Frequently asked questions about the pay subsidy reform
The information provided on this website is based on the Act, ratified by the President of the Republic on 23 March 2023, amending the Act on Public Employment and Business Service. The Act entered into force on 1 July 2023.
A pay subsidy is an economic benefit, granted by the Employment and Economic Development Office (TE Office) or a local government pilot on employment for promoting the employment of unemployed jobseekers, granted to employers for covering payroll costs. The employer can only receive a pay subsidy for hiring a person who has registered as an unemployed jobseeker.
With the help of the pay subsidy, a jobseeker can also obtain the kind of work for which their professional skills are not quite sufficient, or they have a disability or illness that affects the performance of tasks.
The purpose is to support the unemployed jobseeker’s access to the labour market and help employers find a suitable employee.
The Government’s proposal aims to promote the employment of people in a vulnerable labour market position and increase the use of pay subsidies, particularly by businesses.
The regulation of pay subsidies will be simplified. The goal is that employers will be in a better position to anticipate the terms and amount of employment subsidies they are entitled to. The amount of pay subsidy granted on the basis of the lack of professional skills will be harmonised at 50% of payroll costs, regardless of the duration of unemployment (previously 30%, 40% or 50%). The amount of pay subsidy granted on the basis of disability will be raised to 70% of payroll costs (previously 50%). In addition, the granting and payment process will be faster. As a result, pay subsidies should encourage employers, particularly businesses, to hire more unemployed jobseekers than at present.
For example, the pay subsidy granted based on the lack of professional skills for those who have been unemployed for less than a year has been 30%. In the future, it will be 50%. All employers are entitled to the above-mentioned subsidies.
If the conditions for granting pay subsidy are met, pay subsidy can be granted to another employer immediately after the employee’s previous maximum period of pay subsidy has ended.
All employers receiving a 100% pay subsidy can continue to receive a 100% subsidy for non-economic activity. If a subsidy is granted for economic activity that, according to the TE Office, has an impact on trade between Member States, the subsidy is granted as de minimis aid, of which the maximum amount receivable is EUR 200,000 over three tax years. The change brings new organisations within the scope of the 100% pay subsidy, while organisations engaged in economic activity can apply for support for their non-economic activity.
The employment of people aged 55 or over can be promoted with a new, non-discretionary employment subsidy.
The long-term employment impact of the reform is estimated at 500–1,000 people.
The pay subsidy reform was part of the employment measures of Prime Minister Sanna Marin's Goverment that aimed at providing everyone with the opportunity to work in accordance with their capacity and ability to work. Employment measures form a broad, multi-sectoral package. Some of the measures will make a difference quickly, while others will have an impact on a longer term.
The projects of the working capacity programme will integrate working capacity support services into the activities of the wellbeing services counties. The objective is to increase the use of services, in particular among those who are the most difficult to employ. Työkanava Ltd is a state-owned special assignment company, which aims to employ those people with impaired capacity to work who are in the most difficult position. The company became operational in stages during 2022.
In the Nordic employment service model, jobseekers receive individual and more intensive support in their jobseeking at an earlier stage. The purpose of early support and individual services is to prevent prolonged unemployment. Experts in TE Offices and local government pilots on employment provide advice on jobseeking, identify jobseekers’ skills and offer support services, such as training to meet the jobseeker’s individual needs. If necessary, jobseekers can also be referred to other services, such as health and social services.
Read more about the employment measures of Prime Minister Marin's Government
Summary of subsidised work in different situations based on the reform’s key proposals:
Employer who may be granted the subsidy* Amount of aid Duration of aid ** Persons who can be employed with subsidy
Pay subsidy, for improving professional skills All 50 % 5 or 10 months Person in target group with lack of skills Pay subsidy, for a person with reduced working capacity All 70 % 10 months for the first time and, after that, for a maximum of 24 months at a time Person with a disability or illness that affects employment – for continued subsidy, reduced productivity in the work tasks is assessed Pay subsidy, 100% Association, foundation, registered religious community 100 % 10 months Person who has been unemployed for at least 24 months in the past 28 months Pay subsidy, persons aged 60 or over who are long-term unemployed All 50 % At most for 24 months at a time, the subsidy may continue after this at the same employer Person who is at least 60 years and has been unemployed for at least 12 months in the past 14 months Pay subsidy for apprenticeship training All who employ for apprenticeship training 50 % At most for the duration of apprenticeship training Unemployed jobseeker with lack of skills Employment subsidy for those aged 55 and over All 70 % 10 months Person 55 years or older who has been unemployed for at least 24 months in the past 28 months Municipal duty to employ Municipality 50 % 6 months Person 57 years or older who has reached their maximum period of unemployment allowance
*employer must always meet the conditions for pay subsidy concerning the employer
**duration of the support is at most the duration of the employment relationship
Regulation will be simplified by limiting the pay subsidy mainly to promote the employment of unemployed jobseekers who are disadvantaged or have reduced working capacity.
