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In Estonia, employment relations are regulated by the Employment Contracts Act (ECA). Available online on the Web page of Riigi Teataja (State Gazette).

The purpose of the Act is to regulate the relations between employers and employees, ensuring that based on the principle of a welfare state all employees have sufficient security, allowing undertakings realisation of their constitutional right to conduct a business and contributing to the growth of the competitiveness of Estonian economy.


An employer must ensure that the following working conditions apply to posted workers in Estonia:

Important! Exception: The working conditions effective in Estonia are not applied in the case of an up to eight-day posting if the posted worker is a skilled worker whose duty is the initial assembly or first installation of goods necessary for taking the goods ordered into use, if such work is an integral part of a subscription contract. The derogation does not apply if the work done by the posted worker is connected with construction work involving the construction, renovation, maintenance, alteration or demolition of buildings, including excavation work, earthmoving work, actual construction work, or the assembly and demolition, connection and installation, modification, renovation, repair, disassembly, demolition, maintenance, painting, cleaning or repair of prefabricated components. The periods of time worked by another employee posted to Estonia by the same employer for the performance of the same work in the year leading up to the commencement of the posting are taken into consideration in the calculation of the up to eight-day posting period.

In the application of annual holiday, compensation paid in cash in connection with the posting is considered to be part of wages, unless it is paid to cover travel, accommodation or meal expenditures incurred during the course of the posting.

Important! Exception: The working conditions effective in Estonia are not applied in the case of an up to eight-day posting if the posted worker is a skilled worker whose duty is the initial assembly or first installation of goods necessary for taking the goods ordered into use, if such work is an integral part of a subscription contract. The derogation does not apply if the work done by the posted worker is connected with construction work involving the construction, renovation, maintenance, alteration or demolition of buildings, including excavation work, earthmoving work, actual construction work, or the assembly and demolition, connection and installation, modification, renovation, repair, disassembly, demolition, maintenance, painting, cleaning or repair of prefabricated components. The periods of time worked by another employee posted to Estonia by the same employer for the performance of the same work in the year leading up to the commencement of the posting are taken into consideration in the calculation of the up to eight-day posting period.


Working time

  • Full-time working hours are 40 hours per week, i.e. 8 hours per day.
  • An employer and employee can agree on shorter working hours (part-time). For example, the employee could work 4 hours per day.
  • In the case of calculation of the total working time, the agreed working time of the employee per period of seven days during the calculation period is taken into account.

Overtime

  • Overtime is time worked beyond the agreed working time. Both parties must agree on doing overtime.
  • Employers may require employees to do overtime in exceptional cases, including those in which the overtime is required due to unforeseen circumstances. For example, overtime may be required if another employee fails to arrive for the shift on time and the work must not be interrupted.
  • Employers cannot require employees who are pregnant or entitled to pregnancy and maternity leave to do overtime.
  • In the case of the calculation of total working time, overtime is calculated at the end of the period.
  • An employer and an employee may agree on doing additional overtime. Working on average for more than 48 hours per week is classified as additional overtime.

Restrictions

  • Employees are not permitted to work an average of more than 48 hours per week during a calculation period of up to 4 months or 12 months for employees in the fields of health care, welfare, agriculture and tourism with a collective agreement.
  • In doing additional overtime, employees are not permitted to work an average of more than 52 hours per week during a calculation period of 4 months.

Calculation of working time

  • Calculation of an employee’s working time is carried out by the employer.
  • An employer may calculate total working time, i.e. working hours may be distributed differently over a certain period of time or calculation period (for example, in a month).
  • Calculation of total working time is primarily used in work operating on the basis of a working time schedule, in the case of which the distribution of an employee’s working time in a calculation period is not the same, i.e. the employee may work more hours and/or days in one week than the next.
  • In the case of the calculation of total working time, the working time is calculated at the end of the calculation period.

Restrictions on night work

  • An employee who works at least 3 hours of daily working time or at least a third of annual working time at night (night worker) is not permitted to work on average more than eight hours during a period of 24 hours over a calculation period of seven days.

A night worker whose health is affected by a working environment hazard or the characteristics of their work is not permitted to work more than eight hours during a period of 24 hours.


Rest time

Working day rest time

  • Employees must be provided with breaks during the working day. After working for 6 hours, employees are entitled to rest for at least 30 minutes.
  • Breaks during the working day are not considered to be working time, unless due to the characteristics of the work it is impossible to give a break and an employer gives an employee the opportunity to take a break and dine during working time.

