Work during the emergency situation

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If the company has more than 30 employees, the employer can make a query to the Health Board about the vaccination coverage in its company. An application for that needs to be sent to vaktsineerimine@haigekassa.ee.

In order to protect personal data, the Health Board gives out information in a limited form and one of three possible options are forwarded as a reply:

  1. less than 50%
    1. the exact percentage, if the vaccination coverage is in the range of 50-80%
  2. more than 80%.

The Estonian Health Board can answer the query based on the information they have at their disposal. A person's vaccination status is checked based on immunisation reports and a person's connection to the company is based on the insurance cover data that has been entered into the Health Board database. In the reply to the query, all persons that have been vaccinated with at least one dose are also considered to be vaccinated.

Last updated: 08.09.2021 15:40

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There is no obligation to present the certificate in indoor rooms that are not public spaces (i.e. they can be entered for all who wish to). The meeting rooms of a company are usually not public spaces.

If a meeting takes place in a working environment (this extends to both people who come in daily contact with each other and people from different teams), it is not necessary to check the infection risk statuses.

Last updated: 30.08.2021 18:40

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A public meeting is a gathering of people in a public place with a joint objective of forming or expressing their convictions. The public meeting exception in public indoor spaces is allowed in order to guarantee that constitutional rights can be exercised in very limited conditions.

It is allowed to hold indoor public meetings without a COVID-19 certificate if it is ensured that there are no more than 50 participants, and the requirements of mask wearing, dispersion and disinfection are adhered to.

Last updated: 30.08.2021 20:06

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The basis for the requirement for the employees to wear a mask is the occupational health and safery regulation. The working environment risk analysis must foresee possible measures for stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Among others, the employer should consider the following measures: vaccination, proving one's infection risk status, testing employees, reorganising work, using personal protective equipment (e.g. a mask, a protective shield etc.).

Last updated: 02.09.2021 19:25

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If the employer has, in the working environment risk analysis, foreseen the obligation to wear a mask or use other personal protectiive equipment, the employee has the obligation to use them.

Last updated: 02.09.2021 19:19

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According to § 24 clause 2 of the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act, an employer is required to ensure that the requirements established for safety from infection are met at the workplace and according to § 13 subsection 1 clause 11 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act an employer has to provide the employees with personal protective equipment, and according to clause 12 verify compliance with the occupational health and safety requirements. Thus the employer also has to ensure that the employees have masks, if the employer's risk analysis foresees it.

If the employee is not carrying out work duties at the time but is participating in an activity listed in the order of the Government of the Republic, it is his obligation as a client to wear a mask.

Additionally, § 14 subsection 1 clause 4 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (TTOS) says that the employee is required to make correct use of the prescribed personal protective equipment and keep it in working order and if she breaches this requirement, she is liable to the employer. The employer can issue her a warning for breach of duties. In the employment contract an employer and an employee may agree upon a contractual penalty for the violation of the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (TTOS § 14.1).

Last updated: 31.08.2021 22:20

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Wearing a mask and covering their nose and mouth is the client's obligation. The entrepreneur has an obligation to implement activities that are aimed at ensuring that the order is adhered to (that dispersion would be ensured and that the store has disinfectants available).

Last updated: 30.08.2021 19:51

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Yes, as the measuring of body temperature is the processing of personal data. According to the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it is prohibited to process personal health data unless there is a specific basis in the existing law that would allow the processing of health data.

In the working environment, the main concerns are how it is being done, how people are informed of this, and what is done with the data afterwards or what happens if the employee or the customer actually does have a fever. The rights of the company/employer are rather limited in this context.

The Estonian Data Protection Inspectorate has explained that it is not allowed to process a person's health data based on so-called legitimate interest and the legal basis for processing health data can only be a law or the person's consent. Based on this, an employer can process a person's health data in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak only if an employee has voluntarily given this data to the employer.

That is, before measuring body temperatures it is certainly necessary to consider whether this is a necessary and only measure with which to separate out a sick person, what happens if a person refuses, and whether there are other options for avoiding the spread of the disease.

The issue is also how the body temperature is being measured and what device is used. If it is done by a person, is that person's safety ensured, as he has to be very close to the potentially infected person (do a visor, mask, gloves offer him sufficient protection, does the potential effect of a psychosocial risk factor come into play with this task). If it is done by a remote reading device, how is a person with a higher body temperature informed and what happens after that (a customer is not allowed to enter, an employee is asked to leave work, who pays for that day?).

Last updated: 09.09.2021 16:46

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According to § 22 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, an occupational accident is damage to the health of an employee or death of an employee which occurred in the performance of a duty assigned by an employer or in other work performed with the employer’s permission, during a break included in the working time, or during other activity in the interests of the employer. Getting infected with the coronavirus is not considered to be an accident at work if it is not in a causal relationship with the employee's work or working environment (e.g. an office worker gets infected with the virus but it is essentially impossible to determine where the infection took place).

This kind of a situation may possibly occur in a medical institution if the employer and the employee herself do not implement measures to avoid the spread of the virus, i.e. it is possible to determine a concrete connection with the working environment and the work being done.