In the future, pay subsidy may be granted to
- those aged 15 to 24 years
- those aged 50 years or over
- those with just a basic education
- those who have not been gainfully employed for at least six months, as well as
- those with reduced capacity for work.
These restrictions are based on EU regulation of state aid and the General Block Exemption Regulation (651/2014) adopted on the basis of it, section 6 of which deals with aid for disadvantaged workers and for workers with disabilities.
As a rule, the granting of pay subsidies is based on lack of skills. Employing a person who has been unemployed for less than a year requires that their unemployment would be prolonged without the subsidy.
When a pay subsidy is granted for the first time on the basis of a disability or illness, the employee’s productivity in the new role is not assessed. The continuation of the subsidy in the same employment relationship, however, is assessed on the basis of the role, as now.
The conditions for granting a pay subsidy to an employer will be amended so that there will be no impediment to granting a pay subsidy if the employer has hired an equivalent number of employees to replace the employees they have made redundant for production-related or financial reasons in the previous 12 months. In other words, the employer is not required to recruit the same persons, but the same number of employees.
The wellbeing services counties are eligible for pay subsidies.
In the future, pay subsidies will no longer be granted to households.
The amount of the pay subsidy will be increased and harmonised. In the future, the amount of pay subsidy granted on the basis of lack of professional skills will always be 50% of the payroll costs. Before the change in the law, the amount of subsidy varied depending on the duration of unemployment of the person to be employed, being either 30%, 40% or 50% of the payroll costs.
The pay subsidy granted on the basis of an injury or illness will increase from 50% to 70%.
Non-wage labour costs or holiday bonuses payable by the employer cannot be covered by pay subsidy in the future. In addition, other changes will be made to the eligible costs so that the national income register can be used more efficiently in the payment of pay subsidies.
The definition of eligible costs is specified in such a way that eligible costs are considered to be the wage paid to the employee on the basis of working hours or performance of the contract before the withholding of statutory insurance contributions and taxes. Pay supplements related to regular working hours and working conditions are also included.
Eligible costs do not include
- non-wage labour costs payable by the employer
- holiday bonuses
- employee benefits
- tax-free or taxable compensations
- additional work or overtime pay or cash compensation from the working time account
- the percentage of the pay that is determined on the basis of the work performance of the person employed on the subsidy or is based on the employer’s result
- pay for the period during which the employer is entitled to sickness allowance or some other benefits
Depending on the duration of the unemployment preceding the pay subsidy, the pay subsidy will be granted for five or ten months.
- If the person has been unemployed for less than a year, pay subsidy can be granted for five months instead of the previous six months. On average, the subsidy periods have lasted around 5.1 months.
- If the person has been unemployed for at least 12 months during the previous 14 months, pay subsidy can be granted for ten months instead of the previous 12 months. On average, the subsidy periods have lasted just under seven months.
- If pay subsidy is granted on the basis of a disability or illness, it can be granted for 10 months for the first time, and be extended later for a maximum of 24 months at a time in the same employment relationship. Currently, pay subsidy can be granted for the first time for a maximum of 24 months, but the conditions for granting the subsidy are stricter than in the proposed model.
However, pay subsidy will be granted for the duration of the employment relationship at most.
If a disability or illness significantly lowers the employee’s productivity permanently or in a permanent manner, after 10 months the pay subsidy period can be extended by a maximum of 24 months at a time.
Even in the future, a new pay subsidy can be granted for long-term unemployed persons over 60 years for the same employment relationship in periods of up to 24 months.
The subsidy for apprenticeship training can be granted for the entire duration of the training, in the same way as before.
The ‘timeout rule’ is abolished. Previously, after the maximum duration of the pay subsidy period, the person had to be unemployed for at least 10 months before they could be re-employed with a pay subsidy. In the future, if the conditions for granting pay subsidy are met, for the same person, pay subsidy can be granted to another employer immediately after the previous maximum period of pay subsidy has ended. On the other hand, an employer cannot receive pay subsidy for the same person until three years have passed since the end of the previous wage subsidy.
