Work during the emergency situation

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Various precautions to prevent the spread of the virus continue to be important:

  • preference for remote work,
  • reducing the physical exposure of employees,
  • airing and proper cleaning of rooms,
  • the employees must stay at home when sick.

When working in the work environment you should bear in mind the following:

  • when you are sick, stay home! Ask sick employees to stay home!
  • before allowing people to return to work, find out how employees can be exposed to the virus in the work environment and take action to mitigate risks.
  • consider how to protect the employees belonging to risk groups.
  • If necessary, consult with the Labour Inspectorate's work environment consultant or occupational health doctor on how to make the working environment safer.
  • discuss planned changes with the employees in the work environment and, if necessary, instruct them before returning to work.
  • re-arrange the work environment so that working places would be separated from each other, and the least possible number of employees would be in the same room.
  • Resume work gradually, if possible, prefer remote working, and holding meetings online.
  • Disperse break times so that there are not many employees gathering in the break rooms at the same time.
  • pay attention to hygiene rules, hand washing and the availability of disinfectants at entrances and exits, near movement routes and near meeting and recreation rooms.
  • arrange work in such a way that the same tools and work surfaces are used by only one employee and assure regular cleaning.
  • clean and air both working and resting spaces, assure proper ventilation or airing of premises.
  • if necessary, issue personal protective equipment to employees and instruct how to use them.

Last updated: 17.03.2021 10:43

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An employee with a contract of employment has an obligation to work according to the agreed terms.

If the employee feels that they cannot go to work, then the employee has to make an arrangement with the employer. The employee and the employer have various options for coming to an arrangement, including:

  • distance working (working from home),
  • unpaid leave,
  • application of § 35 and § 37 of the Employment Act,
  • use of mandated annual leave. If an annual leave schedule has been pre-arranged, changes in annual leave times can only be made by mutual agreement. If the employee does not wish to use the employee’s mandated annual leave, another solution must be found.

Please also refer to the Employment Contracts Act: https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/529122020003/consolide

However, if the employee is returning from a country with a higher risk for COVID-19, the 10-day period of self-isolation or the restrictions on freedom of movement apply (information on risk countries is available on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs). The 10-day self-isolation requirement does not automatically mean that the employee does not have to go to work. The employee must inform the employer of their return from a foreign country and make an arrangement on how they can fulfil their obligations; for example, as by distance working from home or arranging to use some of the points mentioned above (e.g. use of unpaid leave or mandated annual leave etc.).

The employer must assess the possible risk of the spread of the disease among the staff. When giving permission to work, both the employer and the employee must take all measures to prevent possible spread of the virus and infecting the staff, including, for example, minimizing contact with other persons if possible or using personal protective equipment.

When returning from a risk country, it is possible to reduce the period of restrictions on freedom of movement by taking two SARS-CoV-2 tests upon returning to Estonia – the first test immediately on arrival and the second test no earlier than on the sixth day after the results of the first test have come in. The results of both tests must be negative, after which it is possible to return to regular life.

The employee must not go to work if they have been in close contact with a person infected with COVID-19 - in this case they must remain in quarantine for 10 days. If the employee needs to quarantine, they can take a sick leave if you were the person who had contact with an infected person, or care leave if the person who has been in contact with an infected person was your child. The requirements to close contacts can be found on the website of the Health Board.

The employer must bear in mind that also in these cases, the rights and obligations of the employer resulting from the Law on Health and Safety at Work still apply, including the obligation to ensure safety at work and to carry out a health checks.

Last updated: 03.02.2021 14:54

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The employer is obligated to assess work-related risks when he sends an employee to a work-related trip abroad. Therefore, it is primarily the obligation of the employer to assess the risks and take the decision on whether it is possible to avoid sending the employee on a business trip.

The employee has the right to refuse or suspend work when fulfilling the tasks if it

  • endangers their own health or that of other persons', or
  • would not allow to follow environmental safety regulations,

by immediately notifying the employer or their representative and occupational health and safety representative.

Thus, if you find that you would be endangering your life or health by going to a work-related trip abroad, you do have the right to refuse to go.

If the employee is sent on a business trip, the employer must ensure that the employee has the necessary personal protective equipment (e.g. mask, disinfectants, etc.) for their trip. This is particularly important in countries where wearing a mask is mandatory.

See more in §14(5) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/520032019007/consolide

Last updated: 08.10.2020 11:32

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The spread of the coronavirus was one of those unforeseen circumstances that allowed the employer to unilaterally reduce the workload and the wages of an employee for three months over a twelve-month period, if paying the agreed wages was an unreasonably heavy burden for the employer. If the employer has already reduced an employee's wages for three months, then further unilateral reduction is not allowed.