If getting infected with COVID was caused by work, this can definitely be seen as getting an occupational disease. More on this topic can be read on the web page of the Labour Inspectorate.

Last updated: 30.08.2021 17:37

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The family doctor is the medical expert whose opinion and decision an employer can and must accept. In this case, an employee must be allowed back to work even though the test results are still positive.

More can be read from the Estonian Family Medicine Association's instructions to family doctors. the instructions clearly state that even though a patient is no longer infectious, her SARS-CoV-2 PCR analysis result may still be positive for several weeks. That is also the reason why family doctors are no longer referring people to repeat testing before the certificate of incapacity for work is terminated.

In order to prevent the spread of the virus in the working environment you should evaluate the probability of the occurrence of a biological risk factor and, if necessary, take measures that would help to prevent the risk.

Last updated: 09.09.2021 16:27

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Yes, if an employer has established, based on the working environment risk analysis, that it is not possible to avoid or reduce the risk of infection by using collective protective equipment (e.g. installing protective glass shields in order to stop the spread of the virus) or measures regarding the organisation of the work (keeping a distance, availability of disinfectants).

The employer has an obligation to inform the employees of the results of the evaluation of working environment risks, including of health risks and measures taken to avoid damage to health. The employer explains to the employees the possible risk areas that the risk analysis discovered (a place of infection in a specific company while performing specific duties) and what the measures that are being taken are. As collective protective equipment and measures regarding the organisation of work should always be preferable to the use of personal protective equipment, the employees must be explained why it was decided to favour the use of personal protective equipment.

The employer must also make sure that the personal protective equipment does not pose an undue burden to the wearer, would fit the user and be suitable for use in the specific working conditions. If these requirements are not fulfilled in case of some employees, the employee must turn to the employer and solutions must be found in co-operation (e.g. using another type of mask or reorganising the work so that the employee would be able to take more breaks).

The employee has an obligation to use the personal protective equipment in accordance with the user manual and instructions given by the employer. Thus the employer also has the right to demand that the employee use personal protective equipment (a mask) and the employee has an obligation to use the personal protective equipment. If the employee does not use the personal protective equipment, regardless of the employer's comments, the employer has the option of issuing a warning to the employee. As an extreme measure and in case issuing a warning was not sufficient and the employee is still in breach of his obligations, the employer has the right to extraordinarily cancel the employment relationship, as, despite warnings, the employee has disregarded the employers reasonable orders or breached his duties.

Last updated: 09.09.2021 16:20

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Yes, but still following the principles of good faith and reason.

The organising of events is regulated by an order of the Government of the Republic that is not directly related to working environment. Starting from August 26, at events and activities taking place in public indoor and outdoor spaces, all participants over the age of 18 must present a COVID certificate proving their vaccination, recovery or negative results of a prior test. Infection risk status must also be proven if the activity takes place at a location of service provision, e.g. when a catering establishment, conference hall, entertainment establishment etc is rented out.

The restrictions set to sports and catering are also not connected to employees of a particular company but rather the location where the event takes place. It is obligatory to check certificates if an event, training or any other activity is organised in a catering establishment or some other public space. However, if a catering establishment is offering catering or, for instance, brings the food to the company's office which is not public space, there is no obligation to check certificates.

There is also no obligation to check the COVID certificate at outdoor events that take place on an unrestricted territory (e.g. the streets of a neighbourhood, in the forest etc. -- i.e. in an area where people are in constant movement and it is not possible to determine a specific place of activities or participants).

An employer must still re-evaluate the risks related to its employees and, based on that, decide the measures enacted in the working environment and put together an action plan.

It should be kept in mind that even one sick customer or a colleague who has come to work sick can infect the whole staff.

Last updated: 30.08.2021 17:10

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This depends on the results of the working environment risk analysis and the effectiveness and sufficiency of the measures enacted by the employer. Mask wearing in useful only if all requirements are followed and the masks used are relevant and take into account the specific risks.

See more:

Last updated: 30.08.2021 16:55

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Making it possible to get vaccinated is one of the possible measures that an employer can enact in order to ensure the maintenance of the safety of the working environment and the health of the employee. Measures to lower the working environment risk can only be determined if prior to that it has been mapped what the risk is and how big the probability is that it will be realised. Thus the employer must definitely review their working environment risk analysis in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, amend it if necessary and, based on a risk analysis that reflects reality, put together a relevant action plan.

The vaccine is certainly not the only possibility to avoid infection with biological risk factors and the employees have the right to refuse to get vaccinated. Thus the employer must also consider other measures to lower the risks, for instance:

  • issuing further personal protective equipment;
  • reorganising the work.

Last updated: 30.08.2021 16:49

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Enacting the requirement is proportional in a working environment where the employee has a very direct and constant contact with other people (including touching other people, contact with biological material etc.), e.g. in medicine, care work, provision of beauty services etc.

When in comes to office work, it all depends on the circumstances and how the work is organised but certainly it is possible to implement other measures that lower risks there, including distance work, dispersion, the wearing of masks etc.

