Users say ‒ unemployment funds: the information entered in the Incomes Register should be as detailed as possible

8/23/2021

The data kept in the Incomes Register is also used by unemployment funds. Unemployment funds provide their members with financial security during unemployment in the form of unemployment security and other benefits. Unemployment funds also provide sector-specific advice.

Unemployment funds use the data retrieved from the Incomes Register to determine the level of daily allowance. The information is used to check whether the condition regarding previous employment is met and to determine the amount of daily allowance to be paid.

‒ We could make better use of the information kept in the Incomes Register if more information was entered in the register. At the moment, most of the payers of wages only enter the basic details, which does not make the work of unemployment funds any easier, notes Jenni Korkeaoja, head of the Finnish Food Workers’ Unemployment Fund.

‒ In particular, income earning periods should be more comprehensively entered. In our sector, unemployment security is tied to the number of hours worked and the period for which the wages were paid. Too many payers of wages still leave out this information. In new types of employment relationship, work is performed on a short-term basis for several employers, and in such situations, the data in the Incomes Register can only be used if the earning periods are also given. Using this information, we can make a distinction between wages for full-time work and wages for part-time work, explains Korkeaoja who is also a member of the board and steering group of the Federation of Unemployment Funds in Finland.

When the decision is made, it is also essential to know details about the employment relationship, such as whether it is on a fixed-term or full-time basis or valid until further notice and whether there have been any absences.

The Incomes Register is seen as a joint data resource

In the opinion of unemployment funds, parties entering information in the Incomes Register should consider it as a joint data resource in which they should enter detailed information about employment relationships and understand that supplying the information is in their interests.

‒ The Incomes Register should be seen as a system and not only as an extra and an additional step in the work process. Information should be extensively shared and produced in payroll systems and it should be ensured that all data that can be entered in the Incomes Register is also entered in the Incomes Register. This is worth the effort when thinking of the system as a whole, Korkeaoja notes.

Unemployment funds also enter the details of the benefits that they pay in the Incomes Register. Korkeaoja understands the agony felt by employers and says that unemployment funds have also noted the wide range of different income types.

‒ However, from our point of view, it makes little sense not to enter all the information in the Incomes Register, which has been such a big investment on the part of central government. When you think of payroll systems, you would assume that you do not need to provide wage earners with employment relationship details every time as the information would be automatically transferred from the payroll software to the report.

The year of the COVID-19 pandemic has speeded up the digital leap in unemployment funds

Over the past 12 months, unemployment funds have extensively automated their systems as they have been forced to mobilise all possible resources during the year characterised by the COVID-19 pandemic. In practice, this means that payment systems have been improved even though there is still important information on individual applicants that cannot be retrieved from the Incomes Register.

‒ Automation has saved time though we are not talking about substantial savings. Automation has played an important role when combined with the volumes processed during the past 12 months. The data kept in the Incomes Register was definitely one important reason why we were able to speed up processing and the development work, Korkeaoja explains.

She adds that the Finnish Food Workers’ Unemployment Fund also learned to put more trust in the information kept in the Incomes Register during the year.

‒ The past 12 months have made people doing practical work more convinced that the information entered in the Incomes Register by payers of wages is as reliable as the information put on paper.

Trust is an important factor in the functioning of systems such as the Incomes Register. In addition to ensuring reliable data content, information security must also be kept in good shape. The data stored in the Incomes Register makes things more transparent and disclosure of irregularities easier. Unemployment funds and the Finnish Tax Administration work together to supervise the system.

‒ Finns are really honest. Payers of wages and wage earners know that you will be caught if you fail to declare your income. This boosts trust in the public administration and in other people because you know that they, too, have declared the earnings.

The Incomes Register could also serve as an electronic archive for citizens

Unemployment funds would like to see a situation in which employers are obliged to provide the required information by law if they feel that they do not need to supply the information voluntarily.

‒ If at least the big payers of wages that now only enter the basic wage details in the Incomes Register would enter all the detailed information in the register, they would also see the benefits in their own processes. The information would already be available in the Incomes Register and wage earners could check their own data from the register. In my view, the fact that the information has been entered in the Incomes Register and that the information is stored there is a typical feature of a good employer. Besides, it could also provide a great data resource for citizens where they could access the details of their own employment relationships, wages and benefits, Korkeaoja notes.

A reform of the Finnish social security system is now in the planning stage and using the Incomes Register for digital sharing of information is one issue being examined in the process.

‒ My hope is that all parties would view the Incomes Register as a tool and not as an end in itself. The key issue is to enter in the register all information helping to improve payroll and benefit systems. Payers of benefits in particular have been positive about the Incomes Register. The Incomes Register is seen as a new development that should be put to full use, Korkeaoja says, describing the reception of the Incomes Register.

Unemployment funds have pledged to promote digitalisation, sharing of information and cooperation.

‒ This is definitely in the interests of our members and Finland as a whole. By working together, we can also relay information to political decision-makers, Korkeaoja notes and urges other information users to contact the Finnish Food Workers’ Unemployment Fund should any problems arise.

In the Users say series, organisations that use the Incomes Register’s data talk about the benefits and challenges of the use of data from their own perspectives.

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