The period during which the wages can be reduced is not a calendar year but 12 months. An example: the wages were reduced in the period between April 15, 2020 and July 15, 2020. This means that the 12-month period started on April 15, 2020 and the employer can reduce the wages again no sooner than April 16, 2021.

This has been stipulated under §37 of the Employment Contracts Act.

It is permitted to reduce the wages to the minimum wage as determined by the Government of Estonia (584 Euros per month or 3.48 Euros per hour) but only under the following conditions:

  • If the employer is unable to provide work to the employee as previously agreed due to economic circumstances (this does not include seasonal changes in the amount of work);

  • If payment of the agreed wages is an unreasonable burden on the employer. It is not permitted to reduce the wages if the employer does not have enough work for the employee to do, but still has enough funds to pay the wages and thus has no real need to reduce the wages.

The employer must be able to substantiate what circumstance was unforeseen and out of their control for them, and the reason why they cannot pay the employee the agreed wages.

Please find additional information from the Employment Contracts Act: https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/529122020003/consolide.

Last updated: 12.02.2021 11:10

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In order to reduce the salary, the employer must first verify whether they could offer alternative tasks to the employee.

If there is no alternative work, or the employee does not agree to the alternative work, the employer must inform the trustee of the employees, or in case there is no trustee the employees directly, at least fourteen days in advance. The employer will prepare a notice where they list the new wages, work load and the period during which the reduced wages and workload will persist. Please note the content of the notification from the web portal Tööelu: https://www.tooelu.ee/et/uudised/2608.

Employees are given an opportunity to be involved in the decision. The employees must present their opinion to the employer within seven calendar days as of receiving the notification.

If the employees do not agree to a reduced salary, the employees have the right to terminate their labour contract, informing their employer at least five working days in advance. The contract must come to an end before the reduced wages will take effect. In the event of termination of the labour contract, the employee will receive one month’s average salary as compensation, in addition to the contractual final pay, which consists of earned salary and unused vacation benefits. Please find additional information about the contract termination from the web portal Tööelu: https://www.tooelu.ee/et/uudised/2610.

Last updated: 12.10.2020 10:01

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If it is clear that the situation will not improve and the employer is not able to provide work nor pay a reduced salary, redundancy is an option. Redundancy is an extraordinary termination of the work contract by the employer due to economic reasons, i.e. if following the agreed work conditions is impossible because of a reduced amount of work or the rearrangement of work. Redundancy also happens, when the employer terminates its operation or files for bankruptcy. The employer must present employees with a written termination notice and explain the reasons for termination.

The employer must follow announcement terms according to § 97 point 2 of the Employment Act. The terms are related to the length of the work contract. The employer must announce redundancy at the following times when the employment has been working for the employer:

  • less than one year – minimum 15 calendar days;
  • one to five years – minimum 30 calendar days;
  • five to ten years – minimum 60 calendar days;
  • ten and more years – minimum 90 calendar days.

The employer must consider that if the termination is announced with disregard of these terms, the employer must pay compensation. In that case the employer will have to pay the average salary for the work days that are within the announcement term that was disregarded. If the work contract ends due to redundancy the employer must pay a redundancy compensation of one month’s average salary in addition to final salary.

Last updated: 30.03.2020 14:29

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The decision to use personal protective equipment must be based on risk analysis. This means that the employer carries out a risk analysis which will show what dangers there are in the work environment. This includes biological dangers, and among them is the possibility of infection with the coronavirus. After that, they can decide what measures should be taken to avoid or reduce related risks. Under § 13 (2) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, an employer has the right to apply stricter health and safety requirements than those required by law.

Personal protective equipment must be used if the risk analysis shows that the danger of infection cannot be avoided or reduced only by shared means of protection such as protective glass to stop the spread of the virus, or through organisational measures such as maintaining distance and making disinfectant available.

The employer must inform their employees of the results of the risk analysis in the working environment, which includes health risks and the measures taken to avoid harm to health. The employer informs their employees of any possible points of danger identified during the risk analysis such as the risk of infection in particular companies or during particular work tasks, and what measures are being taken. As shared protective measures or organisational measures are to be preferred to personal protective equipment, the employer must explain to their employees why it was decided to use personal protective equipment.

The employer must explain why it is necessary to use personal protective equipment and to require its use. When this is explained to the employees it is important that they understand why this requirement has been introduced. If the reasons for the requirement are not explained to the employees, there may be more opposition to complying with it.

If the employee does not comply with the construction, the employer may issue a warning that they may be dismissed if they do not follow the rules. If the employee does not abide by the rules even after the warning, the employer has the right to terminate their employment.

Last updated: 19.09.2020 15:15

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Compulsory leave is not provided for in the Employment Contract Act, but the employer and the employee can agree that the employee is staying at home, for example, for two weeks. If the employee does not work because the employer does not provide them with tasks, then employer must pay the average salary for that period under Art. 35 of the Employment Contract Act.

