employee. This may be work for a company that you own, freelance work, or work done in a family business.

  • A person who has taken out entrepreneur’s pension insurance or farm entrepreneurs’ pension insurance is always considered an entrepreneur.
  • A person who has taken out employee’s pension insurance is an entrepreneur, when the work cannot be considered to be part of an employment relationship. This may be, for example, if the work is done as a freelancer or for a family business.

If you carry out business activities alongside a salaried job and the business is small-scale, i.e. not your main source of income, the enterprise does not prevent membership of an unemployment fund or the payment of unemployment benefits.

If your business activity is your main source of income, you may only have limited membership of an unemployment fund and unemployment benefits will not be paid.

You can work as an employee or an entrepreneur through a cooperative

If you are working through a cooperative or a company that manages invoicing and accounting on your behalf, this is usually considered to be business activity. In this case, you acquire your customers and they agree to work with you.

If you are working in a cooperative that provides services in the same field as the one in which you are working, this is often considered to be an employment relationship. In this case, customers purchase services from the cooperative, and not from you directly.

Earnings-related allowance for the self-employed

Entrepreneurs can accumulate the right to the earnings-related allowance as part of an unemployment fund for entrepreneurs. There is one fund for entrepreneurs in Finland: Unemployment Fund for Finnish Entrepreneurs (SYT) (in Finnish).

An entrepreneur’s earnings-related allowance can be paid if you have ceased the business activity or you no longer work in the company in question. In addition, you must be a member of an unemployment fund and have been working for at least 15 months as an entrepreneur during this membership. These 15 months may be compiled from periods of work lasting at least 4 months, the annuity of which is at least EUR 14,803.

You should register as a job-seeker via the TE Office’s online service as soon as you are no longer involved in business activities. Earnings-related allowance may be paid only for the period in which the registration is valid. The TE Office will also work out when the business activities have ended.

You can calculate an estimate of the entrepreneur’s daily allowance using the calculator available on the SYT website.

The entrepreneurs’ earnings-related allowance is paid for the same length of time as the earnings-related allowance paid to employees. More information about the maximum duration is available here. Please note that, unlike employees, entrepreneurs do not have the right to additional days after the maximum payment period duration.


Changing between self-employment and employment

When you cease being an employee to become an entrepreneur, you may be paid the earnings-related allowance on the basis of the work done during unemployment, if you do not meet the employment requirement determined for entrepreneurial activities and less than 18 months have elapsed since the commencement of your business activities. During this 18-month-period, you may remain as a member of the employees’ fund or transfer onto the entrepreneurs’ fund. Please note that the entrepreneur’s working requirement does not accumulate while a member of an employees’ fund, so transferring membership to the entrepreneurs’ fund is recommended.

When you transition from being an entrepreneur to become an employee, you may be paid the earnings-related allowance applicable for those meeting the employment requirement set for self-employment if the employment condition set for employees has not yet been met. You can remain a member of an entrepreneurs’ fund or transfer onto an employees’ fund when you start an employment relationship. Please note that the entrepreneur’s working requirement does not accumulate while a member of an employees’ fund, so transferring membership to the entrepreneurs’ fund is recommended.

If you intend to become a member of another unemployment fund, you will need to join the new fund within a month of leaving the old one in order to retain your accumulated right to the daily allowance.

Part-time self-employment

Having a small-scale business affects the daily allowance in the same way as part-time work.

The TE Office considers how extensive your business activity is and decides whether the business activity is sufficiently small to allow payment of the earnings-related allowance. In general, an enterprise that has been practised alongside full-time employment for 6 months does not prevent payment of the daily allowance.

If a business is started while being unemployed the scale of the business will not affect you right to earnings-related allowance for the first 4 months. This means that, other than in relation to your income, the first 4 months of business activity do not affect your daily allowance. After 4 months, the TE Office will check to see if this business activity is small-scale enough for you to still receive unemployment benefits. You can only start your business in this way once within the maximum payment period of the earnings-related allowance. In the future, the scale of the business will be checked immediately.

If your business activity lasts for no longer than two weeks, the question of whether you are in part-time or full-time self-employed will not be evaluated. You are permitted to have any number of periods of business activity lasting up to 2 weeks during the maximum payment period.

The TE Office must always be informed of any business activities lasting more than 2 weeks. You do not need to inform the unemployment fund of such periods of business activity, as your business-related income will be taken into account in terms of your daily allowance.