Last updated: 30.08.2021 16:41

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the employment relationship may be terminated?

The underlying principle of the Occupational Health and Safety Act is that if an employer enacts a requirement in the working environment, it will also cover the costs related to it.

According to § 12 upper 1 subsection 3 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (TTOS), the planning and implementation of measures related to occupational health, safety and hygiene may not involve the employees in financial cost.

The law also specifies (TTOS § 13 upper 1 subsection 7) that an employer shall cover the costs related to medical examinations and the regulation directs the employer to cover the costs related to vaccination. The employer must also provide, at the employer’s expense, an employee with personal protective equipment, special work clothes, and cleaning and washing means if the nature of the work so requires, and arrange training for the employee in the use of personal protective equipment (TTOS § 13 subsection 1 claus 11) etc.

Examples:

  1. The employer has evaluated biological risk factors in the working environment and enacts a requirement that in order to lower the risks, the employees have to do daily rapid tests or present a negative PCR test result. The employer has to reimburse the costs related to testing.
  2. The employer foresees that in order to lower the risks, the employees have to present a certificate proving that they have recovered from COVID-19 or have been vaccinated. It gives a reasonable deadline for presenting the certificate, considering that all adults can go to get vaccinated but there is a six week period between the first and the second dose. After this deadline has passed, the employer does not have to reimburse the costs related to testing anymore.

In practice, there might be a situation where the employer has determined a deadline for vaccination but the employee does not wish to get vaccinated and proposes on his own that he will start presenting the employer with PCR test results every 2-3 days or daily rapid test results. If the employer agrees to this solution, the employee himself will cover the costs related to testing. If the employer does not agree to this solution, the work of the employee is reorganised in a way that contact with people and thus the risk level of the biological risk factor is significantly reduced, or, if this is not possible, the employment contract of the employee is extraordinarily cancelled due to non-suitability of the employee, based on § 88 subsection 1 clause 2 of the Employment Contracts Act, following all the requirements set by law for extraordinary cancellation of an employment contract.

Last updated: 30.08.2021 16:37

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The employer conducts a workinhg environment risk analysis, or evaluates the risks, then decides what measures should be enacted to lower the risks and puts together an action plan. Thus, the requirement to get vaccinated and the obligation to present a vaccination certificate have to be based on the working environment risk analysis and the specific action plan.

The only exceptions are trainings, joint events etc. organised by the employer where the requirement can be enacted due to the restrictions set to events and the organisers liability.

Last updated: 30.08.2021 14:55

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The choice is made by every employer, based on the results of the biological risk factor risk analysis of the working environment. The Labour Inspectorate inspects the evaluation of risks, the measures enacted to lower the risks, and concrete activities organised by the employer mainly as a part of a general inspection, while solving a complaint, or in connection with an investigation into an accident at work or an occupational disease.

The Labour Inspectorate accepts the order as long as there has been no corona outbreak at the particular employer or complaints filed by the employees about the inactivity of the employer.

Last updated: 30.08.2021 14:47

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As the organisation of work is very different in different offices, and the measures enacted by the employer in order to lower the risks may be different as well, no one other than the employer can take this decision. The decisions are preceded by an evaluation of working environment risks in total. More information and recommendations on presenting a risk analysis can be found from the Tööelu.ee web page (in Estonian).

Last updated: 30.08.2021 14:33

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The explanation of the Health Board (from the kriis.ee web page): If a person has been vaccinated against VOVID-19 or has recovered from it, does she have to stay in self-isolation?

*Starting from February 2, the people who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, or have had the coronavirus within the last 12 months and been declared recovered by a doctor do not have to self-isolate as a close contact or after crossing the border.

*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 their 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.

As a result of a working environment risk analysis, an employer may enact stricter measures in its working environment, while explaining their objective to the employees. If these kinds of additional requirements are enacted, there definitely needs to be prior consideration of how to organise the work of the employee who has been sent to self-isolation (even though she is vaccinated). According to § 35 of the Employment Contracts Act, if the employee cannot continue the work from a distance, the employer has the obligation to pay average wages to her.

Last updated: 30.08.2021 14:28

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The answer depends of the organisation of work at the particular office and the use of other measures aiming to prevent the realisation of risks (including an open office vs everyone having their own work room, contacts between people during the time they spend at the office, changing the start and end times of work in order to disperse the people who are in the room at the same time, the obligation to disperse and keep a distance during breaks etc.). The circumstances must be analysed and have come out in the course of evaluating the biological risk factor of the working environment.

If the organisation of works presumes that people working in an open office are in constant contact with little distances, the employer can, as one of the measures for preventing the spread of the disease, demand vaccination. But if there is a dispute over ending the employment relationship, the employer must be ready to substantiate and explain which other measures for lowering the working environment risks it has considered and why those were considered insufficient. There might also be a necessity to substantiate why the work of the employee or employees could not be reorganised in any other way.

