Jukka Turunen, a reinforcement fitter from Savonlinna, put in long hours as an entrepreneur and employee until an accident forced him to learn a new profession. The road to rehabilitation was not without hurdles, but his persistent efforts paid off and he ended up finding a suitable job.
Jukka founded his first business in the 1980s and ran it until 1995. After that he worked alternately as an entrepreneur and an employee. At the end of the 2000s, he was in an employment relationship.
Then something unfortunate happened. He slipped outside his workplace and aggravated an old hockey injury. Jukka took a long sick leave.
Money was tight, because he had not been a trade union member for the required ten months when the accident took place. During his sick leave, Kela paid him 33 euros a day and he paid 20 per cent in taxes on that sum. He was not granted any housing allowance because his spouse worked part-time.
“My income dropped to half of what it used to be. Living was a struggle. I went to the employment office to ask if I could be retrained.”
Jukka applied for disability pension and vocational rehabilitation. His fixed-term disability pension started in spring 2009. Jukka received a preliminary decision stating that he was entitled to vocational rehabilitation. His small disability pension was then increased by 33 per cent during his training.
“That was a good thing, because at fifty, I considered myself too young to retire and my pension would have been way below a thousand euros. I felt better knowing that I wasn’t entirely dependent on Kela for my income.”
During the summer of the same year, Jukka was offered a three-month work trial at a prefab element factory through vocational rehabilitation, but the trial failed. It came down to the same old leg injury.
One morning, Jukka saw something happening next door where a wooden house was about to be demolished. He decided to ask what was going on.
“A local youth support organisation was planning to renovate the building. I called the contact person, who was an acquaintance of mine, we agreed on a job interview in the yard and he asked me when I could start.”
That marked the beginning of Jukka’s second work trial, this time round as a foreman. It was the end of 2009. The work trial was a success and he continued to work under an apprenticeship contract. At the same time, he studied at Joensuu Vocational College to become a youth and leisure instructor. His leg was still giving him trouble, and he had to undergo surgery again.
“At the end of 2010, I had joint surgery for the second time. I had to miss six months of school, but the apprenticeship training system was flexible.”
This time round the surgical operation was a success, recovery began and the leg stopped hurting.
“It was hard to believe that the pain was gone and I no longer needed painkillers. At first, I couldn’t walk much, but being in a good physical condition speeded up my rehabilitation.”
He was paid a salary for the duration of his sick leave and then continued with the apprenticeship training. Ilmarinen paid Jukka’s employer EUR 1,000 a month in rehabilitation allowance. Jukka attended classroom training for five weeks a year in Joensuu. Ilmarinen also paid his travel and accommodation costs.
“In the beginning, the budget was small. It was great to be able to flexibly agree on how to proceed with my rehabilitation with the same contact person at Ilmarinen. As I needed a computer in my new job and had been away from working life for a long time, Ilmarinen also paid for an IT course for me. I currently use a computer every day.”
Jukka now regrets that, when he was an entrepreneur, he usually only paid the minimum amount of self-employed person’s pension contributions (YEL).
“In 2000, I burned out and was on sick leave for six months. The daily sickness allowance was based on the level two years earlier, when I paid high YEL contributions. But on the other hand, I also did not pay any YEL contributions during the years when I was ill. So I have seen the good and the bad sides of YEL insurance.”
Based on his experience, he would like to give a firm piece of advice to other people running SMEs.
“Ask your insurance company to calculate your realistic YEL level and pay contributions according to it. That’s better than to bask in the belief that nothing will ever happen. For me, it was easiest when I was an entrepreneur and my accounting office handled my company’s finances and pension contributions.”
It is a fact that if something happens to an entrepreneur, his or her employees will also lose their jobs.
“I had taken out group life insurance for my employees, which covered other people’s accidents but not mine. I thought insuring myself was too expensive, but I should have done it.”
Rehabilitation allowed him to continue working, feeling relieved. His employment relationship is renewed one year at a time and his income level is growing.
“I can still do a lot of manual work even though my job now mostly involves planning and supervising. Without rehabilitation I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
Today, Jukka is 57 years old and last spring he completed his studies in youth and leisure instruction. He is full of energy and enjoys new challenges.
“In the past I used muscle power, now I’m using this,” he says, knocking on his forehead.
Text: Päivi Kapiainen-Heiskanen