The parties must come to an agreement regarding unpaid leave. If an agreement is reached, the employee may use unpaid leave. If the employee does not agree to unpaid leave, but the employer does not allow the employee to work, Art 35 of the Employment Contract Act applies.

The employer and the employee can also agree to change the terms of the employment contract. For example, the parties may agree that while the employee is at home and does not work, they will get paid less than agreed in the employment contract. However, the employer cannot do this unilaterally, only with the consent of the employee.

Last updated: 01.10.2020 09:35

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An accident at work is the health damage or death of a worker that occurred while carrying out a work task given by the employer, or while performing other work with his permission, while on a break that is counted as part of working time or during other activities performed in the interests of the employer. This means that an accident at work is usually a sudden personal injury, for instance a fall, or a poisoning that has occurred as a result of inhaling chemicals.

Contracting the coronavirus is not considered to be an accident at work if it is not causally linked to the worker’s work or work environment (for instance, an office worker getting infected).

Contracting the coronavirus might be a work-related illness if the worker has become infected due to the nature of her work or due to biological risk factors occurring in her work environment (for instance, the staff dealing with infected persons).

In case of a suspicion that the infection might be due to work, i.e. while the infected person was carrying out work tasks, a doctor needs to be notified of this. The family doctor or another doctor who suspects that the worker might have an occupational disease will refer the person to an occupational health doctor for a diagnosis. The occupational health doctor will ascertain the health condition of the worker and will collect data on the workers working conditions and nature of work. The decision on whether the disease has been caused by work or not will be made by the occupational health doctor.

Last updated: 24.09.2020 16:36

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The employer is generally not entitled to know the health data of the employee, including the COVID-19 diagnosis, when the employee received the diagnosis and other information related to the infection (e.g. the source of the infection). The employer also has no right to measure the employee's body temperature in order to find out if they have a fever (also health data). The employer may do this if it has been previously arranged with the employees, or it is exceptionally justified to prevent COVID-19 infection when the employee is exposed to other employees or customers.

The employer has the right to ask the employee whether they have been exposed to people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 infection. The employer is also entitled to ask the employee's confirmation that the employee´s health condition does not hinder the performance of their tasks and is not a threat to other employees or customers.

The employee and employer should co-operate fully to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection. This means that the employer may ask an employee who is absent from work or taken a sick leave whether they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 symptoms. An employee who has taken a sick leave due to COVID-19 virus should provide information to the employer of their condition so that the employer can implement the necessary preventive measures in the working environment to protect other employees and/or customers. Therefore, information on COVID-19 diagnosis can be provided on the basis of an agreement between the employee and the employer. The information regarding the infection is provided to the employer by the employee.

At the same time, it is important to note that the employer has no right to conduct a survey among the employees regarding their health status. The employer must take into account that they can only request the necessary information and not too much personal data.

Last updated: 01.10.2020 09:35

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An employer must notify its staff of COVID-19 cases and protective measures (how clients and workers are protected at the company). An employer must limit these notifications to only the necessary information.

It is not allowed to reveal the name of the infected person to other workers and clients without cause. The name of the infected person may be revealed only if it is necessary to prevent further infections (for instance, to notify colleagues who worked in close contact with the infected person). The infected person must be notified that information on his disease is also being shared with other workers. An employer must give only a minimum amount of necessary information on the person and take the human dignity of the infected worker into account.

Last updated: 24.09.2020 16:38

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A good working environment can be only created by employers and employees working together. The employee does not have to perform tasks which are not indicated in their employment contract and are not related to the type of work they do, and which would endanger their health. If the employee cannot perform a certain task due to health reasons, then the employer should be informed, and the employer must take it into consideration. However, simple cleaning work (cleaning surfaces with disinfectant) while using personal protective equipment should not be too complicated or burdensome for employees. Also, this task is carried out during the working hours, i.e. the employer pays for the time spent cleaning. This is also in the interest of the employee. The cleaner the surfaces, the less the virus has the chance to survive and harm us.

If you find that the employer or their representative has not given sufficient guidance regarding which surfaces need cleaning and how it should be done, then additional information should be requested. The employer should be informed if the employee feels that the measures (e.g. using rubber gloves) are not sufficient to ensure the safety.

Last updated: 01.10.2020 09:36

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In the case of teleworking, the employer must ensure that the working environment is safe (carry out a risk analysis, instruct the worker etc.). It is possible to use alternative options to carry out risk analysis of teleworking -- for instance, asking for the worker for pictures of the working place that is located in her home and/or asking the worker herself to map the risks of her working place on the basis of a provided questionnaire and forward the relevant information to the employer. For instance, if the risk analysis reveals that the worker does not have a work chair suitable for working with a display screen, the employer and worker together must find a way to use a work chair that meets the requirements.