Last updated: 30.08.2021 14:19

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In order to lower the working environment risks, the employer always has the right to enact measures or conditions stricter than the law/regulation demands, as this is its working environment and the question of maintaining the welfare and health or its employees. That means that in order to lower a risk like that, it might be necessary to enact a requirement to, for instance, wear personal protective equipment (e.g. a mask), due to the results of the working environment risk analysis.

More:

Last updated: 30.08.2021 14:08

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The amendment of the regulation The "Occupational health and safety requirements at a working environment that is influenced by biological risk factors" (in Estonian) enacts an indicative list of measures that are considered relevant for lowering the SARS-CoV-2 risk for employees who come into contact with many people. This simplifies the choice that an employer must make between the measures aimed at lowering the risk and gives an opportunity to refer to the requirements and possibilities of the legal act. Based on the Occupational Health and Safety Act, an employer must foresee the measures aimed at lowering the risks in the action plan contained in the risk analysis.

For instance, the action plan could foresee that employees who come into contact with many people must prove that they do not pose an infection risk, be vaccinated, use personal protective equipment, or use other measures. An employer can demand that an employee prove that they do not pose an infection risk if this is necessary in order to stop the spread of the virus and fulfil professional duties safely, according to the working environment risk analysis. The main effective measures in ensuring that there is no infection risk are considered to be support for creating vaccination opportunities, proving one's infection risk status with a certificate of recovery from COVID-19, testing or vaccination, and testing employees. The employer has the right and the opportunity to use these measures in order to mitigate the risk of SARS-CoV-2 but it does not have an obligation to do so.

The employer has to also consider other effective measures in addition to the measures listed, including reorganisation of work, use of personal protective equipment, and following hygiene requirements. The employer ensures that the chosen measures are proportionate and relevant in the specific working environment and considering the nature of the specific employee's work, and that they adequately ensure the lowering of the risks evaluated in the risk analysis.

Last updated: 30.08.2021 14:01

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Based on the working environment risk analysis, the employer has the right to implement further measures, including demanding that a mask, gloves etc. are worn.

Last updated: 09.09.2021 15:35

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The "Occupational health and safety requirements at a working environment that is influenced by biological risk factors" (in Estonian). (BOT) regulation does not regulate which positions have a higher risk level or which measures must certainly be enacted for which positions. An employer has to base its choice of suitable measures on the results of the risk assessment of its working environment. The regulation sets out a list of examples of measures that an employer could consider in the course of the risk analysis for the positions where the employees come into contact with many people and where the risk is thus higher. If it is possible to lower the risks with other (more lenient) measures, that is what must be done and it is not necessary to implement the measures described in § 6 subsection 2 clause 11 of the regulation.

The labour inspector retains the right to re-evaluate the risks and, if necessary, to consult the occupational health doctor to demand an additional evaluation of working environment risks and the implementation of further measures. According to § 3 subsection 4 of the BOT regulation, the things that must be taken into consideration in evaluating an employee's health risk are:

  1. the possible impact of the biological risk factors present in the working environment according to their risk group;
  2. the recommendation of the labour inspector or the occupational health doctor about implementing precautionary measures regarding the biological risk factor, if they find that the employee's health is endangered by that factor due to the nature of her work;
  3. information about the diseases, symptoms of possible allergies or poisoning that the employee might get in that specific position;
  4. information on a work-related illness that has come out in the course of a health check.

Last updated: 28.08.2021 23:02

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Which mask is the most efficient in a given situation must be worked out on the basis of the working environment risk analysis, i.e. it all depends on the risk level and the number of contacts. An FFP2 mask that is used according to the requirements is certainly a more efficient measure than other masks. See also the explanation on the kriis.ee web page: https://www.kriis.ee/en/personal-protection-equipment-masks-and-similar

Last updated: 09.09.2021 15:52

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The regulation does not regulate positions with a higher risk level or obligate the employer to demand vaccination or testing of people working at some specific positions. An employer has to base its choice of suitable measures on the results of the risk assessment of its working environment.

If it is decided that testing is a necessary measure, the choice of the test will be decided by the employer, depending on the frequency of testing and the risk grade of the biological risk factors but a PCR test is organised at a health care service provider.

Rapid antigen tests have been on the market for a year already and their sensitivity and preciseness is very good but not comparable to the gold standard of testing -- the PCR test. It is important to know that the rapid antigen test detects the virus only if the viral load in the organism is very high, which is usually 4-5 days after symptoms occur. A person can be infectious even before symptoms occur and several weeks after symptoms have occurred but the antigen test is not capable of detecting that. You can find a longer explanation of the web page of the Health Board.

The Health Board has also put together instruction materials (pdf, in Estonian) on how to use the rapid tests that are meant for self-testing.

When it comes to rapid tests, it is important that the employer explains and sets conditions of use and rules on how to behave if the result of the rapid test is positive.