The Act on Social Enterprises will be repealed and, consequently, also the relevant exceptions related to the amount and duration of a pay subsidy.
The employer can transfer an employee employed with the subsidy to perform work tasks for another employer (user company). Instead of the previous notification procedure, the employer will have to apply for the transfer at the TE Office or the local government pilot on employment. During the transfer, the maximum amount of pay subsidy can be the amount that the user company could be granted if it applied for the pay subsidy itself. However, the amount of subsidy cannot exceed the amount granted to the actual employer. The amount of pay subsidy is reduced for the duration of the transfer if the user company would be entitled to a lower pay subsidy than the actual employer.
The objective is to prevent distortions of competition and ensure that the tasks in the user company are appropriate from the perspective of paying the pay subsidy. The aim is also prevent distortion of competition by requiring the user company to pay adequate compensation for the transferred person. The compensation paid by the user company can be an amount that equals at least the user company’s cost of labour if it applied for the pay subsidy itself. It is not possible to set a precise ceiling for the compensation. With regard to distortion of competition, it is essential that the compensation paid by the user company for the employee is neither unreasonably high nor low.
A 100% pay subsidy can be granted to an association, foundation or registered religious community (hereinafter, organisation), if:
- the person has been unemployed for at least 24 months in the last 28 months and
- the person works no more than 65% of the maximum working time in the sector.
In principle, all employers currently receiving a 100% pay subsidy can continue to receive a 100% subsidy also in the future. According to the approved Act, it is possible to receive a 100% subsidy for non-economic activity.
The change limits the use of the 100% wage subsidy for those organisations that engage in economic activity that, according to the TE Office, has an impact on trade between Member States. These organisations can receive subsidies as de minimis aid. Previously, it was not possible to receive de minimis aid.
Currently, nearly 20% of all those employed with pay subsidy are employed with a 100% pay subsidy.
In connection with the reform, an employment subsidy for those aged 55 or over will be introduced. The subsidy will be granted without consideration of expediency, as long as the conditions laid down in the Act are met.
The subsidy will be granted if:
- the person to be employed has reached the age of 55 and has been unemployed for at least 24 months in the last 28 months; and
- the person hired on the subsidy works for the beneficiary under an employment contract for at least 25 hours per week or at least 65% of the maximum working time in the sector; and
- other conditions for granting the subsidy are met.
The subsidy covers 70% of the eligible payroll costs for 10 months, but no longer than for the duration of the employment relationship. The same rules on eligible payroll costs as for pay subsidy apply for this form of support.
It is estimated that, somewhat more than before, the focus of employment measures will be on people with partial work ability, integrating immigrants, young people, the elderly and those who have only completed basic education. In addition, a higher number of employers will be entitled to pay subsidies.
The proposed changes to the eligible costs will reduce the amount of support paid to municipalities for fulfilling their employment obligation.
Observations on the combined effect of the subsidy rate and eligible costs as regards other pay subsidies:
- the amount of pay subsidy will increase from the current level in slightly less than half of the pay subsidy periods.
- it is estimated that the amount of support will remain roughly the same in approximately one quarter of the pay subsidy periods.
- it is estimated that in nearly one third of the periods, the amount of support will be lower than it currently is.
- higher support increases the demand for work supported by a pay subsidy and lower support reduces the demand.
The simplification of the conditions of support and changes in payment are aimed at making the pay subsidy more attractive for employers and thus increasing the number of people employed with a pay subsidy.
The reform consists of several different elements, the combined effects of which are uncertain. Some of the changes are likely to reduce the number of people employed on a pay subsidy and others to increase it. The elements that increase the number of people employed are particularly targeted to companies where, according to studies, work supported by a pay subsidy has the greatest positive employment impact. As a result, in the long term, the number of those employed after the support period is expected to increase by some 500–1,000 people.
Changes in the duration of support periods may lead to a reduction or increase in the number of persons employed on average. It is estimated that the number of people employed on pay subsidy may decrease by approximately 1,000 person-years or increase by approximately 3,500 person-years at most. It is unlikely that either of the extremes will be realised. It is estimated that the impacts are likely to settle somewhere halfway between the two extremes, which would result in a moderate increase in the number of people employed on the subsidy.