A worker working at home must also be instructed on how to put together her working place, when to take breaks, what the possible health effects are, whether and on what conditions can she do her work outside of her home (for instance at a beach, in a park or elsewhere).

In this way the employer is ensured of the safety of the working place through risk analysis, if necessary, has found a way to improve the working place in cooperation with the worker, and has instructed the worker on what would be a good way to organise her work and working place and why this is necessary.

Health checks of workers working at home must also be organised pursuant to general procedure. This means that if the worker works with a display screen for more than half of her working time, she must be sent for a health check by an occupational health doctor within four months of starting work and then after a period indicated by the occupational health doctor.

Additionally, we recommend thinking through the procedure for a possible accident at work that might take place with a teleworking worker, including who and when must be notified of an accident having taken place.

Before concluding an agreement on teleworking, we recommend reading through the guidelines for teleworking that can be found in the Working Life portal at the link: https://www.tooelu.ee/en/Employer/Working-environment/Organizing-working-environment/Teleworking

Last updated: 24.09.2020 16:42

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The redundancy payment is calculated on the basis of the employee's salary over the previous six months period. If during this time period the employee has received reduced wages under Art 37 of the Employment Contract Act, then this reduction is disregarded when calculating the redundancy payment for the given time period, e.g. the payment will not be reduced. For example, if the employee is made redundant in September, the salaries of March, April, May, June, July, and August will be taken into account when calculating the redundancy payment. The employee's salary was reduced in April and May under Art. 37 of the Employment Contract Act. As these reduced payments are not included in the calculation of the payment, the calculation is made based on the wages received for March, June, July, and August.

At the same time the reduced wages are factored in when calculating the holiday allowance, therefore the holiday allowance will be reduced.

Last updated: 01.10.2020 09:36

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The service points that are located in shopping centres may be open. The service points of service providers referred to in the order of the government are, for instance, post offices, parcel terminals, bank offices, shoe and watch repair shops, bicycle repair shops, car repair shops, tire exchange points etc. The mobile phone stores that offer mobile phone and computer repair services are also service providers.

The following restrictions have to be adhered to:

  • the 2+2 rule applies indoors;
  • a mask is worn indoors. This obligation does not extend to children under the age of 12 or in cases where wearing a mask is not possible due to health considerations, the nature of the work or activity, or for some other substantial reason;
  • the service provider ensures that the occupancy of the facility where the service is provided does not exceed 25%
  • the service provider ensures the availability of disinfectants and that the disinfection requirements are adhered to in accordance with the guidelines of the Health Board.

Last updated: 12.03.2021 13:37

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Making it possible to get vaccinated is one of the possible measures with which an employer can ensure the safety of the working environment and the health of employees. The measures for reducing the risks in the working environment can only be determined by first mapping what is the risk and how big is the probability that it will come true. Thus, in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, the employer has to review its risk analysis of the working environment, amend it if necessary, and prepare an appropriate action plan based on a risk analysis that reflects the reality. The employer can foresee vaccinations for the employees as one possible measure for reducing the infection risk, i.e. this would, for example, be one part of the 2021 action plan based on the working environment risk analysis.

Still, the vaccine is not the only way to avoid getting infected with biological risk factors, and the employees have the right to refuse vaccinations. Thus the employers must also consider other measures to lower the risks, for example:

  • issuing further personal protective equipment;
  • reorganising work.

If the results of the risk analysis show that vaccination is especially important for certain sectors or lines of work (e.g. health care, care homes) and other measures are not effective enough to protect the health of employees or clients/patients, vaccination might be substantiated.

Based on the action plan of the working environment risk analysis, the employer might foresee that it will ensure the possibility for the employees to get vaccinated, but this does not mean that the employee has an obligation to get vaccinated. It is not possible or allowed to force employees to get vaccinated, as this would run counter to the principle of bodily integrity of a human being and would thus be against human rights.

An employee must be aware of all that has to do with risks in the working environment, precautionary measures to avoid the effects of biological risk factors, hygiene requirements, the use of personal protective equipment, avoiding risk situations, and acting in a case of accident. This means that after a risk analysis has been carried out or renewed and new measures have been taken up, the employees must be informed of those as well. If the employees do not know why certain measures have been taken up or why the employer has enacted new rules, it creates misunderstandings. Thus it is important that the employer explain why vaccination is important and what the following actions are if an employee does not wish to get vaccinated.

It is important that the employee knows what the consequences are if they refuse to get vaccinated -- i.e. does the employer have to reorganise this employee's work, ensure further personal or general protective equipment, or is there also a danger that in substantiated cases their employment contract is cancelled extraordinarily if it is not possible for the employer to reasonably reorganise the work and take up other measures to effectively lower the risk, and the risk for spreading the virus is big, endangering the patients or clients of the employer.