Last updated: 28.08.2021 22:15

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An employment relationship is a relationship of trust and if the employee claims that vaccination is contraindicated to him, the employer has different options, including

  1. to reorganise the work so that the unvaccinated worker would not be at risk himself or a danger to others;
  2. send the employer to the occupational health doctor, as based on § 6 subsection 3 of the BOT regulation, the employer must consult the occupational health doctor about the necessity and suitability of vaccinating employees, i.e. the occupational health doctor can issue the employee a certificate stating that vaccination is contraindicated, and also give recommendations on reorganising work.

"Occupational health and safety requirements at a working environment that is influenced by biological risk factors" (in Estonian).

Last updated: 28.08.2021 16:20

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Before the new clause 11 of § 6 subsection 2 of the "Occupational health and safety requirements at a working environment that is influenced by biological risk factors" regulation (henceforth BOT), the tenth clause describes the obligation to implement collective protection measures or personal protective equipment if it is not possible to avoid contact with the biological risk factor in any other way. Thus, the employer has the option to decide, considering the probability of the risk coming true, by choosing a measure or measures to implement, i.e. to make a choice between the measures listed in the regulation. There is no obligation to implement the measures brought out in clause 11 if it is possible to lower the risks with some other more suitable measure. § 6 subsection 4 of the BOT regulation, according to which

  • (4) If it is not possible to make the working environment safe by implementing the listed measures, the employees need to be given personal protective equipment and the order of its use needs to be determined.*

is still valid.

Last updated: 28.08.2021 16:13

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The first thing is to think through whether vaccination and/or periodical testing are the only possible measures or if there are other solutions that would safeguard the health of customers and other employees.

From the employees' point of view it is important that the exchange of information is continuous and open, explanations to why something is being done, what the long term objective is, and what the possible consequences of one choice or another are. Including the employees helps to find the most suitable solutions.

Last updated: 28.08.2021 15:54

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health of its client?

It all begins with the results of the working environment risk analysis and the measures that the employer enacts, i.e. whether the employer has foreseen measures alternative to getting vaccinated to stop the spread of the coronavirus and what kind of measures these are. That is, the employer has to evaluate whether it would be possible to take up other measures. Cancelling the employment contract should be the very last option if no other alternatives remain.

If an employee has been warned repeatedly but his attitude towards following the requirements does not change, the consequence is that the employment contract is extraordinarily cancelled, either due to non-suitability of the worker based on § 88 subsection 1 clause 2 of the Employment Contracts Act or due to breaching of their duties based on § 88 subsection 1 clause 3 of the Employment Contracts Act.

Last updated: 28.08.2021 15:49

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The vaccination list named is actually the vaccination plan and determination of risk groups that are being vaccinated first.

If one of the possible measures for lowering working environment risks is vaccination, and an employee refuses it, the employer has to enact other measures to lower the risks, if possible, and reorganise the work if necessary. If the parties reach an agreement on reorganising the work, it is possible to amend the conditions of the employment contract (e.g. changing the work tasks) only with an agreement between the parties based on § 12 of the Employment Contracts Act.

If the employer cannot reasonably reorganise the work or enact other measures to effectively lower the risks, the employer might have the right to issue a warning to the employee in substantiated cases and explain possible consequences. If a warning is issued, it is important that the employee understands what the employer is doing or might do about them in the future and why. If the employee still refuses to get vaccinated, the employer does have the right to extraordinarily cancel the employment contract in substantiated cases, due to non-suitability of the worker based on § 88 subsection 1 clause 2 of the Employment Contracts Act or even due to a breach of their duties based on § 88 subsection 1 clause 3 of the Employment Contracts Act.

Last updated: 28.08.2021 15:31

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Everything begins with the results of the working environment risk analysis and the measures that the employer enacts, i.e. whether the employer has foreseen any alternative possibilities, in addition to vaccination, to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and what these possibilities are. In a situation where an employee refuses to get vaccinated but the employer has foreseen other effective measures to lower the risks, e.g. a mask with a respirator, a protective suit etc, i.e. has already done all that they can to protect the health of the employee and other persons, the liability might not lie with the employer. If the employee disregards the measures enacted by the employer and, for instance, gets infected with the virus, the liability lies with the employee.

According to § 15 subsection 2 of the Employment Contracts Act, the employee is obligated to refrain from actions which hinder other employees from fulfilling their obligations or endanger the life, health or property of the employee or other persons. Additionally, according to § 14 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the employee has an obligation to contribute to the creation of a safe working environment by observing the occupational health and safety requirements.

Taken together, these obligations mean that an employee is not allowed to put the clients of their employer in danger with their carelessness, and in a situation like that the representative of the employer has both the right and the obligation to check the employee, reprimand them, and initially react to the employee's infractions with a warning which may lead to an extraordinary cancellation of their employment contract, based on § 88 subsection 1 clause 3 or the following of the Employment Contracts Act due to the employee breaching their duties.

Last updated: 29.08.2021 19:25

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It is the responsibility of the director to make sure that the work is safe both for the employees and the customers, i.e. she has to do everything possible to ensure safety -- carry out a risk analysis of the working environment and as a result of that take the best possible measures in order to stop the spread of the virus.

