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

Work, work-related travel

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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: 08.10.2020 11:31

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It is of utmost importance that the workplaces use disinfectants.

In the offices:

  • it is recommended for people to keep physical distance from each other,
  • it is important to air the rooms regularly,
  • clean the surfaces regularly.

See here recommendations by the Health Board for efficient cleaning and disinfection.

Information regarding safe return to the offices from working remotely is provided by the Ministry of Social Affaires guidelines here.

People should be sent home from work, if

  • they are ill
  • might have been in contact with an infected person,
  • belong to a risk group.

Please note! Employees arriving from abroad are required to stay home for two weeks and monitor their health carefully. More information on the requirements of self-isolation, and specific countries can be found on the [website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs] (https://vm.ee/et/teave-riikide-ja-karantiininouete-kohta-euroopast-saabujatele)

Both the employee and the employer need to agree to the changes in working conditions.

Last updated: 30.06.2020 08:52

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An employee with a work contract has an obligation to work according to the agreed conditions.

However, if the employee is returning from a country with higher ratio of infected persons, then the Estonian Health Board recommends staying home for 14 days. Information about countries with higher infection ratios is available on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This does not automatically mean that the employee is not required to go to work. The employee must inform the employer of their return to Estonia and agree how best to arrange work.

The employer and the employee have various options for coming to an arrangement:

  • remote work (work from home),
  • unpaid leave,
  • application of the e § 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 if mutually agreed. 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/akt/112072014146?leiaKehtiv.

Last updated: 30.06.2020 08:52

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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 is one of the unforeseen circumstances that allow the employer to reduce the workload and the salary of the employee for three months over a twelve-month period unilaterally according to § 37 of the Employment Contract Act if paying the agreed salary is an unreasonably heavy burden for the employer. If the employer has already reduced the employee's salary for three months, then further unilateral reduction is not possible (e.g. if the salary was reduced in April, May and June, then until April 2021 the employer's salary cannot be reduced).

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

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

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

  • If payment of the agreed salary is an unreasonable burden on the employer. It is not permitted to reduce the salary if the employer does not have enough work for the employee to do, but still has enough liquidity to pay the salary; in this case it is interpreted that there is no real need to reduce the salary.

Please find additional information from the Employment Contract Act: https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/112072014146?leiaKehtiv.

Last updated: 12.10.2020 10:01

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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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When the parental benefit ends, the parent can end the parental leave and return to work. If this is not possible, the circumstances need to be differentiatied according to cause.

If the employer

  • has no work to provide, he must still allow the employee to return to work and pay her wages even if no work is provided. The employer may reduce the wages but the employee has the right to decline this. If the employer has no work to give in a situation provided by §37 of the Employment Contract Act and the employee cancels the contract, the employee has a right to a redundancy compensation. If the employer does not agree to a reduction of wages, she has the right to cancel the contract and the employer must pay compensation. More information in §35 or 37 of the Employment Contract Act

  • wishes to make the employee redundant, parents raising a child under three are in a preferential situation. People on parental leave can be made redundant only if the employer stops operating (e.g. a bankruptcy is declared).

Last updated: 24.05.2020 15:47

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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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The decision on the use of personal protective equipment is preceded by a risk analysis. This means that the employer carries out a risk analysis in the course of which he will ascertain what risk factors occur in the work environment. Among other things, the biological risk factors and the possibility of contracting the coronavirus due to them are assessed. After this, it will be possible to decide what kind of measures will be taken to avoid or reduce the risks.

Personal protective equipment must be used if the results of the risk analysis show that the risk of infection cannot be avoided or reduced with the use of general protective equipment (for instance, by installing protective glasses to limit the spread of the virus) or measures of work organization (keeping a distance, the availability of disinfectants).

The employer has an obligation to notify the workers of the results of the risk assessment of the work environment, including the health risks and the measures to be taken to avoid damage to health. The employer will explain to the workers what the risk analysis determined the possible risk areas to be (an infection risk while performing a specific task at the specific company) and what are the measures to be applied. As general protective equipment and measures of work organization must be preferred to the use of personal protective equipment, the workers must be explained why the decision was made to prefer the use of personal protective equipment.

The employer must also see to it that the personal protective equipment does not create an excess burden on the wearer and would be suitable for the user to use in specific work conditions. If these requirements are not fulfilled for some workers, the worker must turn to the employer and solutions must be found in cooperation. These might include using a different type of mask or reorganizing work so that the worker could take more frequent breaks.

How long a mask can be worn is written down in the manual of the particular mask and has to be adhered to. The employer must take into consideration that there has to be enough masks for them to be changed out if necessary.

The employer has to guarantee that the worker uses the personal protective equipment according to the manufacturer's manual, from the start of the dangerous work until finishing the work, and check its usage. The worker has the obligation to use the personal protective equipment according to the manual and the instructions given by the employer.

Thus the employer does have the right to demand that the worker use personal protective equipment and the worker has the obligation to use personal protective equipment.

If, in the course of checks, it turns out that in spite of the employer's notices the worker is not using the prescribed personal protective equipment, the employer has the right to issue a warning to the worker. A warning is one of the options for an employer to organize the work in her company and react to a worker's professional behaviour and violation of his duties of employment. If a violation has occurred, the employer has to turn the worker's attention to it and give the worker a possibility to improve his behaviour. A warning can be either oral or written but the employer must be able to later prove that a warning was issued.

As a very extreme option and when a warning did not help and the worker is still violating his duties of employment, the employer has the right to an extraordinary cancellation of the employment relationship, as the worker has ignored the reasonable orders of the employer regardless of the warning, and violated his duties of employment. The employer has the right to cancel the employment contract, while following the terms of advance notice. In exceptional cases the terms of advance notice can be ignored, if the employer cannot be reasonably demanded to continue the contract until the end of the term of advance notice or until the agreed upon term is full. In this case, the employer can cancel the employment relationship within a reasonable time. What a reasonable time is must be evaluated by the employer (effective immediately, within a week or any other time). An employment contract can be cancelled with a declaration of cancellation in a format which can be reproduced in writing (for instance, an e-mail etc.) and the employer must always substantiate the cancellation.

In conclusion, it can be said that the employer has to explain to the worker why it is necessary to use personal protective equipment and then also demand its use. Explaining the requirements to the workers is important so that the worker would understand why these requirements have been enacted. If the background of the enacted requirements is not explained to the worker, the opposition to fulfilling the requirements might be greater.

If the worker does not follow the orders of the employer, the employer can warn the worker that the employment relationship with him will be cancelled if the worker does not adhere to the enacted requirements. If the worker does not start adhering to the requirements even after a warning has been issued, the employer has the option of cancelling the employment relationship.

Last updated: 24.09.2020 16:41

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