If the employee refuses vaccination and the employer estimates that the other possibilities for reducing the risks are not adequate either, the employee must be explained the consequences, get a prior warning (preferably at least in a form that can be reproduced in writing) and, if there are no other options, the employment contract can be cancelled extraordinarily based on § 88 subsection 1 point 2 of the Employment Contracts Act.

Last updated: 12.02.2021 11:10

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Distance work is a condition in the employment contract. If it has been agreed upon once, it can be amended with a new agreement. The employee must immediately notify the employer of an impediment to work or of a threat thereof and, if possible, eliminates such an impediment or threat without a special instruction (Employment Contracts Act § 15(2)7).

If the employee cannot eliminate the impediment on their own, they must find solutions to still keep working in cooperation with the employer -- whether the employer could still enable them to work from the office during the construction works, or maybe the working hours can be changed so that the work could take place before and after the active construction period of the neighbour. All these kinds of agreements are possible and allowed in employment relations but presume negotiations and certainly a solution oriented approach from both sides.

There is an analogy to a situation where the employee is working from the employer's office but construction works start there and because of the noise, the work cannot continue at the office as it would damage the health of the employee. In this case, the solution is usually finding another working space, temporarily moving office, or the employee will be assigned to distance work, with their consent. Now, however, new risks have occurred in the employee's home working environment, the solutions to which must be found in cooperation with the employer.

Last updated: 12.02.2021 11:10

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  • If an employee falls ill outside of work, they must stay at home.
  • If an employee falls ill at work, they must leave immediately.
  • Person who has fallen ill should contact their GP, who will decide on the diagnosis of COVID-19, the need for testing and the certificate of incapacity for work.
  • In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, it is important that the affected employee informs the employer that the diagnosis of COVID-19 has been confirmed. The employer is informed in accordance with the agreement between the employee and the employer.
  • The employer, being informed of the employee's diagnosis of COVID-19, co-operates with the regional department of the Health Board in order to determine the employee's close contact at work and provide guidelines for further work organisation.
  • Premises potentially contaminated with the virus must be closed and not used before being properly cleaned, disinfected and aired.
  • When cleaning rooms and surfaces, follow the recommendations of the Health Board for cleaning and disinfection (PDF).
  • If the diagnosis of COVID-19 is confirmed, people who were in close contact with the affected employee during the symptomatic period or up to two days before must be identified at the workplace. Close contacts are determined by the regional department of the Health Board in co-operation with the employer.
  • Persons who have been in close contact with the infected person must closely monitor their health and stay in isolation for the next 10 days. Self-isolation can be shortened if the SARSCoV-2 PCR test is performed on the 10th day after being in close contact with the infected person.
  • The rest of the employees can continue their daily work but should monitor their health more closely.
  • If the diagnosis of COVID-19 of an infected employee is not confirmed, other employees may continue to work, but must monitor their health for 10 days.

Starting from February 2, there is a derogation from having to quarantine as a close contact for people who have been vaccinated against or had the coronavirus within the last six months. A person who has had the coronavirus or is vaccinated against it must still wear a mask indoors during the next 10 days or cover their nose and mouth if they have been a close contact. The obligation to wear a mask does not extend to children under the age of 12 or if wearing a mask is not possible due to health considerations, the nature of the work or activities, or for some other substantial reason. Additionally, an asymptomatic close contact who has had the coronavirus or is vaccinated against it must monitor their health closely during the next 10 days and follow the measures enacted by the government and the Health Board to stop the spread of the virus. Following the measures is necessary as there is still very little scientific information on how probable it is that people who have had the coronavirus or are vaccinated against it can still spread COVID-19.

Last updated: 02.02.2021 18:47

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If an employee finds out that their coronavirus test came back positive, they need to notify their employer immediately.

The employer must send both infected persons and persons with a suspected infection home to quarantine.

For this, the employer will establish the employees that have come into contact with the infected colleague at the workplace within the past two weeks. They also need to stay home for 10 days and monitor their health status closely. If a person develops a fever or a cough during this time, they need to contact his family doctor.

The Health Board recommends that a close contact do a test after the end of the 10 calendar day quarantine period, in order to discover a possible case of asymptomatic coronavirus.

Those employees who did not come into direct contact with the infected person may continue their everyday work but should monitor their health closely.

The employer must guarantee that in order to contain the spread of the virus at the workplace

  • necessary protective equipment is used,
  • the rooms are aired and
  • the surfaces are cleaned diligently.