Last updated: 27.08.2021 13:51

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According to the coronavirus vaccination plan (page 5), vaccination against COVID-19 in Estonia is free of charge to everyone in 2021. Vaccination is voluntary but each vaccination contributes to decreasing the spread of the virus and normalisation of the situation, and makes it possible to also protect those who cannot get vaccinated for different reasons.

Even though, according to the regulation on the biological risk factor of the working environment there is a general requirement that vaccination takes place at the expense of the employer, the vaccination against COVID-19 is currently taking place according to the vaccination plan (i.e. immunisation against the coronavirus is free in Estonia) and it is not possible for all employers to acquire the vaccine; it is also not known when it would be possible.

According to § 6 subsection 3 of the regulation on the biological risk factor of the working environment, the employer must consult the occupational health doctor on the necessity and suitability of vaccinating employees.

See more: "Occupational health and safety requirements in a working environment influenced by a biological risk factor" (in Estonian).

Last updated: 09.09.2021 15:44

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An employer cannot obligate an employee to get vaccinated, i.e. the employee has the right to refuse to get vaccinated. Vaccination may be substantiated if the results of a risk analysis show that vaccination is particularly important in certain sectors or professions (e.g. health care, care homes) and other measures are not sufficiently effective in order to protect the health of employees or clients/patients.

Based on the action plan of the risk analysis of the working environment, an employer might provide for the possibility for all employees to get vaccinated but that does not mean that an employee is forced to get vaccinated. An employee can't and is not allowed to be made to get vaccinated by force, as that would run counter to the principle of a person's physical integrity and would be a clear violation of human rights.

An employee must be aware of everything that has to do with working environment health risks, precautions for avoiding the effects of biological risk factors, hygiene requirements, the use of personal protective equipment, avoidance of risk situations, and actions to be taken in case of an accident. This means that after a risk analysis is conducted or updated and new measures are taken up, the employees also have to be informed of them. If the employees do not know why some new measures have been taken up or why the employer has enacted new rules, it creates misunderstandings. Thus it is important that the employer explains why vaccination is important and what the next actions are if an employee does not wish to get vaccinated.

According to § 6 subsection 2 clause 11 of the May 5, 2000 regulation no 144 of the Government of the Republic, "Occupational health and safety requirements at a working environment that is influenced by biological risk factors" (henceforth Regulation), during the spread of SARS-CoV-2, in cases where it is not possible to remove the risk with measures listed in § 5 of the same regulation, one of the main options the employer has to guarantee that people who come into contact with each other in the working environment do not pose an infection risk, is to ensure that the employees are able to get vaccinated against COVID-19, that certificates proving the employees' infection risk status are checked or the employees are tested with a SARS-CoV-2 test.

Last updated: 28.08.2021 11:51

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In the action plan devised based on the results of the risk analysis of the working environment, the employer has the obligation to foresee different prevention measures in order to lower the risks. In situations where it is not possible to lower the risks in any other way but it is also not possible to vaccinate the employee, the employer has to think about the options of reorganising the work in order to still give the employee the opportunity to continue the employment relationship.

A vaccination requirement enacted by the employer might come unexpected to a longtime employee and thus it is very important that the employer explain the objective of the measures and give the employee a chance to think about and offer solutions of their own before issuing a warning to them or extraordinarily cancelling their employment contract.

Thus the employer needs to think whether it is possible for them to offer the employee work with tasks where the risk for the employee and other people is lower. If there is no such possibility, then, in substantiated cases, this may constitute non-suitability for the position or inadaptability which does not allow for the continuance of the employment relationship as prescribed in § 88 subsection 1 point 2 of the Employment Contracts Act, i.e. the employer has the possibility of extraordinarily cancelling the employment contract.

Before cancelling the employment relationship it must be considered that § 88 subsection 2 of the Employment Contracts Act provides the precondition that before the employment contract is cancelled, particularly on the basis described in subsection 1 point 2 of the given section, the employer shall offer other work to the employee, where possible. The employer shall offer other work to the employee, including organise, if necessary, the employee's in-service training, adapt the workplace or change the employee’s working conditions if the changes do not cause disproportionately high costs for the employer and the offering of other work may, considering the circumstances, be reasonably expected.

Subsection 3 of the same section enacts an obligation to give prior warning to the employee as well, giving the employee an opportunity to once again consider getting vaccinated before a concrete deadline and only if it is clear, once and for all, that the employee does not wish to get vaccinated are they presented with a declaration of cancellation on the basis of § 88 subsection 1 point 2 of the Employment Contracts Act. At that, the employer must consider all circumstances, including evaluating the risk of infection in changed conditions (for instance, the spread of the coronavirus going down).

Ending an employment relationship based on § 88 subsection 1 point 2 of the Employment Contracts Act gives the employee who has the required insurance period the right to apply for unemployment insurance benefits once they become unemployed and register themselves at the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

Last updated: 18.08.2021 15:15

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If, based on the evaluation of risks in the working environment, a requirement will be enacted according to which, in order to lower the risks, the employees have to do daily rapid tests or present a negative PCR test result, the employer has to compensate the costs realted to the testing.

