News / 05.02.2013

Change in unemployment law makes life easier for freelance journalists

It is the outcome of years of lobbying and negotiations in which the Union of Journalists in Finland (UFJ) played an important role. Proposals tabled by UFJ were also incorporated into the new legislation.

Until now the law had treated freelance journalists as entrepreneurs and therefore not entitled to unemployment benefits. But now the new legislation allows freelance journalists to enjoy unemployment benefits if they become unemployed.

The law also no longer distinguishes between a freelance journalist registered as sole entrepreneur and the one who hasn’t. The new legislation also brings added relief to entrepreneur journalists because they longer have to wait for months after they go of business before drawing unemployment benefits.

In the previous legislation an entrepreneur journalist was recognised as a salary earner only if he or she worked for a single client. But there is no longer a limitation on the number of clients an entrepreneur can work for in the current legislation before being entitled to unemployment benefits as a salary earner; rather a registered entrepreneur can easily switch to become a salary earner and therefore claim benefits insofar as he or she no longer attracts enough clients to sustain his enterprise.

The change in legislation brings great deal of relief to freelance journalists and, especially immigrant journalists who due to the language barrier almost entirely operate as freelancers, but with less social safety network to fall back on compared to their Finnish counterparts.

According to Jussi Salokangas, a trade union legal expert at UFJ, by introducing the change the government has decided to bear some of the risks of freelance journalists.

However, Salokangas placed emphasis on the importance of freelance journalists becoming members of an unemployment fund for entrepreneurs. In order to become eligible for income-related unemployment benefits a freelance journalist should be member of unemployment fund for at least18 months, or else the person would only receive the basic unemployment benefit provided by the National Insurance Scheme (Kela). It is not known exactly how many freelance journalists belong to entrepreneurs’ unemployment funds but according to Salokangas, there are very few because many most of them are unaware of the benefits of belonging to an unemployment fund.

The change in legislation brings remarkable improvement to freelance journalists’ situation nevertheless, there could be further improvement in the law to provide more protection to freelance journalists, says Salokangas. At the moment journalists in regular employment are paid from a separate unemployment fund from their freelance counterparts, but Salokangas says, it would be fair for them to draw benefits from the same pot, something that needs to be incorporated into a new legislation.

One other improvement that needs to be made in the future is for the clients of freelance journalists to pay their pension contribution and relief them the burden of having to bear the costs themselves. Paying pension contribution from their small incomes does not leave them with much pension in retirement, says Salokangas.


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