Starting from February 2, there is a derogation from having to quarantine as a close contact for people who have been vaccinated against or had the coronavirus within the last six months. A person who has had the coronavirus or is vaccinated against it must still wear a mask indoors during the next 10 days or cover their nose and mouth if they have been a close contact. The obligation to wear a mask does not extend to children under the age of 12 or if wearing a mask is not possible due to health considerations, the nature of the work or activities, or for some other substantial reason. Additionally, an asymptomatic close contact who has had the coronavirus or is vaccinated against it must monitor their health closely during the next 10 days and follow the measures enacted by the government and the Health Board to stop the spread of the virus. Following the measures is necessary as there is still very little scientific information on how probable it is that people who have had the coronavirus or are vaccinated against it can still get infected with or spread COVID-19.

Last updated: 03.02.2021 14:53

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If it is not possible to air the rooms, surfaces should be regularly cleaned with disinfectant. The corona virus does not spread through the ventilation system but mainly by a close contact with a person suspected to be infected who has symptoms characteristic to the disease, mainly a cough.

The precondition to the spread of the virus is close contact with the bodily fluids (blood, excrements, urine, spit, sperm) of an infected person. When a person infected with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or speaks, droplets containing the virus end up in the air. These virus droplets are quite heavy and therefore do not travel very far in the air. According to what we have learned thus far they can travel 2 meters at the maximum. Because of their heaviness it is also not probable that air flow would make the droplets travel further from surfaces.

The life span of virus droplets on surfaces depends on the air temperature and average humidity of the surrounding environment. At room temperature, or 22-25 degrees and 40% relative humidity, the virus survives up to 4 or 5 days. The higher the temperature and relative humidity, the faster the virus is destroyed.

An effective way to destroy the corona virus from surfaces is using different biocides or antimicrobial solutions. One of the most common ones is ethanol. A solution containing 70% ethanol is adequate for cleaning surfaces of COVID-19 contamination.

Last updated: 01.04.2020 14:31

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In non-residential premises and social welfare institutions, the ventilation system must not be switched off even if the building is not in use.

The ventilation system must also operate at evenings and weekends at with either design capacity or normal daily regime (100%) or reduced capacity (at least 40%). The ventilation system operating with reduced capacity must be switched to the design capacity regime at least two hours before the building or part of the building will be used.

Circulating air ventilation systems are in use in storehouses and shopping centres. They must be fully switched onto the external air injection to avoid possible virus circulation through the ventilation system.

In other ventilation systems, the air injection and extraction settings must be reviewed so that the system sends the air exhaust out without recirculating it.

If the building does not have an air conditioning and ventilation system that guarantees suitable indoor climate, the rooms must be actively aired. This should be done at least once an hour and within 15 minutes before people arrive.

Room capacity-based circulating cooling or heating device (for example: fan-coil, split device) need to be switched off unless it is necessary to ensure a certain temperature in the room or when the device cannot be switched off.

In this case, continuous air flow through the device must be ensured. If the fan coil (heating device with a ventilator) is operational, the settings must be changed so that the fan would not turn off. This way the virus does not accumulate in the filter.

Last updated: 12.05.2020 20:12

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Doctors can issue the sick note (confirmation of incapacity to work) to people who have medical insurance through their employer. The doctor decides whether or not to issue such a certificate based on the state of the person’s health.

Based on the sick note the employer and the Health Insurance Fund will pay compensation for incapacity to work, aimed at partial compensation for loss of earnings while the person is sick.

The doctor fills in the electronic sick note specifying the period how long the person will be on sick leave, and sends it electronically to the Health Insurance Fund. The data sent by the doctor and information on compensation paid out can be found under the personal sickness compensation service in the state portal www.eesti.ee.

For more see: https://www.haigekassa.ee/en/people/benefits/benefits-incapacity-work

Last updated: 19.09.2020 15:25

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Sickness benefit:

In order to reduce the risk of people going to work when sick, reducing the personal cover of employees and thus limit the spread of COVID-19 disease, the procedure for compensating the sick leaves will temporarily change between January 1, 2021 and April 30, 2021. The employee co-pay covers the first day of illness, the employer covers the compensation from the second to the fifth day, and the Estonian Health Insurance Fund pays the compensation from the sixth day onwards.

The new procedure is valid for incapacity to work certificates starting from January 1, 2021. The procedure for care leave compensation does not change.

  • No compensation is paid for the first day of sick leave.

  • For sickness days 2 to 5, compensation will be paid by the employer based on average salary.

  • From day 6, the sickness compensation will be paid by the Estonian Health Insurance Fund on the basis of the daily income of the employee. The calculation is based on the data on social tax calculated or paid in the calendar year preceding the date of the beginning of the sick leave, which is obtained from the Tax and Customs Board.

  • the information on which the calculation is based can be accessed after the compensation has been received in the state portal eesti.ee.

Read more about the sickness benefit.