If, however, the employees have to present a certificate about recovery from COVID-19 or vaccination in order to lower the risks, a reasonable deadline for presenting the certificate must be given. Right now, all adults may go to get vaccinated but there are six weeks between the first and the second dose. After this deadline has passed, the employer does not have to compensate the testing costs anymore.

In practice, there might be a situation where the employer has given a deadline for vaccination but the employee does not wish to get vaccinated and thus proposes to the employer that he will start presenting the employer with PCR test results every 2-3 days or daily rapid test results. If the employer does not agree to this kind of a solution, the employee's work is reorganised in a way that contact with people and thus the risk level of a biological risk factor is significantly reduced or, if this is not possible, the employment contract can be cancelled extraordinarily due to the noncompliance of the employee, based on § 88 subsection 1 point 2 of the Employment Contracts Act, while following all the legal requirements pertaining to extraordinary cancellation of an employment contract.

Last updated: 18.08.2021 14:17

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An employer may ask for a vaccination certificate from an employee if vaccination is necessary in that position, based on the risk analysis of the work environment. If the employee refuses to present the certificate or to get vaccinated, the employer has to take up other measures to lower the risks, e.g. masks, or reorganise the work. If it is not possible for the employer to reorganise the work, the employer can, in substantiated cases, extraordinarily cancel the employment contract.

More information at www.tooelu.ee (in Estonian).

Last updated: 18.08.2021 15:17

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After coming into close contact with an infected person, the employees have to stay at home for 10 days and monitor their health status.

If there are any health concerns, the family doctor should be contacted.

At the doctor's discretion, it is possible to also receive a certificate for sick leave.

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.

Last updated: 10.05.2021 10:45

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People who have been in close contact with an infected person must stay at home in self-isolation for 10 days and monitor their health.

The rest of the employees may return to work after the premises have been cleaned and disinfected.

People who have been in close contact with a person infected with the coronavirus can contact their family doctor to apply for the certificate of incapacity for work for the duration of the self-isolation.

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.

Last updated: 13.05.2021 09:14

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The employer has to evaluate who big the infection risk is in the company and for people performing different tasks.

The main measures for reducing the risk of getting infected with the coronavirus are keeping a distance, wearing masks, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces if necessary, ensuring the possibility to wash hands, and ensuring disinfecting opporunities is places where hands cannot be washed.

However, in order to ensure safety, the use of recreational spaces needs to be reorganised. It should be analysed how many people fits into the dining space in a way that keeping a distance is possible. It should also be established who disinfects surfaces. In a place where people remove their masks, there must be a possibility to wash and dry (or disinfect) hands, and also a trash can with a foot-operated lid for disposing of the used mask. After eating, a new mask must be worn.

An employer does not have the right to forbid the use of the break room; rather, it is the task of the employer to figure out how to use the room safely.

Last updated: 26.04.2021 09:39

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An employee and an employer can agree on a particular location of doing distance work (e.g. the employee's home) or doing distance work in general (e.g. no particular location has been determined).

If there is an agreement that distance work is done in a particular location (e.g. the apartment of the employee), then if the employee wants to change this (e.g. do distance work in her summerhouse), the location of doing distance work must be amended. The amendment can be made only by mutual agreement, i.e. the employer also has a right to reject the amendment.

The employer is responsible for the work environment of the employee, and that also applies to distance work. Thus, in this case, the employer has a legitimate interest to know where and in what kind of an environment the employee is performing her work tasks.

As the employee also has an obligation to participate in the creation of a safe work environment, the employer should be notified of the wish to change the location of distance work as early as possible, and assisted in being able to evaluate the work environment at the summerhouse. If the employer finds that the work environment of the summerhouse is not suitable for doing distance work, the employer needs to be notified whether the employee is willing to make the necessary adjustments for it to become suitable (e.g. acquire a work chair, a desk lamp). It is also possible to negotiate with the employer on whether the employer would, for instance, allow for a temporary relocation of the work chair or computer monitor issued for setting up a distance work station (i.e. from an apartment to the summerhouse). If, however, the parties do not come to an agreement about making the necessary adjustments, the employer is allowed to reject the change of the distance work location.

In conclusion, as distance working can only take place with a mutual agreement, all changes regarding distance work need to be separately agreed upon by the parties.

Last updated: 26.04.2021 09:39

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Distance work can be done only upon an agreement between the parties.

The parties have to have a written agreement about doing distance work. For instance, the agreement should contain the following conditions:

  • How work tasks are given and their fulfilment checked, and how is the interaction with the employer and colleagues organised?
  • What is the working time of the distance worker managed? Can the employer monitor that the employee adheres to the working time, and how?
  • Are the times when the employee should be present at the premises of the employer?
  • Does the employee have to notify the employer of starting distance work, and when?
  • What adjustments are necessary for the employees work station?
  • How is the installation and maintenance of the work equipment (e.g. a computer, a printer) organised? How is work equipment returned if the working relationship terminates?
  • Does the employee need to follow data protection and other security requirements while doing distance work, and which ones?
  • How does the employee ensure that the property of the employer is not damaged?
  • Does the employer reimburse the costs related to doing distance work, and to what extent?
  • Does the employer have the possibility to enter the location of doing distance work, and in what cases?
  • On what conditions can the employee and the employer stop the distance working?