Daily rest time

  • Employees must be granted at least 11 hours’ rest time during a 24-hour period. As such, the length of any one shift (including overtime) cannot exceed 13 hours.
  • The restriction on daily rest time does not apply to employees in the fields of health care and welfare.
  • Exceptions can be made to the restriction on daily rest time with a collective agreement – for example, in cases where the nature of the work requires continuous service, security and supervision workers, etc.
  • If an employee works more than 13 hours in a 24-hour period, the employee must be provided with additional rest time afterwards which is proportional to the number of hours exceeding the 13 hours that they worked. For example, if the length of the employee’s shift is 16 hours, the employee must be given 14 hours’ rest time afterwards (11 hours’ daily rest + the number of hours exceeding the 13 hours worked, i.e. 3 hours).

Weekly rest time

  • Employees must be granted one period of at least 48 hours’ rest time during a one-week period.
  • In the event that working time is calculated in total, employees must be granted one period of at least 36 hours’ rest time during a one-week period.

Wages and compensation of overtime

  • General minimum hourly wage is 2,78 euros and the minimum monthly wage for full time job is 470 euros.
  • Employers must pay their employees’ wages at least once a month.
  • If the pay day falls on a public holiday or day off, the wages must be paid on the preceding working day.
  • The employer must transfer the employee’s wages to the bank account nominated by the employee. The parties must enter into a separate agreement for the payment of wages in cash. 
  • Overtime is remunerated with paid free time, which is given in an equivalent amount to that of the overtime worked. An employer and employee may also agree that the overtime is remunerated in cash at 1.5 times the rate of the employee’s regular wages.
  • When remunerating night work (work done between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am), employers must pay their employees at 1.25 times the rate of their normal wages. The parties may agree that the employee’s wages will include a fee for working at night. If the employee receives the minimum wage, it does not include a fee for working at night.

When remunerating work done on public holidays, employers must pay their employees at 2 times the rate of their normal wages. Like overtime, with the agreement of the employee, night work and work done on public holidays can be remunerated with free time.


Time off for ante-natal examination

  • Employers are obliged to provide pregnant employees with free time for pre-natal check-ups.

  • Free time for pre-natal check-ups is included in working time and employees have the right to be paid for this time.


Duration of base holiday

  • Workers are entitled to 28 calendar days of holidays each calendar year.
  • The right to take holidays begins with new employees once they have worked for their employer for at least six months. In this case the amount of holiday time given depends on the period of time worked.
  • Employers draw up a holiday schedule for each calendar year, taking into account the reasonable requests of employees.
  • This schedule must be made known to all employees during the first quarter of the calendar year.
  • The holidays recorded in the schedule can be amended with the agreement of both parties.
  • Holidays not recorded in the schedule can be taken by employees provided that they inform their employer at least 14 calendar days in advance.

Holiday pay

  • Employees must be paid their holiday pay in full by their second-to-last day of work prior to the beginning of their holidays at the latest.
  • The parties may agree on another time for payment of the holiday pay, but this must not be later than the first pay day after the employee’s holidays.

Calculation of holiday pay

  • Holiday pay is calculated on the basis of the average wages per calendar day.
  • The conditions of and procedure for the payment of average wages is set out in a regulation of the Government of the Republic Regulation No 91 of 11 June 2009.
  • The basis for the calculation of average wages is the total wages earned by an employee in the six-month period prior to the month in which the need to calculate the average wages arose.

To calculate the average wages per calendar day, the total wages for the six-month period is divided by the number of calendar days in that periood.


Equal treatment and equal opportunities

Employers must ensure the protection of employees against discrimination, follow the principle of equal treatment and promote equality in accordance with the Equal Treatment Act (Võrdse kohtlemise seadus) and Gender Equality Act (Soolise võrdõiguslikkuse seadus).


Responsibility of the contracting entity

If the work done by the posted worker in Estonia is connected with construction work involving the construction, renovation, maintenance, alteration or demolition of buildings, including excavation work, earthmoving work, actual construction work, or the assembly and demolition, connection and installation, modification, renovation, repair, disassembly, demolition, maintenance, painting, cleaning or repair of prefabricated components and the employer does not pay the employee wages, the wages can be claimed from the person who ordered the service from the employer of the posted worker if it is not possible to collect the wages from the employer within six months after the enforcement of the decision. If in everyday economic activities the person who ordered a service from the employer of a posted worker has exercised due diligence in their relationship with the employer of the posted worker, the person is exempt from the obligation. It is important to note here that the claim for wages is restricted by the minimum wage requirement laid down under § 29 (5) of the Employment Contracts Act.


The Aliens Act

The Aliens Act regulates the bases for the entry of aliens into Estonia, their temporary stay, residence and employment in Estonia (the Citizen of the European Union Act provides for the legal bases of the temporary stay and residence in Estonia of citizens of the member states of the European Union, citizens of the member states of the European Economic Area or citizens of the Swiss Confederation and their family members).

These latest changes in the Aliens Act can be found here