Care allowance:

On the basis of the certificate for care leave, the Estonian Health Insurance Fund pays the care allowance for the first

  • 14 sickness days to a parent whose child under the age of 12 or disabled child under the age of 19 is sick;
  • 7 sickness days to the carer of other family members.

The allowance is 80% of the average wage of the person who has been issued the certificate for care leave. Income tax is withheld from the benefit.

Different rules for paying care allowance apply in the case of severe illness such as tumours.

Read more about care allowance.

More information can be received from the Estonian Health Insurance Fund telephone (+372) 669 6630.

During the emergency situation, people were given the opportunity to apply for incapacity to work certificate on medical grounds or for care leave via the patient portal www.digilugu.ee website. After the emergency situation was ended on May 18, the medical leave certificate can be only issued by the doctor, so if you are sick or are caring for a sick family member, you must contact your family doctor in order to obtain the sick leave or care leave.

Last updated: 04.01.2021 17:34

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Vaccination is voluntary in Estonia. Enabling vaccination in the workplace is one of the possible measures taken by the employer to ensure the safety of the working environment and the protection of the employees´ health, but vaccination cannot be the only way to prevent getting infected with biological risk factors.

If an employee refuses to get vaccinated, the employer can:

  • anticipate and take other measures that can mitigate the risks - for example, additional personal protective equipment, collective protective equipment, etc. The employer therefore has a responsibility primarily to assess whether, for example, the health of the customer service provider and customers can be protected by other measures, such as the obligation to wear a mask, disinfecting hands, using a plexiglass, reducing direct contacts, more frequent surface cleaning and other measures.

  • if necessary, reorganise the work for the specific section of the work or for specific employees. If the parties reach an agreement on the reorganisation of work, the terms of the employment contract (for example, change of duties) can only be changed by agreement of both parties on the basis of § 12 of the Employment Contracts Act.

If the results of the risk assessment of the work environment show that vaccination is particularly important in certain sectors or activities (e.g. health care, nursing homes) and that other measures are not effective enough to protect the health of the employees or clients and patients, then vaccination may be justified.

Vaccination alone may not be helpful in ensuring employee safety, and risk mitigation measures often need to be applied simultaneously.

Last updated: 17.03.2021 17:08

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The employee is generally not obliged to share their health data with the employer, including information about vaccination. The employer has the right to ask the employee for confirmation that the employee's state of health does not hinder the performance of work duties and does not pose a danger to other employees or customers. In particular, the employer has the right to ask about the employee's vaccination in justified cases, if the results of the risk assessment of the work environment show that vaccination is one of the possible measures to prevent infection in the given position and to perform work tasks safely in the future. Although the employer has the right to ask about vaccination in certain cases, the employee has the right to refuse to share the relevant information with the employer.

Co-operation between the employee and the employer is important to prevent the spread of the virus. The employer must take into account in the risk assessment and the measures taken that vaccination may be one of the possible means of ensuring the safety of the working environment and the health of the worker, but the employer cannot oblige the worker to provide vaccination data or to get vaccinated. If the results of the risk assessment of the working environment show that vaccination is particularly important in certain sectors or activities (eg health care, nursing homes) and that other measures are not effective enough to protect the health of workers or clients / patients, vaccination may be justified. It is important that the employer informs the employee of the results of the risk analysis and justifies why vaccination is important in this position.

In a situation where the employer, based on the results of the risk assessment of the work environment, asks the employee for information about their vaccination status or offers vaccination to the employee, but the employee refuses to provide information related to vaccination or refuses to get vaccinated, the employer can:

  • anticipate and take other measures that can mitigate the risks - for example, additional personal protective equipment, collective protective equipment, etc. The employer therefore has a particular responsibility to assess whether, for example, the health of the customer service provider and customers can be protected by other measures, such as the obligation to wear a mask, hand disinfection, plexiglass, direct contact reduction, more frequent surface cleaning and other measures;

  • if necessary, reorganise the work or the part of the task performed by the employee. If the parties reach an agreement on the reorganisation of work, the terms of the employment contract (for example, change of duties) can only be changed by agreement of the parties on the basis of § 12 of the Employment Contracts Act.

If the employer is not reasonably able to reorganise the work or take other measures to effectively mitigate the risks, the employer may have the right to terminate the employment relationship with the employee pursuant to § 88 (1) 2) of the Employment Contracts Act due to unsuitability to perform the tasks. Subsection (3) of the same section also obliges the employer to provide a warning in advance, ie to give the employee the opportunity to reconsider vaccination by a specific deadline, and only when it is definitively clear that the employee does not want to be vaccinated, then the contract may be terminated pursuant to § 88 para 1 point 2 of the Employment Contracts Act.

The employer must consider the risk assessment also in changed circumstances (eg in the event of a reduction in the spread of coronavirus).

Last updated: 04.01.2021 10:06

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If your family needs help, contact your local social welfare office.