Last updated: 26.04.2021 09:39

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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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If you wish to register as unemployed and apply for an unemployment insurance allowance or for an unemployment benefit, we recommend submitting your application using our online services https://www.tootukassa.ee/. Applications will be accepted via e-mail (digitally signed), regular post, or telephone, and in the offices.

Applications for work ability assessment and work capability allowance can also be submitted at the website, e-mail (digitally signed), regular post, or in the offices of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund. If necessary, the Unemployment Insurance Fund will forward the application documentation by post.

Please note! If you submit your application by e-mail, sign it digitally.

For further information:

  • call the information number 669 6513 or 15501,
  • check the website http://www.tootukassa.ee, or
  • send an e-mail to info@tootukassa.ee

Last updated: 30.06.2020 08:51

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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.

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 has the obligation to inform 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.

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: 04.05.2021 10:47

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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.

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: 04.05.2021 10:46

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An accident at work is the health damage or death of an employee 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. Health damage or death that happened in the listed cases but are not in a causal relationship with the employees work or working environment are not considered to be accidents at work (§ 22 subsection 1 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act). An accident at work is rather a so-called sudden damage to health, e.g. as a result of a fall, or a poisoning that has occurred as a result of inhaling chemicals.

Diseases related to work are divided in two -- a disease caused by work and an occupational disease. An occupational disease is a disease that was caused by a working environment risk factor or nature of work listed in the list of occupational diseases. A disease caused by work is a disease caused by a working environment risk factor that is not considered to be an occupational disease.

In the case of catching the coronavirus, it might be an occupational disease according to the §3 subsection 7 of the May 9, 2005 regulation no 66 of the Minister of Social Affairs, according to which occupational infectious diseases and occupational parasitic diseases are also other infectious and parasitic diseases that are caused by the working environment biological risk factors. Here, the coronavirus would classify as other occupational infectious disease.

If you suspect that you got sick due to your work, i.e. you got sick at work, while fulfilling work duties, let the doctor know. A family doctor or another doctor who suspects that an employee might have an occupational disease refers the person to an occupational health doctor for diagnosing an occupational disease. The occupational health doctor determines the employee's health condition and gathers information on the working conditions and nature of the employee's work. A decision on whether a disease is caused by work or not is taken by the occupational health doctor.

Last updated: 30.08.2021 17:29

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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 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 employer has the right to ask the employee who has gone home with/taken a certificate for sick leave with COVID-19 symptoms whether they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 by a doctor.

Therefore, information on COVID-19 diagnosis can be provided on the basis of an agreement between the employee and the employer.

At the same time, it is important to note that the employer has no right to conduct a comprehensive survey among the employees regarding their health status.

Based on the risk analysis of the working environment, the employer may start requiring that an employee who comes into contact with many people prove that they do not pose an infection risk, or that other measures that lower the infection risk be taken up, e.g. using personal protective equipment. Infection risk status can be proven with the certificate of recovery from COVID-19, testing certificate or vaccination certificate.

Last updated: 18.08.2021 14:02

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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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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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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.

Based on the risk analysis of the working environment, the employer may start requiring that an employee who comes into contact with many people prove that they do not pose an infection risk, or that other measures that lower the infection risk be taken up, e.g. using personal protective equipment. Infection risk status can be proven with the certificate of recovery from COVID-19, testing certificate or vaccination certificate.

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.

More information, recommendations and instructions about presenting the risk analysis can be found on the Tööelu.ee web page (in Estonian).

Last updated: 31.08.2021 23:26

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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, the recommendations of the Health Board for cleaning and disinfection (PDF) (in Estonian) must be followed.
  • 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.

Last updated: 04.05.2021 10:47

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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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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 and the personal liability of employees, and thus limit the spread of COVID-19 disease, the procedure for compensating the sick leaves will chage until the end of 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 initial incapacity to work certificates. The procedure for the compensation for care leave certificates 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 from the state portal eesti.ee after the compensation has been received.

Read more about the sickness benefit (in Estonian).

Care allowance:

On the basis of the certificate for care leave, the Estonian Health Insurance Fund pays 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: 27.04.2021 12:56

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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.

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.

  • 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.

If a company has more than 30 employees, it is possible for an employer to make a query to the Health Board about vaccine coverage in its company. An application for that needs to be sent to vaktsineerimine@haigekassa.ee. In order to protect personal information, the Health Board only gives out information in a limited form and one of three possible options are forwarded as a reply: 1) less than 50%, 2) the exact percentage if the vaccination coverage is in the range of 50-80%, 3) more than 80%.

Last updated: 08.09.2021 15:30

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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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Generally, the schedule that has already been approved can only be changed with an agreement between the parties but due to the unexpected 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. 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, he has 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 use emergency as the basis for his orders.

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. 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: 26.04.2021 09:41

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