Last updated: 29.03.2020 20:25

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  • Monitor the health of your staff.

  • Send employees with symptoms home for 10 days.

  • Any member of staff who has come into contact with an infected person must monitor their own health, and if symptoms appear, they should remain at home for 10 days and follow the self-isolation guidelines.

  • Monitor cleanliness and the correct use of personal protective equipment.

  • Arrange for your staff a possibility to wash their hands at least once every two hours (with soap and water for at least 20 seconds). If it is not possible to wash hands, they should disinfect their hands with antiseptic handwash with a minimum 70% ethanol content. Hands that are visibly dirty must certainly be washed.

  • Recommend that staff who come into contact with customers wear rubber gloves as well as textile gloves. Hands should be disinfected before gloves are put on and after they are taken off.

Please note! Single-use gloves should not be washed or disinfected. They should be removed when leaving the cash register: pinch the material of the other glove from the section of the glove between the palm and the wrist; pull the glove off so that it turns inside out (with the contaminated side inside). Then the gloves should be disposed into a bag which can be sealed.

  • When wearing protective masks, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maximum usage time.

  • Single use masks can only be used once. Washing can damage the material of the mask and reduce the effectiveness of the mask.

  • Work garments, (including textile gloves) should be washed after every shift, at the highest temperature allowed for the material. Work footwear should also be cleaned after every shift.

Adjust the work arrangements.

  • The employees have to maintain at least a 2-metre distance with the customers.

  • Minimise contact with the customers for these members of the staff who belong to risk groups, (particularly older employees or those with chronic illnesses or immune-compromised) persons.

  • If possible, arrange work in single shift, or organise the handing over of the shift so that the employees of different shifts would not come into contact with each other.

Guidelines and instructions:

Print-out materials and guidelines of the Health Board

More information can be found on the website of the Agriculture and Food Board ( January 1, 2021, the Veterinary and Food Board was merged with Agriculture Board as Agriculture and Food Board.).

Recommendations of the Agriculture and Food Board to food business operators (January 1, 2021, the Veterinary and Food Board was merged with Agriculture Board as Agriculture and Food Board).

Recommendations of the Labour Inspectorate to employees and employers

Last updated: 08.04.2021 16:08

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Yes, it is allowed to visit the service providers located in spas if the requirements set for service premises are observed: the 2+2 rule, a mask, 25% occupancy, and disinfection according to the guidelines of the Health Board.

Last updated: 10.03.2021 13:06

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Generally, the schedule that has already been approved can only be changed with an agreement between the parties but due to the restrictions enacted to limit the spread of the coronavirus, the employer can unilaterally change the schedule and give other orders if these are arising from an emergency.

An emergency is presumed in case of possible damage or a threat of such damage to the employer’s property or other amenity caused, above all, by force majeure. (§ 17 (4) of the Employment Contracts Act). In determining whether the situation constitutes an emergency, the employee's interests and rights as well as the principle of good faith and reasonable expectations must be taken into account, i.e. the consequences arising from an emergency need to be weighed against the employee's rights that are external to the employment relationship.

If the employer does not reorganise work, then, on the basis of § 35 of the Employment Contracts Act, he would have to pay average wages to the employees who are scheduled to be working on the weekend and are not given work. Thus the restrictions allow the employer to base his orders on an emergency.

The employer may also unilaterally change the organisation of working time, provided the changes arise from the needs of the employer’s enterprise and are reasonable, considering mutual interests (§ 47 (4) of the Employment Contracts Act). The goal of the working time organisation is to determine the period of working, primarily the beginning and end of the working time and the breaks during the working day.

Thus, due to the restrictions, it is possible to unilaterally change the schedule, or the beginning and end times of work, if these changes arise from an emergency or the needs of the enterprise. The employer must substantiate to the employee why the schedule needs to be changed due to the restrictions and what the emergency in the current case is. It is not allowed to act in contradiction to the principle of good faith and the interests of the other party in an employment relationship. For instance, if an employee does not agree to the changes in the work schedule due to the need to fulfil important family duties, the employer must take this into account.

Last updated: 09.03.2021 13:17

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The restrictions in force regulate the activities of catering establishments that are meant for public use. The restrictions do not regulate how the catering is organised at work places or other institutions where third parties have no access. It is important to see to it that people are spread out, the surfaces and hands are being disinfected and the measures recommended by the Health Board are followed in order to limit the spread of the virus.

However, it is the principle that must be adhered to in any case -- if these catering establishments can be accessed by individuals who do not work in said building or happen to be there by chance, then it is only allowed to be in the sales or service areas of the catering establishments to buy food as takeaway or to provide delivery services.

Last updated: 12.03.2021 13:36

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More information about the coronavirus and restrictions related to it is available calling 1247 (from abroad +372 600 1247).